On Wednesday morning, July 22, Martijn Seuren, an accomplished 32-year-old Dutch alpinist, died after a fall from a ridge on the Mont Blanc massif on the border of France and Italy.
Seuren was climbing the Rochefort Ridge traverse to Aiguille de Rochefort (4001m) with Swiss speed-climbing alpinist Ueli Steck and an unknown third climber. The trio planned to summit Rochefortgrat, then continue over to Pointe Walker (4208m) atop the Grandes Jorasses, the final peak in his quest to climb the 82 4,000-meter peaks in the Alps. With those ascents he would become the first Dutch climber to ascend all the peaks on that coveted list.
Steck was also on a mission to climb all 82 summits in 80 days this summer, bicycling over 1,000 kilometers between peaks and gaining over 100,000 meters of elevation to reach his goal.
At about 4:30 a.m., Seuren fell off the ridge at an elevation of 3,900 meters, dropping 300 meters (985ft) down the Italian side of the mountain. His body was later recovered in a crevasse by French search and rescue personnel. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
On July 23, Steck wrote on his Facebook page: “I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of my colleague…after a fall on Rochefortgrat…. I want to express my deepest condolences to Martijn’s family and friends.”
Seuren was a leading Dutch alpinist, having climbed all of the 48 4,000-meter peaks in Switzerland–some several times–as well as many classic routes in the Alps, including the Peuterey Integral, one of Europe’s great ridge climbs, on Mont Blanc; the dangerous Ortler North Face with a 4,000-foot ice chute in the Italian Alps; the Obergabelhorn South Face, a long rock route in Switzerland, and many others. Seuren also did several solo climbs in the Alps. “[I] always went out of the way to minimize crevasse dangers and do routes of average difficulty,” he wrote on his website. “It is not so much the difficulty of climbing that counts for me. I’m just happy to climb and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the elements that mountaineering brings with it.”
Seuren, from Breda in the Netherlands, lived in Bern, Switzerland, where he worked as the manager of Bachli Bergsport, a large mountain sports shop. Additionally, he was the second Dutch climber admitted to the Swiss Mountain Guides training course, a rigorous guide apprenticeship.
Seuren said in a March 2015 interview with Hoogtelijn, the climbing magazine of the Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Association (NKBV), “I assume that I could die in the mountains. Of course, I hope it will not happen. I want to continue climbing into my old age. But if that doesn’t happen, at least I have lived my passion.”