Avalanche Kills Nine On Mont Blanc

Tragedy struck one of the most popular and iconic mountains in all of Europe yesterday when an avalanche claimed the lives of nine climbers on Mont Blanc. The massive snow slide is believed to have been accidentally started by another climber who was attempting to scale the 4810-meter (15,781-foot) peak at the time.

Search and rescue teams quickly leapt into action and were able to locate two climbers who were buried under the ice and snow. But further rescue operations were hampered by poor conditions on the slopes, which remained dangerously unstable following the avalanche. Those conditions and the onset of darkness caused the SAR teams to call off their search yesterday evening. It was scheduled to resume this morning.

Of the nine climbers that perished, three were from the U.K., three from Germany, two were from Spain and one was from Switzerland. Authorities cautioned that the death toll could rise even higher as there were quite a few climbers on the slopes at the time and not all have been accounted for.

The French Alps, which is where Mont Blanc is located, had an unusually high amount of snow this past spring, and early summer storms have continued to pound the area. All of that snow, combined with high winds, has created a dangerous environment for climbers who have encountered a number of large and dangerous overhangs on the mountain. Those overhangs can collapse as the weather warms, depositing tons of snow on to the steep slopes of the mountain, creating deadly avalanches in the process.

The Mont Blanc Massif is a popular destination for active travelers year round. In the summer it offers fantastic trekking and mountain biking trails and in the winter it is amongst the best ski and snowboard locations in Europe. Climbing is popular year round as well, and thousands flock to its slopes on an annual basis. The peak is no stranger to tragedy, however, as it is often listed amongst the most deadly mountains in the world.

[Photo credit: Joe MiGo via WikiMedia]

15 Great Mountain Vacations

The U.K. based online magazine Wide World launched at the beginning of May, and is already building a library of good content for adventure travelers and outdoor enthusiasts. The articles vary greatly in subject matter and include an interview with free diver Sara Campbell, a look at the world’s toughest race, and a growing collection of gear reviews.

One of the feature articles is of particular interest for travelers, offering up 15 amazing mountain trips from around the globe that will give you something to do at altitude even in the summer. Some of the locations on the list are amongst the most famous mountaineering communities in the world, each well known for offering a range of outdoor adventure activities.

For instance, Chamonix, France appears on the list, and during the winter, the famous mountain town is filled with visitors looking to take advantage of the best skiing and climbing in Europe. But during the summer months, those crowds vanish, leaving one of the world’s best outdoor playground virtually deserted. Sitting at the base of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe, Chamonix gives easy access to some of the best alpine hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking found anywhere.

The other locations on the list are just as impressive, and each offers its own unique mountain activities. Some are great paragliding destinations, others offer horseback riding, rafting, fly fishing, and more. Most of the locations are in Europe and North America, with Queenstown, New Zealand being the lone exception. Any one of these mountain escapes would make a great getaway for anyone still looking for summertime fun.

Multisport Adventure Destinations From Around the Globe

When most people go on vacation they like to visit someplace relaxing, maybe spend some time on the beach or hop a cruise ship and spend their days in a deck chair. Others prefer something a bit more active, preferring to hike, bike, and paddle their way across the destination of their choice. For those active travelers, Backpacker Magazine has put together a list of the best multisport destinations on the planet.

This list of adventure getaways spans the globe from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Queenstown, New Zealand, with several points in between. Each of the places on the list excels in outdoor activities, offering up excellent opportunities for trekking, world class mountain biking trails, and the opportunity to put those kayaking skills to test in a variety of conditions ranging from whitewater to sea water.

Take Vancouver Island for instance. Visitors have the option to sea kayak amongst dolphins and a variety of whale species, including the a pod of orcas that number more than 200. The unique environments of the region also allow hikers to explore rainforests and mountain tops alike, which also happen to offer some great rock climbing. And if that wasn’t enough, Vancouver is famous for its amazing mountain biking trails, with something to offer beginners and advanced riders alike.
But amongst multisport fans, Vancouver Island is hardly a secret. For those looking to go someplace a little less well known, and more exotic as well, check out Darjeeling, India. Backpacker calls the region “one of the world’s great adventure hubs”, and with good reason. The place offers high altitude trekking and mountain biking, going up to altitudes as high as 12,000 feet, and whitewater rafting on the Teesta River, which boasts Class II-IV rapids. And when you’re done playing in the backcountry, you can take a jungle safari on the back of an elephant. Top that Canada!

The other destinations that make the list are equally impressive, and each has their own special attractions to lure in the multisport adventure traveler. Just make sure you pack all the right gear, and don’t worry about getting any rest, you can do that when you get back home.

Is this the world’s scariest airport?

It’s the only airport where you can go straight from the plane to the ski slopes within, oh I don’t know, a few dozen yards. Known as the Courcheveler Altiport (yes, that’s right, they’re so hardcore they don’t call themselves an airport), the altiport is right in the middle, or shall we say the top, of the French Alps.

The entire runaway is a mere 1,700 feet and has a 18% steepness gradient. No surprise that it’s one of the must-land airports for any cocky pilot. And believe it or not, you can fly in from just about anywhere, including London (see this pilot’s recount of his journey).

The best part about flying here is not only do you get to experience the landing (video here) and takeoff, the skiing’s pretty good too, with some of the hardest black diamonds in the world.