Alexandre Auchecorne from PGHM Briancon, IFMGA mountain guide represented PGHM at the 2019 edition of Transylvania Mountain Festival, where he explained how mountain rescue is organised and which is the role of the Mountain Rescue in France. He answered the questions of a curious public about climbing Mont-Blanc and the practice of mountain guiding in France.
Alexandre Auchecorne did competitional skiing as a child and currently his passion is transferring his knowledge to younger generations and discovering new ski areas. He fell in love with Romania during a professional exchange with the Romanian Mountain Rescue in Făgăraș Mountains. Ever since, he has been a fond ambassador of Romania and of our local culture.
[Anca Berlo] Why PGHM?
Alexandre Auchecorne: I discovered this job during my military service. I immediately developed a passion for the mountains and for mountain rescue. It is really a very exciting field since we never come across the same situation. Our interventions cover paragliding, mountaineering, canyoning, so you never know what you are going to find during a call. You have to always be adaptable and that’s what I find pleasurable in this job.
[A.B.] How can one become a MOUNTAIN RESCUER in France?
Alexandre Auchecorne: In order to become a mountain rescuer one needs to have passed the baccalaureate, then an entry exam and to do a year of schooling. Next, depending on abilities and according to the orientation one wants to give to their career, the options are many. One can become a helicopter pilot, an investigator, a rescuer, so really, everyone can find their place in this structure.
Alexandre Auchecorne on stage at Transylvania Mountain Festival 2019 / foto: Gabriel Roșca
[A.B.] Why many MOUNTAIN RESCUERS are also high mountain guides in France?
Alexandre Auchecorne: About half of the 260 rescuers are mountain guides because this it is the highest level of expertise in mountaineering. The IFMGA certification allows one to be known in this profession.
[A.B.] Why is mountain rescue free in France?
Alexandre Auchecorne: In France, any rescue is free. The French spirit of solidarity says that if anyone is injured, whether on the street or in the mountains, they need to be rescued. And we do that free of charge.
[A.B.] An example of a very difficult intervention?
Alexandre Auchecorne: Examples are many, because they are part of our daily life. Not all interventions are difficult, but there are some that go out of the norm. I particularly remember one avalanche that took place in September 2015 in Dome des Ecrins. Nine people were taken by that avalanche and we could only save one. The weather was bad, and there are images that remain with you…
[A.B.] What are the greatest dangers in the Alps?
Alexandre Auchecorne: The greatest danger in my opinion is the lack of knowledge of the environment. People who are familiar with the mountains have a safe approach to mountaineering. They learn about the conditions in the terrain, about the weather, they ask for advice from the locals and the professionals who activate in the areas where they wish to go. This way, all goes generally well. It is ignorance that makes accidents happen.
Interview by Anca Berlo at Cluj-Napoca in November 2019.