Missing snowboarder records “last message” on digicam

It was to be the perfect end to a week spent in les Deux Alpes. A trip down freeride Mecca of the vallons de la Meije above la Grave. The only problem, the five young Belgium snowboarders were not properly equipped and didn’t have the necessary level for the adventure that would turn into a nightmare.

girose glacier
The Girose

Setting off over the Glacier du Girose two of the group turned back, worried by a 2000 meter off piste descent with unknown dangers. This didn’t deter 17 year old Jannes and his two friends. Once in the Vallons the three amigos decided to split up, fixing a meeting down at la Grave. It was late in the day, Jannes found himself lost in woods ending in rock bands from which he could find no exit. As night fell he could see the cross country ski track just 200 meters below.

A diabetic, he had no insulin and was suffering from a sprained wrist. An injury sustained earlier in the week. The police were alerted when he failed to appear, one of his friends had also had a scare on the way down and was very late. Knowing that he had no medicine, water or food and was injured 17 rescue workers, a dog handler and two doctors started a desperate search well into the night. The telepherique was re-opened and powerful search lights were deployed to scan the mountain but no sign was found of the missing snowboarder.

la grave
La Grave village and the Freaux woods

Finally at dawn the police helicopter was brought into action. At 8h25 they spotted the young man stuck in a couloir. He was suffering from hypothermia and was taken to hospital in Briançon where he is out of danger. He had survived the night by eating snow. Believing he was going to die he’d recorded a last message in English and Dutch on his digital camera. The Gendarmerie pulled the manager of the tour operator in for questioning but he was able to show that the holiday brochure clearly explained that the vallons de la Meije are strictly for experts only.

col du lauteret
Col du Lauteret

On Sunday on the nearby col du Lauteret there was a rare collision between a snowkiter and a car. A 30 year old Italian was on the col with his snowboard and kite. With regular winds on this 2000 meter alpine pass snowkiters can reach speeds of 80km/h performing a number of aerial stunts. The Italian had just made a jump when he was dragged by the wind into the path of an oncoming car. Suffering from a number of minor injuries he was air lifted to hospital in Briançon. A busy weekend for the doctors.

Posted by davidof on Monday, 11 February, 2008 at 01:07 PM

I am glad the Belgian snowboarder survived and I feel fairly sure that he has learned a very important lesson, but I wonder if I am alone in feeling that what he did was a grossly reckless act, not only endangering himself and the lives of his friends, but those of the rescue services.

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 13 February, 2008  at 02:03 PM

Once again we find young skiers and snowboarders who think that having a good technical level, is enough to get them down the big mountains.
I have spent 20 years climbing and riding these mountains and wantb to comment that it is becoming more and more common for young riders to go into terrain ill prepared and lacking the basic mountain skills and knowledge.
It takes years to learn and even longer to understand.
Every year i have to save peoples lives and every year they make the same mistake, which is believing that it’s OK because they can follow other peoples tracks.
Well here’s another warning, don’t follow ours unless you have 100m of rope, ice screws, and the ability to use it....
you have been warned, and if you don’t ay attention you’ll probably die.

It sounds harsh - but it’s true.

Posted by  on  Sunday, 17 February, 2008  at 11:03 PM

An added problem for snowboarders is that it doesn’t take long to gain the board skills to tackle unpisted snow. This leads to people heading into areas of the mountain they don’t know, and getting into difficulty - in some cases, tragically.

As for following tracks… I’ve seen a group get helicoptered off, about 100m from point of no-return. They left tracks, of course. Anyone following those… well.

Posted by Paulo on  Tuesday, 04 March, 2008  at 10:22 PM
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