Written by Staff Writer
“The thieves only wanted money and got their pockets blown to smithereens, can you imagine that?” Brian Hanrahan, with colleagues from the mountain sherpas’ service, told CNN Travel.
“What’s heartbreaking is that these men are out there hard working for a living and they’re up on the mountains every day and they’re going to have to come back down on this mountain where these guys were robbed at their sleep.”
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At more than 14,000 meters (46,000 feet), Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, a 2,897-meter (9,200-foot) monster with over 3,400 glaciers and over 100 different types of ice, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers.
Despite this, in 2015 two thieves were arrested in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, after stealing bags from a train traveling along Mont Blanc.
A local man was charged and fined $117,000 by the courts after he and another accomplice admitted stealing $80,000 worth of equipment from the trains traveling on Mont Blanc.
The stones were later found to be part of a deal with an elite crew of Swiss climbers.
Looking for gold
The recovered gems were found unharmed, encased in molten carbon. Courtesy Brian Hanrahan/cnn
Hanrahan, 40, was the first to have discovered the items, which had been stuck in ice beneath the 4,450-meter (14,810-foot) high peak.
When snow began to fall, he sent out a mountain-climbing scout — making his way up towards a frozen chalet and taking notes as he went.
The cache, with an estimated value of over $84,000, was inside an oxygen bottle and measuring cup that was meant to transport supplies back to the chalet.
The quartz and gold were retrieved, separated and hidden in molten carbon to protect the gems and materials.
Green blazes and avalanche chutes
A team from the Swiss high-altitude training service will recover the fruits of the treasure hunt. Courtesy Stefano Canolo/CNN
In what has become a World Cup-type competition for those taking on the challenging mountain, 13 other teams will go up with them for the annual trek up Mont Blanc.
The haul will then be the subject of an auction at the annual Mont Blanc Climbing Competition in Switzerland in November, for charity.
The bulk of the funds will be donated to former Defense Minister Ueli Maurer, who lost his wife when she was killed in an avalanche in 2017.
The team will be able to use the recovered stones for training, as well as for tourism purposes.
“These stones will be going to these climbers every morning because you can’t hand these chalets off,” says Hanrahan.
“They have to use the train of Mont Blanc to come into town or if they wanted to take the train straight to the open ice.”
Hanrahan and his team, which includes three cacti and a rubber duck (yes, really), hope to make at least $5,000 from the stolen goods.
“It’s not that easy to have it but we’re actually really excited about it,” he said.
The recovered gems will be put on display in a public museum in Petropolis, Italy, which will also be hosting the climber’s charity auction in November.
It’s not the first time the prized jewels have been discovered from the inside of a glacier.
Fourteen years ago, fabled floating jewels called Touriga Nacional (TNT) and Thule (TRP) which are known for their steel finish and are thought to be worth more than $100 million, were found sitting next to their American handlers on a glacier on Akköy mountain in the French Alps.