Well, I got so much response from the last Chamonix accident report that I’ve decided to post another to hold us over until either Martial calls me back to fill me in on the Cervin or we get a better picture of the forecast which will determine whether I cover the Ultra Trail or go climbing in the next few days. Come on, sun!
Tasting the Void
Thursday, 20 August – A 35-year-old man from Bordeaux missed the last lift down from the top of the Grands Montets and, as you do when confronted with hazardous terrain and approaching nightfall, decided to walk down the glacier. Alone. Unsurprisingly the intrepid adventurer fell into a crevasse and broke his leg while descending. Astonishingly, he survived the night in the crevasse and was able to extricate himself on his own. He was spotted the next morning near the 4th pylon by a GM lifty who called PGHM who escorted him the rest of the way down.
Wings Over White
Wednesday, 19 August – For the first time since the epic summer of 2003, paragliders landed on the summit of Mont Blanc (4810m). After taking off at 13:52 Denis Cortella and Max Jeanpierre took one-and-a-half hours to fly from Planpraz to the summit of Mont Blanc. Although some were claiming this amazing feat to be a new record for summitting MB without mechanical means this seems to be a case of comparing apples to oranges when compared to the guy who took four hours to run from the centre ville to the top. I mean, we’re not 100% sure but we’re guessing the pilots used the lift – yeah, the big mechanical one – to get up to Planpraz at 2000m, right?
Anyway, congrats to the 11 paragliders who touched down on the summit. The crew included what I’ve been led to believe is the first tandem pilot Olivier Laugero as well as the first female pilot, former world-ranked pilot and Chamonix tandem instructor Caroline Brille, to paraglide to the summit.
The video I saw from this feat is pretty dull so instead of that here’s a great bit o’ footy of Steve Waining early August 2003, his first year flying, flipping out as he sails over the Dru. For those who wonder about the whole parapente thing, Steve-o’s voice pretty much says it all.
Wednesday, 19 August – Busy season for the PGHM as they began the day by rescuing a victim of acute mountain sickness at the Col des Dômes. Around 17:00, they assisted an apparent heart attack victim at the ice cave on the Mer de Glace (and cruelly ignored my own heart palpitations as I raced across the glacier to barely catch the last Montenvers train down). The boys in blue rounded out the day by evacuating two exhausted hikers, one older than 80, from the trail between Brévent and Flégère.
Japanese Death Rappel
Monday, 17 August – A 59-year-old Japanese man, accompanied by a guide from the Compagnie de Chamonix, died while rappelling from Point Gaspard in the Aiguilles Rouges. Initial reports indicate the guide had already descended when the client fell and early speculation is centered around the client’s daisy chain. To learn more about the dangers of daisy chains, check out this vid. Or just bring up the subject with Stian. Believe me, you’ll get an earful.
Sunday, 16 August – Alberto Noraz, a 53-year-old Courmayeur guide and member of the Val d’Aoste mountain rescue team, was killed on the Bernezat Spur of the Tour Ronde. Reports indicate he fell 200m as a result of ‘rupture du becquet rocheux’ (broken hold?). His Italian client received minor rope burns but was otherwise uninjured. Our sympathies go to the Noraz family.
Sunday, 16 August – A fire broke out beneath the 10th and 11th pylons of the Brévent–Planpraz gondola at around 11:15. Firemen originally planned to rappel from the gondolas but changed their minds when confronted by the wind-driven flames and toxic fumes. Plan B? Call Pascal Brun of CMBH and ask him to bring his extraordinarily large, 900-liter bucket. 38 trips were needed to dump 34 cubic meters of Lake Champraz water, extinguishing the flames in 13 hours. Four fire trucks from Chamonix, Saint-Gervais, Sallanches and Cluses were also used to secure the area and thoroughly extinguish the fire.
Many tourists who found themselves stuck at the mid-station simply walked down while around 200 others, who were unable or uninterested in walking, were evacuated by 4×4.
Firefighters believe the wildfire was started by a cigarette butt. Or a cigarette arse, as the case may be.
No Picnic at the Dining Room
Week of 10-16 August – A group of aspirant guides were on a training exercise to Dent du Geant with instructors and clients
when disaster struck. One of the aspirants was moving with his client across the ‘dining room’, the snowy mixed saddle that accesses the Geant, when a loose block caused him to fall pulling his protection and his client with him. The aspirant fell about 50 meters when, despite a fractured wrist, he was able to arrest his fall and that of the client who was suspended in air after falling over a rock wall. The 29-year-old Chambery woman suffered a fractured sternum and several fractured ribs. The ENSA professor overseeing the group called a rescue, which due to their location, was answered by the Italian rescue service who took two-and-a-half hours to make it to the scene of the accident.