Aletsch Hike

03 Sep. 2011

With sadness we announce the sudden and unexpected death of our long-term member and friend Philippe Vuilleumier in the course of our hike in the Riederalp-Belalp region on 3 September 2011. What began as a beautiful hike on a sunny day all of a sudden took a very different turn after our lunch break. We had only resumed hiking a little while when some hikers just behind Philippe called out that he had collapsed. The members of our group closest to him rushed to his aid. In view of the heat of the midday sun, they cooled him off with water but immediately realised he was unconscious. As he was not breathing and had no pulse they initiated CPR with the help of the other hikers. At the same time they called the emergency services, who directed the efforts at resuscitation over the phone. Yet other hikers came up and helped keep up the CPR. A helicopter arrived in very short order and dropped off a paramedic and later a doctor. Notwithstanding the rapid intervention of those around him and the efforts of the medical specialists, including the application of a defibrillator, Philippe could not be revived and was pronounced dead ap-proximately 30 minutes after his collapse. A post mortem examination established that he had had a heart attack.

Two of us stayed at the scene until the body was removed; the rest continued the hike to our overnight stop at the Belalp Hotel, there being no alternative. Once the entire group had reached Belalp we gathered in a chapel next to the hotel to reflect and observed a moment of silence. Under the circumstances we could not continue our hike as planned and the next day returned directly to Brig, our point of departure.

A delegation from the Club attended the funeral on 8 September 2011 in Lausanne. The day before three of us called on the family to inform them of the circumstances of Philippe’s death.

Many of you will remember Philippe from Club events. After studying mechanical engineer-ing at the École polytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne, now the EPFL, Philippe enrolled in Course 15 at MIT and obtained a Master of Science degree in Management in 1967. A man of broad knowledge and wide ranging interests, professionally he directed a variety of business ventures both in Switzerland and abroad. He did his military service in the mountain corps and loved the outdoors.