Witnessing an avalanche

<The view from the Col des Aravis, towards the back of l'Etale peak in La Clusaz, France>

<Close-up of an avalanche in progress in La Clusaz, France>A few weeks ago, I took some friends to look at the picturesque views from the Col des Aravis. There was snow, green grass and wild mountain goats all visible nearby, and Mont Blanc was bright white in the distance. A rumble murmured in the distance when I took the photo, pictured above. I wondered if it was thunder, but the sky was blue and the only clouds are the light, fluffy ones you can see which caressed the mountain peaks of l’Etale as they climbed up from the other side and dropped down into the Col des Aravis.

The rumble became louder, and I noticed that snow was sliding off a rock (pictured above the red square in the photo above), causing a white and brown flow of ice and rocks which you can see in the other photo.  In the first photo, the snow has fallen more than 50 metres below the massive rock drop. It looks tiny, but the photo doesn’t show the depth as well as the height. My trusty map does! Imagine standing nearby when so much compacted, icy snow and large, sharp rocks are tumbling, and it’s easy to see how suffocation isn’t the only risk for those caught in avalanches.

The second photo shows just how far an avalanche can travel. The brown river started off slowly, then gained speed over the next rocky outcrop before slowing down towards the bottom right of the photo. It took more than a minute to get there, which seems long and very slow until you remember that the red square alone is more than 50 metres. Nobody could outrun an avalanche of this size, force and speed. Luckily, we were at a safe distance to appreciate the beauty of the snow falling to the left of the rock where it started.

My friends, who were visiting from Australia, had never seen snow, let alone an avalanche. Mother Nature put on an impressive show for them, and I hope they enjoyed it. I certainly did.

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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2 comments on “Witnessing an avalanche
  1. Steph says:

    That’s an incredible experience and amazing photos. Glad you weren’t on the mountain when it happened.

  2. Wendy says:

    Me too, Steph! It certainly is something I’ll never forget.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by wendyhollands.com, my other site.

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