JP Auclair and Andreas Fransson killed in Chile
Two of the premier skiers in the world, Andreas Fransson of Sweden and J.P. Auclair of Canada, died in an avalanche on a remote peak in South America on Monday. Their bodies were located at 9 a.m. Tuesday, said Capt. Alvaro Herrera of the Carabineros police force in Cochrane, Chile, not far from where the accident occurred in Patagonia. Fransson was 31. Auclair was 37.
Two other members of the expedition, filmmaker Bjarne Salen and photographer Daniel Ronnback, both of Sweden, survived the accident unharmed. According to Capt. Herrera, Fransson and Auclair were swept away by the avalanche while climbing Monte San Lorenzo, a 12,159-foot, pyramid-shaped peak that sits on the border of Chile and Argentina. The accident happened on the Argentine side of the peak. Fransson and Auclair were the only two caught, Herrera said. (Salen's girlfriend confirmed in an e-mail the details provided by Herrera.)
Fransson's and Auclair's bodies were spotted from a helicopter during a multi-agency search that involved both Chilean and Argentine authorities. According to an initial report by the Chilean news agency BioBio, Salen alerted rescuers of the accident and large avalanche via satellite phone Monday afternoon. As of Tuesday afternoon, neither body had been recovered due to extremely complex terrain at the accident site, Herrera said.
The foursome arrived late last week to ski and document their adventures for an upcoming video series that was to premiere this fall, according to a statement on Fransson's Facebook page that he wrote before leaving his home in Chamonix, France. Fransson and Salen had skied in Patagonia before, with Fransson completing a first descent of the highly exposed Whillans Ramp on Aguja Poincenot in 2012.
Auclair, a Quebec native who ditched mogul skiing to help pioneer modern freeskiing as a member of the New Canadian Air Force, went on to co-found Armada Skis. He was esteemed for rare versatility, at home in urban settings as well as big mountains around the world. His street segment filmed in and around Trail, B.C., in the 2011 film All.I.Can stands as one of the most unique clips in ski film history.
Fransson was perhaps best known for his solo first descent of Denali's south face in 2011. He earned great respect for his feats in Chamonix, where a 2010 avalanche on the Aiguille de Verte broke his neck and nearly killed him.
Fransson, a philosopher and writer with a penchant for deep thoughts, did not dance around the perils of his profession and lifestyle. In a 2011 email interview about his Denali feat and worldview, he wrote: "Society has an absurd general belief that life is about hanging on as long as possible. So people [are] often hanging on for the sake of hanging on and not for really living. ... I can go on for days about this, but the important things in life are unsayable, so let's just live it out and see what we find behind the curtains in front of the big game we are all playing."
In a separate incident Monday, Liz Daley, a professional climber, mountain guide and snowboarder from Tacoma, Washington, died in an avalanche in the Fitz Roy Massif region outside of El Chaltén, Argentina, according to a statement released by her sponsor, Eddie Bauer. Daley was on an expedition with three members of Eddie Bauer's snow sports team and two production crew members. The rest of the team is safe, according to the statement.