British man is rescued 10,000ft up a glacier with severe hypothermia after attempting to scale Mont Blanc without climbing gear, getting lost in a snow storm and being stranded overnight

  • The unnamed man from Portsmouth was found wearing a tracksuit and a sheet
  • He miraculously survived a freezing night amid a snowstorm and sub zero temps
  • His body temperature was just 25 degrees C – hypothermia typically sets in at 35
  • Rescuers said he attempted to traverse peak without mountaineering equipment

A British man has miraculously cheated death after surviving a night more than 10,000ft up Mont Blanc with nothing but a tarp and a tracksuit to shield him from a brutal snowstorm.

The unnamed 26-year-old from Portsmouth was found by Italy’s Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue on Sunday morning on the Bionnassay glacier after calling for help the previous evening.

He became lost amid stormy conditions and got into difficulty at an elevation of 3100 metres (10,170ft) on the Italian side of the mountain range, but rescuers were unable to locate him on Saturday night due to the arduous conditions.

When a rescue team spotted him from a helicopter and made it to his position the next day they were in utter disbelief to discover the man, wearing nothing but hiking boots, a tracksuit and draped in a sheet, was still alive.

Despite having a body temperature of just 25 degrees C – a full 10 degrees lower than the hypothermia threshold and three degrees lower than the ‘death zone’ of 28 – the man clung to life and was transported to Aosta’s Parini hospital.

By Sunday afternoon, the fearless hiker’s body temperature had increased to 33 degrees and he regained consciousness, telling doctors of his incredible ordeal.

A worker from Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue attends to the man who was unconscious and on death’s door with a body temperature of 25 degrees C

The woefully underprepared climber is seen lying unconscious on the bottom left side of this image of the Bionnassay glacier

Rescuers were blown away when they discovered the man had attempted the huge climb without so much as proper mountaineering clothing, much less ice picks, crampons and other essential bits of climbing kit (stock picture shows mountaineer on Bionnassay glacier with extensive equipment) 

‘I wanted to climb Mont Blanc,’ the climber was quoted as saying by Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.

‘I left on Friday from Val Veny to complete the ascent of the Italian normal route to Mont Blanc which passes through the Gonella refuge.’

After spending Friday night in a tent on the nearby Miage glacier, the man continued his journey on Saturday but became lost when the wind whipped up a snowstorm. 

‘I lost my way to the Gonella… I was not very far, but in that situation it was impossible to reach it. I had to stop and tried to take cover.’

The man called a rescue team for help in the late hours of Saturday evening but conditions were so bad that they couldn’t locate him.

Aosta Valley Mountain Rescue technicians remained in intermittent contact with the lost mountaineer, but said their last communication came at 2:30am in which he was described as sounding ‘exhausted but conscious,’ according to Italy’s Rai News.

The crew were forced to wait for several more hours before a rescue could be launched.

Rescuers were blown away when they discovered the man had attempted the huge climb without so much as proper mountaineering clothing, much less ice picks, crampons and other essential bits of climbing kit.

They suspected he was a desperate migrant who had opted to take a mountain route to bypass border controls, and were amazed to find that he was in fact a woefully underprepared British hiker. 

Doctors told Corriere that the man had a ‘strong character’, but his near-fatal exploits in the absence of proper equipment are by no means an anomaly.

In August a furious mayor on the French side of the Alpine range introduced a policy requiring ‘pseudo-mountaineers’ to front up a £13,000 deposit to cover their funeral and rescue costs before being allowed to climb. 

A French mayor in August introduced a policy whereby inexperienced climbers are forced to pay a near £13,000 deposit to cover rescue and funeral costs if they want to climb

The mayor of Courmayeur which sits at the foot of Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the border called the decision ‘surreal’ and stated the Italian side ‘will not limit the ascent of hikers’

Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, from where climbers can make it to the top along the Goûter Route, introduced the measure after dozens of people continued to defy warnings.

The considerable deposit is split up in two sections – €10,000 covers the cost of a mountain rescue and €5,000 covers the cost of a funeral.

The route is accessible to anyone of any skill level and officials have said the number of inexperienced climbers in increasing.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Peillex said the idea for the deposit came after five Romanian visitors attempted the ascent ‘wearing shorts, trainers and straw hats’ and had to be turned back by mountain police. 

‘Sometimes silly people only respond to silly ideas,’ the mayor told The Telegraph.

‘They have the same approach of someone who wants to commit suicide. So I say, let’s do things properly and ask them to pay us the costs that this will entail.

‘People want to climb with death in their backpacks,’ he added. 

‘So let’s anticipate the cost of having to rescue them, and for their burial, because it’s unacceptable that French taxpayers should foot the bill.’

However, the mayor of Courmayeur which sits at the foot of Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the border, called the decision ‘surreal’ and stated the Italian side ‘will not limit the ascent of hikers.’

‘The mountain is not a property,’ Roberto Rota said.

‘As administrators, we limit ourselves to indicating when the paths are not in the best condition, but asking for a deposit to climb to the top is really surreal. You can decide to close a path or a passage if there is an actual risk,’ the mayor told Corriere.

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