High altitude with Morgan Barbot

Morgan Barbot, Freeride and Freerando Ambassador for Vertical.

I work as ski patrol on the Girose glacier (3200m/3600m) in La Grave, French Alps.

The resort where I work is located in a high mountain area. Neither marked, pisted, or secured, the skiers use this area at their own risk. We do have a secure run on the glacier. A very crevassed area where it is important for us to maintain a safe access to skiers who want to use this glacier area to develop skills.

Be careful though, only the crevasses on the piste are managed!

What does your job involve?

My job is to inform and educate clients about the different risks of skiing in the glacier zone. Unlike the Deux Alpes ski resort glacier, which is very close, this one is very dangerous!

It is difficult to make the public aware that this huge snow domain is not as welcoming as one might imagine. In winter, the crevasses are partially covered with snow, which makes it very difficult to analyze the terrain and the dangers are invisible.

As a ski patrol, in collaboration with my patrol colleagues, I also take care of rescues on the ski area and off-piste.

We work hand in hand with the PGHM (Mountain Police) and the CRS mountain rescue, Briançon. They travel by helicopter when the weather allows it. Otherwise, if it is impossible for them to fly we transport the injured person by our own means, in most cases in a stretcher. This is physically demanding because of altitude that we have to operate in and the climatic hazards.

What else?

Currently, I am training an avalanche dog to deal with accidents where the helicopter would not be able to fly. This is a very long process and requires a lot of training throughout the year. We meet once a week during the winter with handlers of different rescue services ( ski patrols, PGHM, CRS, Firemen, refuge wardens...) for group training. The young dogs in training and the operational dogs work together. I have the chance to work every day of the week with my dog Maïko who loves it.

During my days off, I have the great chance to enjoy the Freeride area that La Grave offers. There are millions of things to do! The access to the high mountain by the cable car offers a multitude of possibilities of ski couloirs on slopes up to 2400m for the longest. In spring, very nice ski tours are possible among the surrounding glaciers: glacier de la Meije, glacier du Tabuchet. But also the tour of the Meije on several days with night in refuge. In short, a lot of fun!

I also do speed riding and paragliding when the snow doesn't allow me to ski down. There is no room for boredom whatever the conditions.

In this high mountain terrain, I need warm, waterproof and breathable clothing. I use the Avatara pants, which I think are just great! For the top, I never go out without my VO3max Midlayer and Down Jacket, either on me or in the bag as a spare to complement my Windy jacket.

A final word.

I wish you all a good winter. Beware, the current conditions make you want to make powder turns! But the strong wind has formed hard patches resting on a fragile layer that can cause spontaneous avalanches or caused by low overload. Take advantage of this time to practice your avalanche transceiver search and don't forget to look at the avalanche bulletin when you go out. Know how to interpret it! Be careful and enjoy the magic moments that the mountain offers.