Video reveals breathtaking moment mountaineers faced “worst nightmare”

Mountaineer faces worst nightmare crevasse
(Image credit: naro_yama / Instagram)

The phrase 'inches from death' is usually a bit hyperbolic, but not on this occasion. 

Mountaineers Naël and Roman (@naro_yama on Instagram) were literally inches from death when a cornice suddenly crumbled to reveal a 300m precipice just a mere step to their right.

The terrifying video, which was shot on the Étale ridge in the Aravis mountains in France, is a sneak peek at a mountaineering documentary the guys are making. One they’re very lucky to be able to complete.

“It’s essential to remember that, whatever our experience, the mountain will always have the upper hand,” says @naro_yama with respectful understatement, calling this, “A mountaineer’s worst nightmare.”

“Every year, broken cornices are the cause of accidents in the mountains, some of them fatal. A cornice is a pile of snow, built up over the winter and sculpted by the wind. These formations are extremely dangerous, and it is vital to avoid moving above or below them,” he explains.

Majestic-looking now cornices may be a popular subject for Instagrammable photos and videos, but they are treacherous. They can break off, dragging hikers, mountaineers and backcountry skiers down with them. Occasionally they even trigger avalanches. 

They are formed by wind drifting snow onto the downwind side of an obstacle, such as a ridgeline or precipice. They can range in size from “windlips” just a few feet high to the size of small houses, sometimes even larger. 

They are especially treacherous as they can be hard to identify from the top of a ridge – you don’t know if you’re on the safety of the ridge or the potentially shifting instability of the cornice.