French climbers found dead in Alps

Two French climbers who were at the centre of a dramatic week-long search after they were stranded in the Mont Blanc massif were found dead on Wednesday, rescuers said.

“The two people are dead,” Oscar Taiola, who led rescue efforts on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, told AFP, after rescuers earlier announced they had located the climbers.

“They were… close to a snowy ridge and without sleeping bags. I think they were trying to climb down,” he said.

The bodies of the two climbers were found at a height of 4,050 metres by rescue helicopters near where search efforts had focused, close to Walker’s Point peak on the south-facing Italian side of the Grandes Jorasses mountain.

Charlotte Demetz, 44, and her guide Olivier Sourzac, 47, became stuck last Wednesday some 150 metres from the peak.

The two were described as experienced and well-equipped climbers but rescuers had said hope was running thin of finding them alive.

Stranded in temperatures plunging as low as minus 25 degrees centigrade (minus 13 Fahrenheit), the pair maintained telephone contact with rescuers until Friday, saying in their last messages that they had dug a hole to take refuge in.  

Helicopter searches to locate the pair were often hampered by bad weather, including persistent fog.