This winter, we followed the trackers during a preventive avalanche triggering (PIDA). In summer, the equipment must be maintained, in particular the gazex which must be checked, repaired and replenished with gas. Are you afraid of heights? So let's go !

It is 6:30 a.m., we arrive at the ski slopes management garage. Val Thorens to spend the day with the team in charge of Gazex maintenance.

Over a coffee we discover the maintenance operations planned for today and the safety instructions. A few more minutes of discussion and we are interrupted by the sound of an arriving helicopter. He lands in front of the building, we take off towards Cime Caron!

At the summit, there is no time to stand and watch the day break over the surrounding peaks.

We reach the shelter where the “frames” containing the oxygen and propane bottles are stored. From this shelter, pipes feed two to three “cannons”, the large metal tubes that can be seen in the ski area. In each cannon there is a firing system necessary to create the explosion. When the explosion occurs, the shock wave then causes the unstable layer of the snow cover to leave.

The helicopter positions itself above us with its winch cable for a frame change. The empty bottles are then taken to the station in a few minutes and new ones come to replace them immediately.

No time to waste, we go down to join the rest of the team who have prepared the removal of a damaged cannon. The last anchoring points removed, it in turn leaves by air towards the slopes service garage. Depending on the damage, it will be repaired by the manufacturer or replaced.

The helicopter then picks us up to take us to the west face of the Aiguille de Péclet.
An impressive “skate” drop on these ridges at more than 3000 meters above sea level.

The team immediately got back to work. It is necessary to carry out numerous checks on the condition of the welds, the pipes, the shelter, etc. and carry out maintenance work.

Some cannons damaged by falling rocks or snow were then repaired on site. Like tightrope walkers, sometimes with several hundred meters of empty space under their feet, welding, painting and dismantling/reassembly work must be carried out.

After a busy morning, it is then time to go back down towards the upper station of the Péclet funitel. A descent over the ridges which requires sure footing!

We will finally be rewarded with a delicious meal based on homemade charcuterie, fresh bread and valley cheese. We send a big thank you to Albert, Franck and Patrick for taking us with them for this unforgettable experience. Without forgetting Frédéric and Claude.


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