Guide injured by avalanche charge

Last week 63 year old High Mountain Guide Jean-Louis Lechène based in Cauterets in the Pyrenees set out from Lys on a ski tour. His objective, the west ridge of the Monné where he continued his climb on crampons. During his climb he spotted a long aluminium tube embedded in the snow. He immediately recognized it as a charge fired from a compressed air avalanche canon. The charge would normally explode with the aim of triggering any avalanche above the resort’s ski pistes before they are opened.

Avalancheur in action -

Jean-Louis, who is also a ski instructor, decided to give it a wide birth by passing below. Not wide enough because as he drew level with the device the detonator exploded firing shrapnel into his head. His ski mask protected his eyes but he was in no state to ski back to the resort. He was eventually able to raise a piste patroller friend on his radio. He was recovered by helicopter by the CRS and taken to hospital where he is recovering.

Francis Guiard, head of the Cauterets piste services says they all the charges fired in 2009 and 2010 exploded correctly but they had a charge from 2008 that was not accounted for. Normally a second charge is fired on the same spot to clear the first. It seems this did not work. Normally the main charge becomes inactive after a few of hours but the detonator remains active. A walker was badly injured on the Cime de la Jasse in a similar incident when he discovered a charge fired by the 7 Laux ski domene. The detonator exploded when he went to investigate the strange metallic object he saw by the side of the GR trail. As you can see in the video the explosive is made from two clear liquids - exactly the kind of material that the authorities were worried about being smuggled onto airplanes.

Posted by davidof on Monday, 24 January, 2011 at 09:47 PM

Sorry, but something smells fishy about this. A charge unaccounted for in 2008, and suddenly the detonator goes off as the guide is passing? I accept coincidence in life but this seems unreal.

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 25 January, 2011  at 08:51 PM
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