Fatal accident in Karwendel: a 29-year-old man swept away by an avalanche

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Of: Joseph Hornsteiner


Mountain rescue comrades descend the support of the Karwendelbahn to rescue the missing person (left). The recovery site on the right. © Bergwacht Mittenwald

A 29-year-old wanted to climb the Western Karwendelspitze on Maundy Thursday. He was killed by an avalanche that he himself triggered. The mountain rescue service now urgently warns of winter dangers in the mountains.

Mittenwald – He was well equipped. Left on time. He had his cell phone with him. But no one is prepared for the forces of nature. A 29-year-old man from Bavaria wanted to walk from the valley station of the Mittenwald Karwendelbahn to the west of the Karwendelspitze on Maundy Thursday. It should never happen. He was probably killed by an avalanche he triggered himself around noon. The Mittenwald mountain rescue service again urgently warns against mountain excursions in still snow-covered areas over the Easter weekend and in the following weeks – the dangers are enormous.

The young man parked his car at the valley station of the Karwendelbahn early Thursday morning and walked up the Karwendelsteig alone. He regularly sent his father pictures of his mountain hike. He received the last photo of his son at 11:32 a.m. It shows the young man on the Gamseck (1717 meters) enjoying the sun during a short break. About half an hour later, he triggered an avalanche above this last photo point, which tore him 300 meters through a rocky area. He must have died on the spot.

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Mountain rescue comrades descend from the support of the Karwendelbahn to rescue the missing person.
Mountain rescue comrades descend from the support of the Karwendelbahn to rescue the missing person. © Bergwacht Mittenwald

Emergency services took the Karwendelbahn as no helicopters were available

In the late afternoon, the father made an emergency call after hearing nothing from the 29-year-old. The police then made a missing person report. At 9.15 p.m., the control center alerted the Mittenwald mountain rescue service. A total of 15 mountain rescue comrades and a member of the Alpine Task Force (AEG) immediately set off. As all helicopters were otherwise involved in the operations, three Karwendelbahn employees helped bring the emergency services upstairs with the cabin. They used lamps to search for fresh footprints in the snow. The police also called for help.

Careful rescue: The emergency services pick up the injured person with the Karwendelbahn.
Careful rescue: The emergency services pick up the injured person with the Karwendelbahn. © Bergwacht Mittenwald

Two mountain rescuers, who had passed under the Mittenwalder Hütte on the trail to the Viererspitze, noticed a relatively cool avalanche cone above the Arzgrube around 11 p.m. They searched the area more closely. Shortly after, they discovered the 29-year-old, almost completely buried under the masses of snow. Emergency services roped the injured man over rough terrain and extricated him with a shovel. But any rescue came too late. As they could no longer retrieve the body in the dark, they deposited it just below the cable car. At 9.30 a.m. on Good Friday, mountain rescuers, accompanied by three members of the police’s Alpine Task Force, finally brought the injured man back to the valley.

Commitment and what is visible eat away at volunteers. They themselves always risk their lives in such rescue operations. Once again, Mittenwald guard manager Heinz Pfeffer urges alpine athletes to use common sense. “The current dangers on the mountain should in no way be underestimated.” The sun and warm weather has softened the snowpack in recent days and made it slippery. The avalanche danger is exorbitant. This is also shown by the place of the accident: the avalanche, which carried away the 29-year-old young man, should have been triggered around noon. “At 7 p.m., another avalanche was spotted at the same place,” says Pfeffer. This is how it currently looks in all other areas of the Karwendel region. That is why he now hopes, in view of the Easter holidays, that people will only go where there is no danger of avalanches. “Prevention is better than cure.”

Further news from the district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen can be found at Merkur.de/Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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