Mountain accidents in Switzerland: the figures

Walkers take a scenic break with a view of the Säntis © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

This summer five people have died in hiking accidents in the Alpstein region near the iconic Äscher cliff restaurant. How dangerous is hiking in the Swiss Alps?

This content was published on August 6, 2022 - 10:00
Lukas Füglister, SRF News

The latest accident, on August 1, Swiss national day, involved a 31-year-old woman and her five-year-old daughter who fell to their deaths while hiking from Äscher to Altenalp. Three other people died in accidents on the steep path from Äscher to the Seealpsee lake in the last two months.

The area, in the northeastern Swiss region of Appenzell is known for its stunning views and for the Äscher restaurant, which famously featured on a National Geographic magazine cover in 2015, resulting in a huge spike in popularity.

But how dangerous are the Swiss mountains? How many people get into trouble every year? And how many hikers have fatal accidents? Here are some figures.

Mountain rescues are on the rise: A mountain rescue is classified as a mountain emergency, regardless of whether it is an accident or illness. In 2021, mountain rescuers were called out 3,680 times, according to the latest figures. This is 20% more than in 2019.

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Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress, significantly more than in 2019, but less than in 2020. Overall, hikers account for more than 40% of mountain rescues. People on ski trips needed help 500 times and mountaineers on high-altitude climbs, 424 times. Assistance was also given to mountain bikers, climbers, hanggliders, paragliders and off-piste skiers.

Why help was needed: In almost half of the cases, falls – including more serious mountainside falls – were the main reason for calling out mountain rescue. A quarter of the hikers suffered from exhaustion, and 17% suffered other illnesses. In 8% of the cases, people got lost and needed help.

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Trends: There has been a slight increase in the number of fatal accidents involving hikers in the mountains over the past ten years. The numbers are similar to those 20 years ago.

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Bruno Hasler, responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, confirms that the trend is rising. But what can be done?

Hasler says that many people overestimate their capabilities – and that is dangerous. "Walkers need to be better informed. The authorities have a duty to provide as much information as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking," he told Swiss public television SRF. There is already an official accident prevention campaign. "But obviously it is not yet reaching all the people it should,” Hasler said.

Accident hotspots? Looking at fatal accident statistics over the past ten years, people hiking in the mountains in central Switzerland were most likely to be affected. But fatal hiking accidents occur everywhere in the Swiss mountains. The likelihood of accidents increases as the number of visitors increases.

Translated by ilj/ac

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