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One Runner Dies, at Least Three Injured at 2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre Race in France

Tragedy strikes an ultramarathon trail race in France, where one runner died and three more were seriously injured in falls during inclement weather.

By on June 15, 2024 | Comments

At least four runners are believed to have fallen on steep slopes during the early morning hours of Saturday, June 15, 2024, at the Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre (UTHG) race in France in bad weather conditions. Reports indicate that one succumbed to their injuries and at least three more were evacuated to hospitals with severe injuries.

In a statement on its social media channels, the event said, “It is with great sadness that we announce that UTHG has just learned of a tragic event with the accidental death of a racer. The first responders at the scene intervened immediately and provided first aid while awaiting his evacuation. All our thoughts are with the victim’s family and relatives.”

2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut Giffre - official communication image

The 2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre’s official communication about the tragedy at its event. Photo: 2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre

A local public prosecutor, Karline Bouisset, has spoken to a local media source, “BFMTV,” and shared a few more details. She said that one man in his fifties passed away, possibly due to cardiac arrest. She also said that two men, one in his fifties and one in his thirties, were seriously injured with various traumas, as well as one more runner who was less seriously injured.

The three-day UTHG takes the shape of a large-scale European ultra-trail festival, hosting seven races out of the town of Samoëns, which is located about 30 miles southeast of Geneva, Switzerland, and 20 miles northwest of Chamonix, France. The event’s races range from a kids’ race up to a 128-kilometer event, the Ultra Tour des Lacs aux Cimes (UTLAC). The second-longest race is the 96-kilometer Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre (UTHG). It appears that some 4,000 people were registered across all the events.

The 128k UTLAC and 96k UTHG began on Friday, June 14, at 7 p.m. local time and 11:45 p.m, respectively.

According to Bouisset via “BFMTV,” rescue calls began around 4:35 a.m. local time on Saturday morning, because of falls “in a mountainous area made slippery by the weather conditions.”

There is no official information on the locations and full nature of the accidents, race participants are sharing on social media that the weather took a turn for the worse somewhere around 3 a.m. local time and the trails turned into flowing torrents of water and became very slippery.

While the exact sequence of events is still to be determined, some participants also shared on social media that during this time they elected to stop in various aid stations due to the bad weather, while others received text messages from the organization saying the race was being halted and participants evacuated. Some participants also shared that they saw others take small to moderate falls, in addition to those who were severely injured.

In the comments section of this article, Judith van Keulen, the spouse of one participant in the 96k UTHG, wrote, “My husband, together with about 20 other participants, was stuck on Pointe d’Angolon for hours and could not get off because the paths were no longer passable and could not be rescued by emergency services … Ultimately they had to climb down the impassable side of the mountain at the risk of their own lives.”

Media outlet “Le Dauphine” reports that the rescue process took most of the day Saturday and involved the race organization’s resources, 73 local firefighters, and the Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM) mountain rescue service from Chamonix.

This is a developing story, and we’ll update this article as more information becomes available. If you were a participant and would like to share your story, please contact iRunFar. iRunFar’s thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy.

[Last updated, Saturday, June 18, 2 p.m. U.S. Mountain Standard Time]

2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut Giffre - Pointe d’Angolon descent

A screenshot from the 2024 Ultra-Trail du Haut-Giffre livestream showing the lead male (left) on the Pointe d’Angolon descent, about 18 kilometers into the 128-kilometer Ultra Tour des Lacs aux Cimes before dark on Friday, June 14, 2024. The image is meant to demonstrate the alpine landscape through which runners traveled.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.