A 25 year old Lithuanian man named Andrius Glozeckas seems to have become the first death on the Vallée Blanche this season on Friday January 11th. Le Dauphiné Libéré reported that the man, dressed only in jeans and a light leather jacket and carrying no mountaineering gear, he was last seen alive by two Swedes heading into a very crevasse-ridden section of the Vallée Blanche route near the Petite Envers du Plan. There is a discussion of this incident in English on Piste-Hors.com as well (see blogroll). Statistically men in their 20s do seem to die at a higher rate in the mountains – from avalanches to stunts like this, they seem to be oblivious to their own mortality at this age. I guess that is why in many places auto insurance rates are also higher for this age group and sex.
The Dauphiné reported in the longer print article that two people at least did in fact try to disuade the man from continuing – firstly the people who he rented his skis from told him it was dangerous to do by himself and at least convinced him to rent a harness and crampons and at the top of the lift, when he asked ‘Ou est la piste?’ (there is none, it is a pure high mountain off piste route) the incredulous lift personnel also tried to tell him to turn around and go back. However the man insisted on being told ‘the route’ and after giving him directions toward the easiest tourist route down, the lifty reportedly saw the man heading in the opposite direction towards the much steeper Petite Envers, doing beginner-style awkward turns. People from his rental lodgings gave alert that he’d not returned. The weather was too poor for the PGHM to search for him until Sunday, and he is presumed dead as he was not adequately equipped to survive even one night at that altitude.
Every year this route sees deaths – usually from similar circumstances of people attempting this route alone and/or poorly-equipped and with no clue where they are going, no avalanche beacon and certainly no mountain experience, training or mountain guide.