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Six climbers found dead in French Alps

The bodies of the mountaineers, thought to have been killed by an avalanche of snow and stones, were found by a British hiker and flown to a nearby village.

French alps avalanche mountaineers 26 06 11Enlarge
Villar d'Arêne's mayor and moutain guide Xavier Cret speaks to journalists on June 26, 2011 in the French southeastern village of Villar-d'Arêne following the discovery of six mountaineers found dead in French Alps. The bodies were found on Neige Cordier summit at 8,850 feet and were taken by helicopter to the nearby village of Villar d'Arene. The six mountaineers appeared to have died after a fall caused by an avalanche of snow and stones. (JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT /AFP/Getty Images)

Police in France are investigating the deaths of six mountaineers in the French Alps, in an accident believed to have been caused by an avalanche of snow and stones.

A British hiker stumbled upon the bodies Sunday near the Neige Cordier summit at an altitude of 8,850 feet, and notified emergency services. The bodies of the mountaineers were flown to the nearby village of Villar d’Arene for identification.

The climbers are thought to have died Saturday after a fall of about 650 feet caused by an avalanche of snow and stones mixed together, village mayor Xavier Cret, who is himself a mountain guide, told Agence France-Presse.

Officials said the mountaineers are believed to have stayed overnight in a mountain hut before attempting an ascent to 11,800 feet in the Massif des Ecrins, in the Upper Alps.

They were making the ascent in good weather, with clear, sunny skies, and were climbing roped together in two groups. Their bodies were discovered in a narrow ravine that is used by skiers in winter and climbers in summer.

The nationalities of the mountaineers have not yet been confirmed.

Police have launched an investigation into the mountaineering accident, which is one of the worst in recent years in France, the Guardian reports.