The Unwavering Dedication of Chamonix's PGHM Rescuers

11 June 2024

In the heart of the French Alps lies the Chamonix valley, a place of unparalleled beauty and adventure.

As the sun rises over the jagged peaks, casting a warm glow on the pristine snow, a group of unsung heroes prepares for another day of ensuring the safety of those who dare to explore these majestic mountains.

They are the members of the PGHM (High Mountain Gendarmerie Platoon), and their unwavering commitment to protecting the lives of others is nothing short of extraordinary.

Among these guardians of the high mountains is Pierre Muller, an Emergency Medicine Doctor, Explorer, and Alpinist whose achievements have taken him to the farthest corners of the globe.

With over 500 rescue operations under his belt, Pierre’s expertise is unmatched, and his passion for the mountains is infectious. From the icy slopes of the Himalayas to the rugged terrain of Patagonia, Pierre has pushed the boundaries of human endurance, conquering daunting big walls in the Alps, including the notorious North face of the Eiger and the Matterhorn in winter.

As a member of the PGHM, Pierre faces the ever-present dangers of the mountains head-on, particularly the threat of avalanches. In Chamonix, where the mountains are as breathtaking as they are unpredictable, the PGHM remains vigilant, always ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

The changing climate has brought new challenges, with glaciers retreating at an alarming rate and the stability of the terrain increasingly compromised. Yet, the PGHM adapts and perseveres, drawing upon their vast knowledge and experience to keep outdoor enthusiasts safe.

On any given day, the PGHM may be called upon to perform a wide range of rescues, each demanding a unique set of skills and expertise. From deep crevasse falls that require intricate rope systems and teamwork to reach and extract the victim, to technical climbing rescues where every move must be precise and calculated, the PGHM faces these challenges with unwavering determination.

Even seemingly minor incidents, such as a hiker with a twisted knee in the Vallée Blanche, require the utmost skill and caution, as rescuers must navigate treacherous terrain and execute daring helicopter manoeuvres to reach those in need.

The winter months bring a different set of challenges, with the majority of rescues taking place on the ski slopes. Here, the PGHM’s medical expertise is put to the test, as they respond to severe traumas and provide life-saving care in the most unforgiving of environments.

Through it all, Pierre and his colleagues remain focused on one goal: bringing everyone home safely.

Beyond their rescue missions, the PGHM is dedicated to promoting avalanche safety education. They understand that the key to reducing incidents lies in empowering outdoor enthusiasts with the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed decisions in the mountains. Through workshops, courses, and collaborations with local organisations, the PGHM works tirelessly to foster a culture of responsible and safe mountain exploration.

As we marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the Chamonix valley and the adventures it offers, let us not forget the guardians who watch over us – the men and women of the PGHM.

In the words of Pierre Muller, “The mountains are our passion, our life. We do what we do because we believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle, to reach new heights, and to find beauty in the face of adversity. As long as there are those who seek adventure in these wild places, we will be here, ready to lend a helping hand and to bring them home safely.”


→  Want to learn more? Check out our Alpine Medicine Courses!

→ Exploring the Rich History and Challenges of Alpine Medicine in Chamonix.

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