It sounds like something out of a movie, but a mountaineer scaling the Alps has come across a valuable stash of jewels including emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, buried in the snow — a treasure trove estimated to be worth $332,000.
The French climber stumbled across a metal box while scaling Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, earlier this month. Upon opening it, the hiker discovered colorful gemstones, some of which were wrapped in pouches marked “Made In India.”It’s believed the jewelry ended up in the Alps following one of two Indian plane crashes in the region — one which took place in 1950 and another that occurred 16 years later. Other cargo and belongings from those plane crashes have previously been discovered in the area, but this latest discovery could be one of the most valuable stashes to be uncovered.
The mountaineer handed the loot over to French authorities who are working to track down the owners of the lost treasure. However, a local police officer told the AFP that under French law, the valuables could be handed over to the hiker if the owners or heirs of the jewelry are not found.
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]