What a week we’ve had since my last post – it’s certainly been eventful! We went to Champery in Switzerland to watch the qualifying of the UCI Downhill Mountainbike World Cup in the mud, the next day had the best run of my life and then were involved in a dramatic helicopter rescue from the Petit Balcon Sud yesterday!
We’ve been to Champery in Switzerland quite a few times and most of those times it raining and was cold. It seems to pick up the cloud over the Dents du Midi mountain range and dump down as rain in Champery. We stayed there for 2 weeks in July a few years ago and one day it never got above 8 degrees! So when we popped over the border to watch the qualifying of the UCI Downhill Mountainbike World Cup we made sure we were prepared. Good job we did because it dumped down and was freezing! We watched the women struggle down the steepest course of the season covered in mud – some bikes were weighed after the event and had 7kg of mud on them! The men coped better and managed to jump and show boat to the small crowd – Gee Atherton did a huge jump just up from us – it was amazing.
On Saturday I did my last long run before the Swiss Alpine Half Marathon next Saturday – gulp! It went really well – I covered 15k which my longest distance this year so far and I cut 10 mins off my previous time in 2008. I was chuffed to bits but hope I haven’t peaked too early & my legs still ache today (Monday).
On Sunday we thought we’d shake out the legs and have a stroll up to the Petit Balcon Sud as it was sunny and pleasant. All started out well but about half way along we noticed an elderly couple walking very slowly. We didn’t think too much of it but as we got near we noticed the woman sit the man down on the bank of the trail. She approached us and told us her husband wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t carry on. Hmmm, bit of a difficult one this as there’s no way we could have helped him down the mountain as it was too treacherous underfoot and he didn’t look too good anyway. I advised her to call 112 which is the number for the emergency services in Europe. As she spoke away in French I tried to find out how the man was feeling – luckily they both spoke very good English – he explained he’d had a stroke about 10 years ago and was worried he’d had another. The emergency services did some brief checks with them both about movement of limbs etc and then contacted the PGHM (high mountain police rescue). My husband ran back up the trail ready to point any rescuers up the right trail.
They called back immediately and said they’d send a chopper up to see where we were. About 15 mins later we watched the chopper take off from it’s base and make it’s way to us – we had to find a clearing and make ourselves as big as possible to catch it’s attention. I thought we’d missed it as it looped around us but no, they had seen us. They hovered over a small clearing, on the edge of a scree slope with the downdraft whipping up the trail into a blast of sand and debris. We watched as a man was winched down – an amazing site. My husband had run back down the trail when he saw the chopper and was underneath it when the 1st man came down. The gendarme instructed him to ‘catch the doctor’! A moment later another man was winched down with bags and oxygen tanks – he had to catch the bag which was dragging the doctor down the sheer scree slope.
Once everyone was off, the chopper returned to base and the doctor and gendarme got to work. They were very thorough and gentle with the man and had him hooked up to a heart rate monitor within moments. After a series of tests the doctor said that the man would need to go to Sallanches hospital as Chamonix hospital shuts at 6pm. They radioed for the chopper to return and helped the man back to the clearing to be winched into the chopper. The man gave me a kiss and the woman gave me her address and we carried on with our walk. What a day. I hope they were both OK – maybe I’ll pop round soon and check in on them.