GRENOBLE, France (AFP) – Two Italian women died in an avalanche and the bodies of two French climbers were found in a crevasse Tuesday after climbing accidents in the French Alps, local officials said.
The two Italians were among a group of at least seven climbers caught up in the avalanche as they were ascending Mont Blanc du Tacul, at an altitude of 4,200 metres (13,780 feet), the gendarmerie in the Haute-Savoie region said.
Rescuers later found the two women, aged 37 and 41 and both from Italy's Piedmont region, dead under the snow.
An Italian mountain guide was rescued alive from under the snow but suffered serious injuries and was in intensive care in a hospital in nearby Annecy.
A fourth climber was also missing after the avalanche and a search was under way. The rest of the party appeared to have escaped unharmed.
Meanwhile the bodies of two French climbers -- a man and a woman both in their fifties -- were found Tuesday morning at the bottom of a 20-metre (65-foot) crevasse on Roche de la Muzelle, a mountain in the Ecrins massif of the Alps.
Mountain rescue services in the Isere region said the couple, described as "amateur climbers", had left a refuge on Monday morning and appeared to have fallen into the crevasse on their descent from the summit.
The woman was identified as a 51-year-old from the southeastern French city of Chambery. No further details were provided about the man's identity.
Thousands of tourists flock to the French Alps annually for sports including mountain climbing and skiing, but every year some fall victim to accidents.
Every summer, some 20,000 climbers attempt to reach the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe, with up to 500 a day during peak times.
In the deadliest accident in years, nine Europeans -- three Germans, a Swiss, two Spaniards and three Britons -- were killed in July last year after an avalanche engulfed a group of climbers in the Mont Blanc massif.