Last Saturday I had a meeting in Chamonix-Mont Blanc in connection with the British Association of International Mountain Leaders. I’m not a great one for meetings but was keen to be more involved and contribute to the Assocation.
Arriving in Chamonix via the Gorge d’Arly and Megeve the first thing that struck me was how busy Chamonix it was. Outside of the winter ski season the Albertville and Tarentaise area is relatively quiet. Even finding a place to park the car without paying an arm and a took a bit of time. The second was hearing so much English being spoken as I’m used to being immersed in French.
The Chamonix mountain rescue services (the Peleton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne ? or PGHM for short) were holding an open day at their base just outside of of Chamonix. So I decided to see what was going on. The helicopters (Eurocopter EC 145’s) gave demonstrations of winching and a particular impressive demonstration of rescuing someone stuck on a cliff. Here the rescuer, hanging beneath the helicopter on the winch, came in to a person hanging free from a rope. Having clipped the victim into the winch the victim’s own rope was immediately cut and the helicopter moved away from the cliff and winched the victim in.
A search dog, frequently used in the search for avalanche victims, demonstrated its love for the job. Moving towards the helicopter’s open door the handler released his dog that ran full speed towards the machine before taking a flying leap through the open cabin door.
It was good to catch up with friend, and mountain guide, Tim Blakemore in Les Houches. At the start of June he had climbed Mont Blanc on skis with a client before skiing directly from the summit. The following day, despite some uncertain weather, I climbed with Tim and another British mountain guide in the Arve valley.