Mont Blanc cable car to reopen nine months after tourists were left hanging overnight

A Mont Blanc cable car whose dramatic breakdown last September forced 33 tourists to spend the night stranded - suspended high over the French Alps - is to reopen on Thursday.

Mont Blanc cable car to reopen nine months after tourists were left hanging overnight
Photo: AFP

The cars which offer visitors stunning views in the shadows of Mont Blanc will be put back in service after an extensive overhaul, nine months after the incident which made headlines across the world.

The sightseers were trapped in the cars at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 feet) for 18 hours after the cables got crossed last September 8th.

Nightfall and deteriorating weather had forced emergency workers to suspend their rescue operation.

New safety features have been added to the overhauled system, said a statement from the regional authority of Haute-Savoie.

They include a smoother movement out of the station to guard against the cables crossing, and improvements to the back-up engine for the system.

The cabins have also been supplied with emergency kits containing warm clothing and food in case of any future breakdown.

The five-kilometre (three-mile) system connects the Aiguille du Midi on the French side of the mountains with Pointe Helbronner on the Italian border, offering panoramic views of Mont Blanc.

It has been operating since 1950.


Mountaineer dies on Europe’s Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts

A French mountaineer died close to the summit of Mont Blanc on Friday after rescuers made several attempts to get to him in a violent storm.

Mountaineer dies on Europe's Mont Blanc despite rescue attempts
A picture taken from a helicopter on August 7th, 2020 shows the Planpincieux glacier of the Grandes Jorasses, on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif, with the Courmayeur village in the background, Val Ferret, northwestern Italy.  Andrea BERNARDI / AFP

The man, in his forties, was climbing Europe’s highest peak when he lost his way and got stuck at 4,800 metres (15,700 feet), assailed by “the storm, the wind, the cold,” rescuer André-Vianney Espinasse told AFP.

He called for help on Thursday evening.

Several helicopters attempted to rescue him but couldn’t get to him due to the weather, Espinasse said.

As a result, one helicopter dropped rescuers off lower down, at 3,200 metres, forcing them to climb the rest of the way at night.

At two in the morning, after reaching a refuge and waiting for the weather to ease, they climbed further into heavy winds.

They found the man some two hours later, suffering from severe hypothermia.

But “at 5.30, in awful winds, the mountaineer suffered a cardiac arrest,” said Espinasse.

A fresh attempt by a helicopter to lift the victim off the mountain failed once again due to the high winds.

The rescuers then decided to leave the body and get out of “this extremely dangerous area”.

A rescue helicopter from neighbouring Italy eventually managed to lift the body off the mountain.

“Going solo on high mountains should really be avoided due to all the dangers involved,” Espinasse said.

Mont Blanc is between the regions of Aosta Valley in Italy and Savoie and Haute-Savoie in France