When Aurélie Dutertre set out for a ski tour last week she thought it would be a pleasant trip to the Belle Etoile summit in the Belledonne range near Grenoble followed by a night in a refuge then home but when she didn’t return on Friday the alarm was raised by her family. The trip was not particularly dangerous but there was fresh snow on Wednesday afternoon and again on Friday night. Had she had an accident?
The cabin, the part where the skier was trapped is an annex under the snow on the left
Her telephone was triangulated to the plateau of the 7 Laux but was now switched off or out of range. Rescue parties were unable to reach the area due to the weather and helicopters were unable to overfly due to poor visibility. It was only on Sunday that the mountain rescue helicopter was able to get to the scene. After flying around they spotted a gold survival blanket poking out of the snow. Landing at the scene they found the missing woman stuck in a fisherman’s cabin, hungry but alive.
After skiing to the summit of the Belle Etoile she’d hunkered down in the cabin when the storm blew in with the idea of continuing the next day. From the plateau it is possible to descend to the Haut-Breda valley although the slopes are quite steep with the risk of avalanches. She’d cleared the snow outside the door before going to sleep but in the morning the fresh snow and spindrift had blocked the door. Unlike refuges whose doors usually open inwards, these mountain cabins, for use in the summer, have outwards opening doors to protect them from pressure of snow in the winter. She was stuck! Aurélie told journalists that she thought the tiny 4m2 shelter would be her tomb, that she would die there. She made herself as warm as possible and lived for three days on energy bars. On Sunday she heard a helicopter and managed to push a ribbon of her survival blanket out of a crack in the door, this was spotted by the sharp eye pilots.