On Feb 22, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Armenia reported an avalanche accident in Kotayk Province on the slopes of Mt. Teghenis 2851m.
The call for a rescue was received by MES on 11:05 am from a group of five French tourists who were ski-touring that day on Mt. Teghenis in Aghveran valley. Francois-Xavier de Boismenu was the only victim of the incident who was dug out by his team members, yet still remaining unconscious. The MES website says the military helicopter was at the place around 1:30pm, however. Later the doctors reported the death of the avalanche victim at 3:40 pm in the helicopter. At 4:25 pm the body of Francois-Xavier was transported to Yerevan by helicopter.
It's very sad to state Francois-Xavier was the first skier victim killed by an avalanche ever in Armenia. We sympathize with the family and friends of Francois-Xavier.
On February 23, the team from Up The Rocks, Karen Marutyan, Petr Majer and Mkhitar Mkhitaryan went on the place to investigate the details of the accident.
We wanted to talk to French group members, but in the "Arturs Aghveran Resort" we were told that they have already left for Yerevan for departing home. We also learned that the group was from 7 people, 5 of them went on the mountain that day. The group was assisted with a tour management guide, but not with a local mountain guide. The trip was managed by Voyage Armenia agency.
We also learned that along with the Mi-8 military helicopter, which couldn't land around the accident place, a small chopper from Armenian Helicopters was saving the situation getting the job done (it arrived about the same time as the Mi-8). Rescuers of MES had to walk to the place by foot as they were not equipped and prepared for ski-touring or even walking with snowshoes in the deep snow. The distance between the end of the driving road and the accident location is about 3km, and they arrived at the place earlier than the helicopters and tried to help with first aid and to organize transportation, but the group insisted on waiting for helicopters and medical team support. Francois-Xavier had severe injuries which might be incompatible with transporting on a simple stretcher, that was the only thing the rescuers had with.
We headed to the place of the incident and started to study avalanche.
Below is the avalanche report in addition to the video material above:
Last time we were on Teghenis on Feb 17 with Karen Marutyan, we surprisingly met strong NW wind flows over 40m/s, transporting a huge amount of snow on Teghenis NE and SE slopes. Why "surprisingly" because Meteoblue was showing up to 30km/h for that day for the summit. Then we stayed at treeline to be sheltered and catch some soft. On Feb 23 we noticed the wind affects to be increased drastically. Snow drifts, sastrugi on windward aspects, big pillows on lee slopes and cross-loading on NE, E ribs could easily be observed all around on the mountain.
Why did the French group appeared to be traversing below 37 degrees steep slope, resulting propagation of deep persistent slab and triggering a remote avalanche I do not understand, cause there were other options to choose for the ascend route. Francois was most likely the first and only one entering a trigger zone, as his burial place was about 15-20m from the left side of the avalanche path.
I hope later we will hear the complete review from the group members about this tragic incident. RIP Francois-Xavier...
P.S. (updated on Apr 8) Recently Philippe Piery, a team member and a friend of Francois-Xavier, contacted us and kindly provided the detailed story of the accident which proved our supposed version of the events.
"..Yes, François Xavier was physically the most strong person of the group. He likes to go in front of the group to lead and show the way. During the week and in general, he likes to climb rapidly alone and go down to the group. The 22nd of February when we go up to the tree that's what appends. He climbs alone far from the group some persons of the group stopped to put a knife because the snow was very hard. We don't see and we don't hear the avalanche. After reflexion, we just feel a little vibration. Then, approximately 2 minutes later, I see first the avalanche and ask a friend if he has seen it before and we realize that it just happened. We cry FX-FX then we realize that our friend was under. We find him with the avalanche detector in less than 3 min and got him out of the avalanche in less than 10 min. He don't breath and his heart was stopped so we start reanimation. I call our local guide at the hotel who calls the rescuers. The local guide calls up the responsible person of the local agency who call a private helicopter company. The Mi-8 came approximately two hours after the call but cannot land close to the accident. The second helicopter came just after. He tries to land also but he can not stabilize without the engine on so he lands close to the Mi-8. Then the first rescuers came from the road on foot. They were totally exhausted without water and nothing to help: no first aid defibrillator no doctor...".
The rescuers were clearly not equipped to help us. There was no doctor with us, no hoist on the helicopter. But when we go to a foreign country we know that we can not count on external help.", explains Philippe Piery.
P.P.S. Francois-Xavier de Boismenu in last two pictures during his Armenian ski-touring trip.