Climber and writer Pierre Chapoutot killed by Valmorel Avalanche

The alpinist and writer Pierre Chapoutot has been killed by an avalanche on the crête de Lachat in the Lauzière range close to the ski resort of Valmorel. A climber of considerable repute he had opened a number of routes in the Oisans. Passionate about the mountain environment Mr. Chapoutot was known as a straight-talker and had most recently been campaigning against the further enchroachment of ski lifts in the Beafortain. More controversially he had defended the bombing of the la Grave cable car during construction in an article published in 1977.

Mr Chapoutot. Was on a ski tour with three companons when they were caught by the avalanche at 12h40 at around 1800 meters altitude. A friend was able to stay on the surface of the snow. M. Chapoutot, aged 67, was completely buried. He was found in a serious condition and died during his transfer to hospital in Grenoble.

M Chapoutot had written a memorable account of an avalanche on the 10 March 1980, on Mont Coin near to les Arèches, here are some extracts:

“an incredible quantity of fresh snow had fallen. Because the cold had arrived at the last moment, close to dawn, the base was rotten. If one adds that the snowfall was accompanied by a violent wind you have the ideal recipie for an avalanche… common sense said you would have to be crazy, or unaware, to go out in such circumstances. But we were perfectly aware of the risks so one could conclude we were mad.

We advanced as though through the heart of a huge house of cards. Snowslabs collapsing with every step. Still we arrived at the summit without problem. We were pleased with ourselves. I chose the route because it was reputed to be very safe (I still have the same opinion today). I don’t like danger but I know there is not a mountain without danger; so there is no climbing without risk. But if the climber goes into the mountains, it is not because it is dangerous, or at least that is not the main motivation, even if the milieu knows of some specimens for whom that side of things is especially exciting – which caste does not have its extremists? I speak for the average participant, for whom the appetite for risk is less pronounced. That said, we have the joy of avoiding danger, thwarting his traps, neutralizing his tricks.

We took a small variant on the descent. The avalanche at first pretended to pass behind us but then rebounded off the banks of the bowl, once, twice, we got moving quick, but not quick enough, the slide caught up with us. At first the snow passed between our legs, then it hit us at the level of our rucksacks, without real brutalitly but with an almost over familiar insistence both invincible and definite. We were pushed onto our fronts, buried, overawed. How I regret not being able to shake off my skis. I found myself blocked, encased, entombed. It was meant to happen and it had.”

More information at: Volopress - link in French

Posted by on Friday, 20 January, 2006 at 08:55 PM

I spoke to a friend of M. Chapoutot who said that he was on a route regarded as relatively safe in times of high avalanche risk. The tour starts above Celliers and climbs through a south-east facing valley. He continued “if anyone new the Lauzière mountains it was Chaps”.

Posted by davidof on  Monday, 23 January, 2006  at 01:02 AM
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