Ice that was hidden beneath snow may have been the cause of an accident that caused five German climbers, who were roped together, to plunge several hundred meters to their deaths on Tuesday, during their descent of Switzerland’s 13,155-foot Lagginhorn.
“There was rain up to about 3,500 meters and perhaps a little fresh snow, so they probably slipped because there was ice underneath the snow,” Arthur Anthamatten, a local mountaineering guide, told the Courier-Mail.
The identities of the climbers have not been released but two of the victims were 14 and 20 years old.
Their father, who stopped short of the summit because he did not feel well, alerted authorities about the accident and was later airlifted from the mountain via helicopter.
Also killed was a 44-year-old man, his 17-year-old son and a 21-year-old friend.
Police on Wednesday issued this statement, “The five climbers fell several hundred meters. They all died at the scene.”
It’s believed to be the largest European mountaineering tragedy since eight climbers died in an avalanche on Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s tallest peak, in August of 2008.
The official cause of Tuesday’s accident remains under investigation.
Lagginhorn (4,010 meters), in southwest Switzerland, is the country’s lowest 4,000-meter peak. It’s regarded as one of the simpler 4,000-meter peaks to summit and many have scaled it without crampons.
According to a 2011 report, an average of 30 people per year perished in mountaineering accidents in Switzerland between 2005 and 2009.
– Image shows the west face of Lagginhorn peak