Valais students show head for heights with ‘highest class photo in Switzerland’

Students at the HES-SO, a higher education institution – haute école – in the Valais, achieved new heights when they participated in a rather unique class photo recently.

Valais students show head for heights with ‘highest class photo in Switzerland’
Photo: HES-SO
The 14 students took to the 2,473m summit of the Pierre Avoi peak in the Verbier region to be photographed hanging off a rock face for what the university termed the ‘highest class photo in Switzerland’.
To shoot the scene the students had to have the nerve and ability to hang on a climbing rope at 90 degrees off a mountain while the four cameramen – including two drone pilots – captured the scene.
The students were selected to take part after undergoing a test in which they abseiled down a building at the HES-SO, the university said in a press release. 
However they didn’t know until the very last moment exactly what the class photo would involve.
After an hour composing the photo, the students were rewarded with a powder ski down to Verbier. 
The publicity stunt was carried out to promote the “dynamism” of the HES-SO and its location in the heart of the Valais, said the university, which has conducted similarly outlandish stunts before.
“To achieve summits in professional life it’s necessary to study at a ‘très, très  haute école’ – and the Valais with its 41 peaks over 4,000m is the ideal place to attain these heights,” said the university.
HES-SO comprises four separate institutions offering courses in engineering, health, management and tourism and social work to some 2,300 students.
Watch this video to see how the photo was taken. 


Italy resort lifts alert on melting glacier threat

An Italian Alpine resort on Sunday lifted a state of alert declared last week over fears that a chunk of glacier on the Mont Blanc mountain range might crash down on them.

Italy resort lifts alert on melting glacier threat
The Planpincieux glacier of the Grandes Jorasses, on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif, with the Courmayeur village in the background: Andrea BERNARDI / AFP

Around 15 people who were evacuated can now return to their homes in Courmayeur and traffic in the Cap Ferret valley is permitted again, said a statement from town officials.

Climate change has been increasingly melting the world's glaciers, creating a new danger for the town of Courmayeur, a resort community in Italy's Aosta Valley region, near the French border.

The town was put on high alert on Wednesday as a block of ice estimated at about 500,000 cubic metres — the size of the Milan cathedral, one official said — from the Planpincieux glacier risked falling and threatening homes.

An Italian 'Protezione Civile' (Civil Protection), rescue and search vehicle for aid waiting at the local police checkpoint in the village of La Palud, on August 7, 2020, where several dozen people were evacuated, as a huge chunk of a glacier in the Mont Blanc massif threatened to break off due to high temperatures. Photo: Andrea BERNARDI / AFP

But on Sunday, town officials announced that all security measures had been lifted.

Some locals were dismissive of the closure, and said it further hit a tourism season already affected by the coronavirus measures.

But the mayor's office said again on Sunday: “The evacuation was necessary and inevitable because of the glacier risk.”

While regretting what it said was the alarmist tone of some news coverage, officials insisted that the threat to the town had been real.

During a recent helicopter flypast, an AFP reporter saw a gaping chasm on the lower part of the Planpincieux, from which two cascades of water flowed towards the valley, as it hung from the mountainside like a gigantic block of grey polystyrene.

In September and October last year, the Planpincieux glacier also threatened a partial collapse, after which extra surveillance measures were put in place.

A study last year by Swiss scientists found that Alpine glaciers could shrink between 65 and 90 percent this century, depending on how effectively the world can curb greenhouse gas emissions.