The mystery of the Mont Blanc treasure chest and the Frenchman who claims it

A French mountaineer who found a chest on the slopes of France's highest mountain Mont Blanc containing emeralds, sapphires and rubies is still waiting to know if the treasure will be his five years on.

The mystery of the Mont Blanc treasure chest and the Frenchman who claims it

The incredible story dates back to September 2013 when the climber, who has preferred to remain anonymous, was scaling the famous Boisson glacier in the Mont Blanc Massif.

As he was making his way up, he was left stunned when he stumbled across a metal box that was filled with emeralds, rubies and sapphires, believed to be worth up to €250,000. The gems were inside little bags with the words “Made in India” on them.

The treasure is believed to be linked to two mysterious plane crashes involving in Indian airliners in the middle of the last century. 

On November 3, 1950 the Malabar Princess, an Air India plane, crashed on Mont Blanc  killing 58 people on board. And 16 years later, on 24 January 1966, a Boeing 707 Air India plane en route from Mumbai to New York, came down at the same location. All 117 passengers on board were killed.

To his great credit the mountain climber handed the treasure in to the local police and was praised for doing so.

“He is an honest man who quickly realised this belonged to someone else,” the head of the gendarmerie in Albertville. “He could have kept it to himself but opted to hand it over to the police.”

French authorities said they would contact their Indian counterparts to try to trace the owner of the treasure.

But since then the Alpinist is still waiting to hear whether the real owner was traced or whether, as the law allows, he will actually be rewarded for his honesty.

The law in France states that after two years if the owner has not been found then the loot should be split between the finder and the owner of the land where it was found, which in this case was the commune of Chamonix or in other words the French state.

Frustrated over the silence from the local gendarmes the young mountaineer decided to go public this week, albeit with a desire to remain anonymous.

“The gendarmes told me that they would give me news over the course of the investigation, but I never had anything at all,” he told Le Dauphine Libéré.

The climber is concerned that when he gave the gems to police he did not receive a copy of his statement or a precise inventory of the 49 sealed sachets that he handed over.

According to the Dauphine Libéré the gems are being stored in a the vault of a bank in Chamonix.

Although the climber's find maybe the most precious so far, mountaineers on Mont Blanc have routinely come across debris, baggage and human remains from the plane crashes over the years.

In August 2012 a diplomatic post bag was discovered in the same area on the mountain

The bag stamped “Diplomatic mail” and “Ministry of External Affairs”, was found by mountain rescue workers. The Indian embassy in Paris said it was looking forward to receiving the “very late mail”. 

Mountaineers have also found parts of the plane over the years as well as more grisly finds such as the body parts from the passengers who died on board.









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