Tragedy in the Alps Summer Snowstorm Kills 2 on Bavarian Mountaintop

A fast-moving snowstorm took hundreds of "extreme" runners by surprise during a race in the Bavarian Alps Sunday, killing two and sending six more people to the hospital with severe hypothermia.


Tragedy struck on a Bavarian mountaintop Sunday as bad weather claimed the lives of two runners and nearly killed six more.

Mountain rescue workers carried an exhausted, cold runner off of Germany's Zugspitze mountain Sunday. Two men were killed when a snap snowstorm caught them unprepared.
DPA

Mountain rescue workers carried an exhausted, cold runner off of Germany's Zugspitze mountain Sunday. Two men were killed when a snap snowstorm caught them unprepared.

The deaths occurred during an "extreme run" up the slopes of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak. A 41-year-old man and a 45-year-old man died just 10 minutes from the finish line. "Both died from a combination of hypothermia and fatigue," said Garmisch-Partenkirchen mountain rescue service spokesman Thomas Griesbeck.

The two men were running up the mountain along with more than 500 others when a sudden change in the weather brought temperatures below the freezing point. The snap storm also brought strong gusts of wind and even snow. The storm took the participants in the race – many of whom were clad in nothing more than shorts and T-shirts -- by surprise.

The first calls for help came at around 11:45. Runners had to press on through ten centimeters of snow in some places. The bad weather limited the ability of rescue helicopters to respond to the distress calls, and dozens of rescue workers were mobilized on the ground to help treat runners for exposure, fatigue and hypothermia, according to a spokeswoman from the Bavarian Red Cross. Six were taken to the hospital.

The race's organizer, Getgoing GmbH of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, had warned participants that the weather could get ugly -- a forecast on its Web site predicted temperatures at the summit of between three and five degrees and winds up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. Still, local officials criticized the decision to hold the race despite the bad conditions.

The run earns its "extreme" label. Hiking the Zugspitze usually takes at least nine hours, but previous winners of the extreme race have reached the top in just over two. On Sunday, runners started the race in Austria under rainy skies, heading over boulder fields up the steep slopes of the Zugspitze. The race route involves over 2,000 meters of climbing. "Thanks to this incomparable environment, everyone who makes it across the finish line is a winner," the race's organizers promised. On Sunday, the mountain had other plans.

agc/ap

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