Gourette in shock after avalanche tragedy

The Pyrenees had escaped relatively unscathed from the carnage unleashed by avalanches this season. That was until yesterday. At around midday as a couple of skiers approached the Arre-Sourins ridge close to the Anglas chairlift a slab avalanche was triggered beneath their feet causing two slides, one on the resort side of the ridge the other towards the lac d’Angas. The men were climbing with crampons with their skis attached to their rucksacks.

Pierre-Louis Page, aged 62, and known to everyone in the ski resort of Gourette as “Pilou” was carried 200 vertical meters from the ridge. Mr. Page had recently retired after building up the local “Intersport” franchise. His friend was able to free himself from the slide and give the alert. Members of the piste patrol, two helicopters carrying members of the fire brigade and specialist police units as well as four avalanche dogs were dispatched to the scene but the search operation was hampered by the scale and depth of the slide. Mr. Page was found under just 50cm of snow at 14h10 in a state of cardio-vascular arrest. After emergency medical treatment he was taken by helicopter to Pau but was pronounced dead later in the evening.

Rescue workers made a final close probe sweep of the debris and stopped operations a little after 17h00 satisfied that no-one else was caught. Like too many of the avalanche victims this season M. Page and his companion were described as experienced and prudent mountaineers who the area well. The avalanche risk was 3 (considerable) at the time of the accident.

At les Arcs a group of four ski instructors from nearby Bourg St Maurice were caught by an avalanche yesterday afternoon at 3200 meters on the back of the Aiguille Rouge while skiing off-piste. One member of the group, a 27 year old man, was buried. He was found rapidly using his avalanche beacon but died during his transfer to hospital by helicopter. Earlier in the day three skiers, also resident in Bourg St Maurice, triggered an avalanche on the col d’Entreporte in the Aiguille Grive sector at 2600 m on a south-west slope injuring two of the group. The avalanche risk was Considerable (3/5) at the time.

At les Deux Alpes a 19 year old skier from Puy-en-Velay in France fell 50 meters over cliffs while skiing off-piste in the resort. He suffered chest and face injuries. More bizarrely a mountain biker, testing a prototype bike equipped with skis, suffered facial injuries after a high speed fall on the Sarenne piste.


Posted by on Sunday, 26 February, 2006 at 11:10 AM

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