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Alpine accidents Mountain fatalities increase in hot summer



Hiking on the Ebenalp in Weissbad, eastern Switzerland

Hiking on the Ebenalp in Weissbad, eastern Switzerland

(Keystone)

This summer saw many more accidents in the mountains than in 2014, mainly as a result of the hot weather, said the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). However, many climbers do not know routes or set off too late in the day. 

By the end of September there had been around 2,400 accidents in the Swiss mountains, 330 more than during the same period last year, according to provisional figures supplied by the SAC on Wednesday. The number of fatalities also increased – from 106 to 150. 

Particularly striking was the increase in accidents in July and August. “The numbers, up on the previous year, are primarily due to the beautiful summer in the mountains and the correspondingly high activity,” said Ueli Mosimann, head of mountain sport safety at the SAC, pointing to the washout summer in 2014. 

Problems caused by a hot summer can include melting glaciers and permafrost, which holds rocks together. As a result, the risk of rockfalls or even rockslides and rock avalanches was significantly higher. 

Most accidents were suffered by hikers, with 965 injuries and 59 deaths. Last summer these figures were 792 and 31 respectively. 

Be prepared 

A campaign is currently being run by the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, the Swiss Hiking Trail Association and the Swiss Cable Car Association which aims to encourage responsible behaviour among mountain hikers. 

“The most important thing is to do all your preparation at home,” said Mosimann, who also noted that mountain climbers often start quite late – not ideal, since the chances of storms, rockfalls and heat are higher in afternoons and evenings. 

But generally climbers today are well-equipped, he said. “It’s rare that an accident is caused by a lack of equipment.” Although he pointed out that better equipment often increases the level of risk that people are prepared to take. 

Ultimately though the number of accidents has decreased in proportion to the number of visitors to the mountains, which had risen by a good 10% over the past five years, according to the SAC.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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