The search for three Italian alpinists who have been missing for 10 days in the Écrins massif, located in the Dauphiné Alps in France has been called off.
Francesco Cantú, 35, and chief of cardiology in Lecco, Damiano Barabino, a 32-year-old cardiologist in Genoa and instructor for the Italian Mountaineering Club, and Luca Gaggianese, 40, a mountain guide from Milan went missing the morning of November 26th after reaching the summit the previous day via the Gabarrou-Marsigny route on the south face of Barre des Ecrins (13,458 feet). They reached the peak early in the afternoon, and descended the north flank to bivy around 12,800 feet.
The team was blocked by a snow storm the next morning, and was able to alert others by cell phone of their whereabouts. The Platoon mountain gendarmerie (PGHM) Briançon immediately organized a rescue operation, and has been searching for the missing mountaineers during every good weather window via helicopter and careful foot and ski patrols.
Communication with the alpinists, however, went silent after a phone call to their families in Italy on the afternoon of the 26th.
''We have searched over all the various slopes, starting from the Noir glacier, the Blanc glacier, the Bonne Pierre glacier and then finishing with the Pilatte, up to the height of 3,300 meters (10,827 feet) above sea level," PGHM commander Nicolas Colombani told lifeinitaly.com last Thursday.
This Monday, Hautes-Alpes prefect Jacques Quastana told reporters for ladauphine.com “Unfortunately we lost all hope of finding them alive. They exceeded the normal period of survival in these conditions,”
Quastana went on to explain that rescuers fly over the area during training and they are hopeful to find clues to the missing alpinists in the future.
Photo of the French Alps courtesy of bigstockphoto.com.