Richard Branson escapes avalanche on Mont Blanc
Sir Richard Branson, the 68-year-old billionaire Virgin owner was “seconds away from certain death” after being caught in a rockfall on Mont Blanc.
Richard was with a team of 13 which included his son Sam and nephew Noah Devereux, who were trapped as falling rocks “the size of small cars” crashed over their heads as they passed through an area known as ‘The Gully of Death’, before reaching the summit of Mont Blanc.
The 33-day Virgin Strive Challenge, a 2,000km trek across Western Europe, involved hiking, climbing, cycling and sea kayaking to travel from Sardinia to the top of Mont Blanc. The challenge has raised well over £1 million for the charity Big Change which helps disadvantaged young people in the UK.
Throughout all of our challenges I have never come so terrifyingly close to losing myself, my son and other team mates and it all happened in a matter of seconds.
A side of a cliff had broken away from the mountain further up and seconds later huge boulders the size of small cars were bouncing towards us. Rocks rained down on us from every angle.
We’d enjoyed a great day’s climb and were approaching our final hurdle before reaching our base for the night – the dangerous 100 yard crossing that is the Gouter Couloir.
It is known to some as the ‘Gully of Death’ – as we found out for a good reason – but at this time of year our guides were confident that we’d be safe to cross it.
Within seconds of getting across we heard the most horrible sound. A side of a cliff had broken away from the mountain further up and seconds later huge boulders the size of small cars were bouncing towards us.
Rocks rained down on us from every angle. I am not exaggerating when I say four of our team were seconds away from certain death.Richard Branson
Sam Branson, posted a video of the incident to his Instagram account, after they had all safely returned, and gave an insight to what they had experienced:
Mont Blanc is the undisputed heavyweight of the Alps, and the highest peak in Europe. A huge white dome surrounded by glaciers, huge alpine rock faces and stunning alpine scenery.
Combining high altitude, serious weather in any season, technical climbing, as well as the danger of rock fall, seracs and crevasses; the climb is a massive undertaking for all teams.
Simon Lowe, Managing Director of mountain guides Jagged Globe, said on Twitter that his team felt the route was too hazardous to cross earlier in the week.
It’s not the “gully of death” it is called the “Grand Couloir”. #jaggedglobe last team of the season turned around there on Wednesday, realising it would be foolish to cross & then cross again on the way back down, even if that meant missing the summit. https://t.co/R3Pz6lIfGZ
— Simon Lowe (@sprlowe) September 30, 2018
After completing the climb, Sir Richard added:
The team did at least get time to enjoy their summit before they were picked up by a helicopter, after agreeing that attempting the path back down was not worth the risk.
View this post on Instagram
6 video’s of awesomeness: Can’t quite believe it! This year’s challenge has seen myself, my @strivechallenge co-founder @noahdevereux and our core team travel 2000km and over 4 times the height of #Everest in 33 days. 6 years ago we launched @bigchangecharity here and have since travelled over 6000km under human power and raised over £6million to invest in game changing projects to help young people thrive in life not just exams. Thanks for all your help to change the system for good and unlock young peoples potential now, not just in the years to come! Feel grateful to have reached this monumental moment! Well done for all who have taken part over the years and supported the effort to make a #BIGCHANGE 💙 👏🏻 to this year’s core team for an incredible effort! @virgin @strivechallenge Wow just Wow!! 😇😇😇 #westrive #striveforabigchange
We’re glad everyone made it back safe and congratulate Sir Richard, Sam and all the team on such a remarkable achievement!
View this post on Instagram