Blocked skiers rescued by light from mobile phone

Appalling weather, an avalanche risk of High (4/5) part of the Grand Massif ski area closed and blocked with signs and ropes didn’t dissuaded two French skiers from following a couloir complex from the Grands Vans.

The men were eventually blocked by a cliff band. Unable to descend or climb there was nothing for it but to seek shelter from the powder avalanches that periodically swept the centre of the couloir.

At 6pm friends reported their absence to the rescue services. A police helicopter with specialized units of the fire service (GMSP - Groupe Montagne des Sapeurs-Pompiers) took to the air and spotted a periodic flash from a portable phone belonging to one of the skiers. However they were unable to approach the scene due to power lines.
The rescue services decided to attempt to reach the men on foot. Deploying fixed cords from the summit of the Grands Vans a team descended the same route as the blocked victims guided by the light of a ratrac. At one point they triggered a slab avalanche, saved only by the ropes. They eventually reached the group in the early hours of the morning. 650 meters of rope had been deployed.

With snow down to 400 meters today the situation on the roads is difficult. An avalanche has blocked the road to Vaujany, part of the l’Alpe d’Huez domain. A diversion is in place. In the Hautes Alpes the RD 902 that serves the village of Uvernet-Fours has been blocked by two avalanches. There are problems throughout the Hautes-Alpes and the authorities are advising people to stay at home. The avalanche risk is High across much of the Alps and Pyrenees with the upper parts of some ski areas closed.

Posted by davidof on Saturday, 24 January, 2009 at 11:21 AM

When oh When will poeple learn !
Bravo to the rescue services for putting their lives at risk to save these two .
Both the courage of the rescuers and the stupitidy of the “ victims “ defy words .

Posted by maximus on  Saturday, 24 January, 2009  at 06:12 PM

The rescue services seem to have excelled themselves. Taking off in poor weather to search for the men then conducting a difficult rescue operation.

Posted by davidof on  Saturday, 24 January, 2009  at 08:28 PM

The article did not mention that the skiers did not call for rescue themselves.  It is possible they did not have a number.  I have searched most Swiss ski area websites and very few have a rescue phone number that is easy to find.  Some sites have a menu for emergency services and when you access them there is no phone number listed.  Rescue phone numbers should be clearly posted at all ski area as most people carry mobile phones.

Posted by  on  Thursday, 12 February, 2009  at 09:59 AM
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