Third Avalanche in a Week for Piau

After the third avalanche in just over a week in the resort of Piau-Engaly the piste director has reminded skiers and snowboarders that the off-piste area is potentially dangerous and that they should be properly equipped and consult the piste patrol and avalanche warnings before venturing off the marked runs. The early season conditions in the area are said to be the best for 15 years but wind at altitude coupled with cold has lead to unstable snow above 2200 meters.


This is exactly where a group of Spanish skiers were when they triggered a large slab avalanche in the Hourquete de Chermentaz (envers de Piau) sector, a popular off piste route. The alert was given shortly before 13h00. The group had taken the Pic de Piau high speed chair then climbed on foot to the summit of the mountain. A member of the group was able to descend to the resort by the Badet valley to raise the alert. Two skiers had been buried, one to his shoulders and they were unable to free him from the avalanche debris. The High Mountain Police (PGHM) from Pierrefitte. The victim was taken to hospital in Tarbes with a knee injury.

Posted by on Monday, 12 December, 2005 at 02:10 PM

In another tragic incident in the Pyrenees over the weekend, 2 Spanish skiers from the Basque region were killed by an avalanche near Formigal on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees.

Their bodies were found on Monday on the south face of the Cuyalarat.  They had left the parking lot at the Col du Pourtalet on the French/Spanish border Friday, apparently heading for Anayet Peak in Spain.

According to the mountain rescue team, both skiers were experienced off-piste skiers/climbers and it appears that they were in the process of climbing with skis and skins on the south face of the Cuyalarat when the avalanche occurred.

Details can be found here (in French):

The Col du Pourtalet is located here (link to

Posted by  on  Thursday, 15 December, 2005  at 02:35 PM

It is well worth taking a look at this video an avalanche at Piau on the 28th November filmed by Jerome Buc on his helmet cam:-

The avalanche triggered on a convex rollover - a classic stress point in the snowpack on a north facing, windloaded slope. Although the slope doesn’t look too steep I have skied there and it is over 30 degrees. Although the avalanche is relatively small Jerome was lucky not to have escaped without injury.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 21 December, 2005  at 12:52 AM
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