Thanking the PGHM


I spent some quality time this morning with Adjudant Matthieu Dalonneau of the PGHMEC CHAMONIX-MONT-BLANC, the guy that descended on a wire from a helicopter to pluck me off the north face of Les Petits Jorasses.

It was an important moment for me to look him in the eyes under different circumstances and thank him for what he did the first time we met. I keep going on about his eyes, but when someone is saving your arse whilst wearing mad yellow goggles, hanging on a wire from a helicopter, you have to check his eyes to see if you can trust him.

In hindsight, I can now see that this was an unexpectedly important step for me in my my recovery. Seeing someone again that I had only ever met at the time of my accident confirmed the reality and magnitude of the event. However much I have evaluated the fall, I believe the mind prefers to push forwards and not dwell. However, in meeting Matthieu, I believe a check of reality is important to ultimately pushing forwards with a healthier and safer mountain mindset.

A few accident/PGHM facts:

Mikael Abrahamsson, Nick Draper and Dan Owen – you’ll be happy to know that he highly approved of the situation he flew into, describing the set-up that you had rigged as “bien propre” (proper tidy!). He was also concerned for our Camelot No3. that he dropped and was stoked that you recouperated it.

My rescue was number 1110/2014. The number system starts at 01 on the 1st Jan. Averaging 3 a day, however at the current time of year it is super quiet, but in winter it is not uncommon to rescue 20 skiers a day.

There were 4 men involved in my rescue – the pilot, Matthieu my “Secouriste”, another secouriste and a doctor. The last 2 were dropped at the Leschaux Refuge before the helicopter came up to us, making it lighter and giving it the required agility to get close enough to the face. We then collected them on the way down. We also stopped at the PGHM base to lose 1 of them, making our trip to the hospital as fast as possible.

If there are 2 climbers they will always rescue both, but in our case, we said no, so they were happy to leave you there (to collect the various ice axes, cams, screws, sun glasses and lipstick that we probably dropped)

We discussed the accident; what I had learnt and the presence of the PGHM in the valley. An interesting & important discussion that I have talked about quite a bit before. Matthieu then took me through a set of different techniques that we could have used to brace my leg & arm had the helicopter not been able to access the face.

I could have spent all day with this man. I owe him and the PGHM so much. This morning has humbled me and reaffirmed all that this accident has made me think about regarding mindfulness for when I return to the mountains.

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