Climbers trapped on Mont Blanc die

Milan

Desperate attempts to rescue two French climbers trapped for a week near the summit of Mont Blanc ended in vain yesterday when their bodies were found on a snowy ledge more than 13,000ft up the mountain.

Charlotte Demetz, 44, and her guide Olivier Sourzac, 47, both experienced climbers, had been stuck on the Italian side of Europe's highest peak for seven days as appalling weather hampered rescue efforts. Helicopters finally located their bodies in the area where search efforts had been focused, at Walker's Point, on the south face of the Grandes Jorasses, part of the Mont Blanc massif.

"The two people are dead," said Oscar Taiola, who led rescue efforts. "They were close to a snowy ridge and without sleeping bags. I think they were trying to climb down."

The victims were exposed to temperatures as low as -25C but they had maintained telephone contact with rescuers until Friday, saying in their last messages that they had dug a hole in which to take refuge.

Mr Sourzac and Ms Demetz had set out on 3 November to climb the Linceul route on the north face of the Grandes Jorasses. They successfully reached Walker's Point and camped overnight at an altitude of 4,208m, with the intention of descending via the south face of the Grandes Jorasses.

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