Mont Rosset Avalanche

Avalanches > Mont Rosset Avalanche

Response from Sylvain d'Honneur posted to Camp2Camp

Before I attempt to respond to all the posts about us and seeing that their is a desire to understand our adventure by quite a few people on this group I would like to give my version of the events, the one I already gave (or almost) to the Mountain Police (PGHM).

We left on Monday at 10h58 (I'm able to be exact because the time was recorded in my digital camera) from the parking by the cross country ski club but without our mobile phones, which in any case were nearly flat and wouldn't have lasted the trip (a big error which we had plenty of time to think about while we were trapped).

We took 2 avalanche transceivers (tested during a training session with Olivier the week before) and a Recco chip in my ski pants. We were warmly dressed because we knew the weather would be poor and had a pic-nic for the day and a book of snowboard tours in the Savoie, as well as a map of the area, a compass, a head torch and an Opinel (knife). I'd done the trip with my dad two years previously in ideal conditions.

It was snowing but the visibility was ok. The presence of 2 cars and fresh tracks at the start showed us that we were not the first (just to add, we left home at 7 am but the drive up to the car-park was an 'epic' and we took more time than we had planned). The objective was to return at 16h00 to the car at the latest so that Olivier could take a train home.

The climb went well, we crossed two skiers who were coming down and said hello. We arrived at the Chalet du Mont Rosset at 13h05 situated at 2017m altitude. We talked about whether to go on because the tracks we'd followed until then were getting hard to see. But the weather had held and the descent was full of promise so we decided to go on.

We started on the ridge, the visibility got slightly worse, but (stupid as we were) we thought we could descend following our tracks. About half an hour after leaving the chalet the wind suddenly got fierce (I'll skip over the words we used....) We decided to stop immediately. A whiteout and in the time it took us to put on our snowboards (and for Bastien to put on his skis and take off his climbing skins) our tracks were gone!

The wind was stronger than I could ever believe, we had to take our boards off because the powder was making it difficult to make progress. From memory I thought we had to veer to the left to get back to the correct valley, I told Bastien who was making tracks on ski. We ended up spying trees (after walking 30 minutes blind since we chose to start down) below, we thought our salvation lay with going down between the trees. I never thought to get the map out and the compass was frozen with the cold and with the wind (I was walking with eyes shut).

After descending between the trees we came to a dead end, a cliff in front and an avalanche track to the right. We hesitated a long moment as to which way to go but we decided we must climb up high enough to try and get across to the right track because we realised that we had gone too far to the left (the weather had cleared enough for us to see the bottom of the valley). So we climbed then tried to traverse to the left as we climbed to get back to the ridge as quickly as possible.

Each time we tried to go to the left to traverse we approached the avalanche chute and cracks started (ha those bloody cracks!), so we continued to climb, hoping to get around high up. During an attempt to traverse Martin and me (because Olivier and Bastien were more sensible and left a wider gap between themselves) started a small avalanche which took us some meters.

We decided to go back and shelter from avalanches by a rock that we'd seen to our right as we climbed. We built an igloo where we stayed, only going out when we heard the noise of a helicopter.

So, I think I've been as objective as possible. I will let you judge our imprudence (and we are the first to admit we were) yourselves.

A little aside as it seems that the law passed by the French Government in February 2002 is not known to all: the rescues paid for by the state: Mountain Police etc are still free (hmmm, well it seems even on skis or snowboard you may have to pay according to a journalist who has written an article, the next Montagne magazine should shed some light on the matter) but if the guy running the rescue asked for help from a private company, which was our case as the SAF had a 'copter more powerful than the Alouette of the PGHM, then it is the local town hall that picks up the tab, something which is not right. With the new law the Mayor can pass this bill onto those rescued

We were very quickly dubbed stupid kids, something not surprising with the tabloid press. Personally I couldn't give a damn because people can think what they like of me and it changes nothing. But I find that our story was really over exposed in the media, millions of people heard that they would have to pay out loads of dosh to save the imprudent youths.

That is the thing that really pisses me off about the whole thing. This misinformation calls into doubt the whole ethos of a free mountain rescue service that we hold so dear. Imagine if a story like ours happens 2 or 3 times a year and our friend the Interior Minister takes steps that it doesn't happen again, his hand forced by the majority who only see what the media tells them, well we will end up like America.

Thanks for everyone who supported us, it is really heart warming, have fun and be more careful than us.

Sylvain d'Honneur 11/2/2003


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