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Chamonix: safety awareness in glacial environments

In 2006, La Chamoniarde, a mountain accident prevention and rescue association, initiated a series of free mountain safety workshops. The goal of these training days is to provide experienced practitioners with the knowledge essential for progressing in glacial environments in the safest possible manner. Since they were first set up, the Petzl Foundation has provided support for these courses. These workshops take place throughout the summer in Chamonix.

SEPTEMBER 2014




Mountain safety training
  • Project partner: La Chamoniarde association, www.chamoniarde.com
  • Country:  France, Chamonix
  • Project type:  Accident prevention
  • Budget: €33,000 from 2006 to 2009

Interview with David Ravanel, in charge of the Chamoniarde mission and Ingrid Grivel, responsible for Fondation Montagna Sicura projects

In 2006, La Chamoniarde initiated one-day workshops for safety in glacial environments. What was the goal?

David Ravanel: The goal is to provide deeper knowledge that is essential for progression on glaciers and for small mountaineering trips. The themes we touch on are:
• reading the terrain and analyzing risks: crevasses, snow bridges…
• techniques for tying in and progressing on glacial terrains,
• what to do in case of an accident and how to signal for help.

Chamoniarde: safety training workshop in glacial environment © Fondation Petzl Safety training workshop © Fondation Petzl Safety training workshop © Fondation Petzl

Since 2007, the Montagna Sicura Foundation has also been organizing training days in collaboration with the Secours alpin valdôtain and the Union valdôtaine des guides de haute montagne. What do these days entail?

Ingrid Troyer: Two mountain guides go with a small group of twelve participants to the Dent du Géant glacier. The session begins with a review of the techniques for progression on a glacier and of the different types of knots used in mountaineering. Then the group approaches a crevasse. This is then an opportunity to review basic techniques for hauling and recovery of an injured person. In the afternoon, once they are back under the skylights in the comfort of the Villa Cameron, the headquarters of our foundation, geologists give a theory course about the origin and progression of glaciers and the changes they undergo. Sometimes a doctor comes to add a short summary of health problems that could be encountered in the mountains (frostbite, acute mountain sickness...).

Montagna Sicura: in-situ training workshop © Fondation Petzl

Whom are these workshops designed for?

David Ravanel: For people 18 years old and over who already have some basic mountaineering experience.

Ingrid Troyer: Mainly for two groups of people: residents and tourists. It is primarily the latter in August. We accept candidates who practice mountaineering on a regular basis. Our registration is by telephone, so it isn't always easy to judge the true competence of everyone. But since we ask everyone to arrive with their own equipment (crampons, ice axes, helmets...), beginners are rare. In 2007, all the sessions were full, and we even had to unfortunately refuse about thirty people for lack of space. Seventy-two participants in total (6 groups of 12) had the opportunity to take the workshops and are now prepared to progress on a glacier in the safest possible manner.

Stéphane Lozac’hmeur, in charge of the Petzl Foundation mission: On the other hand, in 2008 the workshops in Italy were open to a wider public, notably with a day for children, and another for people with physical disabilities.

Chamoniarde: safety training workshop © Fondation Petzl

Why organize free sessions when there are already ones that require payment?

David Ravanel: The town of Chamonix has for a long time provided information and accident prevention structures which are open to the public year-round. In the spirit of this initiative, it is normal that these training days also be free, for any sector of the public.

Stéphane Lozac’hmeur: The workshops offered by the Chamoniarde or Montagna Sicura have a large theoretical component along with practice in the field. They don't "steal" clients from the guides, but rather encourage the participants to get in touch with them, which is something the majority would not have done before.

Safety training workshop © Fondation Petzl In-situ training workshop in Chamonix In-situ training workshop in Chamonix

How did Petzl become involved?

David Ravanel: Petzl has always been active with regard to safety. With the creation of the Foundation, partnerships with institutions like ours have been simplified. It was therefore very easy to reach an agreement for lending equipment and co-financing activities.

Ingrid Troyer: The Chamoniarde association, with which Petzl had already put together training activities in the past, provided us with contacts. We met with the people from the Foundation during ISPO 2007 (the international trade show for sports equipment and fashion). The Petzl Foundation then financed half of the guided days, on top of providing the mountaineering equipment.

Stéphane Lozac’hmeur: The Petzl Foundation also produced a manual which has been given to each workshop participant since the summer of 2008. This small sixteen-page manual summarizes information about glacier progression and crevasse rescue. It is partly financed by La Chamoniarde and the Montagna Sicura.

Technical manual

Is there consistency between the training given by Montagna Sigura and La Chamoniarde?

David Ravanel: The training is practically identical, with the same program and target participant, similar terrain profiles, and a common pedagogical approach.

Jean-Jacques Eleouet, secretary-general of the Foundation:From the start, we have hoped for uniform instruction on both sides of the border. David Ravanel has supervised the pedagogical development of both programs in close collaboration with his Italian counterparts. In France and in Italy, the same guides are used as instructors throughout the entire season in order to keep the training consistent.

Mini-Bio David Ravanel Birthday: Diplomas: Mountain guide He joined La Chamoniarde in 2002, in charge of the mission. His passions: the vertical world and photography

MiniBio David Ravanel

David Ravanel Birthday: March 1, 1970
Diplomas: Mountain guide
He joined La Chamoniarde in 2002, in charge of the mission.
His passions: the vertical world and photography

MiniBio Ingrid Troyer

Ingrid Troyer Birthday: 27 novembre 1976
University diploma in Foreign Languages and Literature from the University of Milan
She has worked for the Fondation Montagne Sure since January 2005 as the head of training and safety in the mountains.
Her favorite place:"I have travelled quite a lot around the world, but I always come back to the base of Mont Blanc, a really marvelous place."
Her favorite personality: Italian journalist Marco Travaglio. "He's the only journalist in Italy who tells the truth... But I don't know if you know him in France."
Her passions: skiing, mountaineering, trekking, reading.

For more information:

Updated in september 2014


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