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Lift failure in Obergurgl and in general

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Last week the Top Express from Obergurgl to Hochgurgl failed and skiers aboard were rescued over the next four hours. According to my understanding a gondola jammed and the 4 terminal gondolas could be reached by a recovery gondola but those beyond and at some height from the ground could only be rescued by helicopter. This was delayed by a fatal accident in Solden. Luckily the incident occurred at midday when minimal numbers were aboard (about 50) and the weather was perfect. Twenty four hours earlier the visibility was down to several metres and no aerial rescue would have been possible. How would the situation have been resolved in such circumstances with potentially 200+ aboard the system?

It surprises me that repair of the system was not possible. I have no proper understanding of this failure but I would have thought in general that any system should have a back-up of such a design that extended failure marooning skiers in chairs/gondolas etc was impossible. I assume gondolas etc are clamped to the cable and can be easily disconnected.

It would be interesting to hear more of this incident and of other uplift failures, their resolution times and what tactics, if any, marooned occupants can employ. Presumably you just have to sit and wait whatever the situation or proximity of the ground.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I agree it would be interesting to have first hand report on how people behaved. I hope someone took charge and organised a sing song by various different countries or anything to keep people calm. I always have a few Valium in my rucksack just in case.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
lordjohn, I know this gondola. I spke to a mountain guide about the rescue policy about 2 months ago.

Unlike many gondolas it runs horizontally over a long distance over several small valleys. There are rather unusual motorised ancillary rescue cradles at either end which are hoisted onto the cable and can be driven over the stationary cable to the cars at either end. The problem may be more further along where the gondolas are quite high, and perhaps the cradles could not easily access. Rapelling into the small valleys which are difficult to ski out of may not be a brilliant idea. He said they had practiced rescues but at that stage never had to do one, as most of the time, if it is a power failure they can wait for return of power or switch to an auxillary engine. It sounded like it would take a fairly major mechanical breakdown which prevented the cable moving at all to cause a rescue like this to be necessary. The helicopter station is about 2km from the Hochgurgl end, and they looked pretty bored when I waited there for a taxi some weeks back.

Gondolas are clamped to the cable as part of the detatchment mechanism which only releases when the gondola is at either end, and then runs on a rail and series of wheels. If you undid the clamp on the cable the thing would slide down the cable. Not a good idea.

I cannot remember seeing a single piste patroller in my week there. I wonder how they respond in numbers?
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
stoatsbrother, you are right with your description. We saw the rescue cradle in action and saw skiers being lowered to the snow at the Hochgurgl end where the cable is above the piste but, as you say, midway along the height is substantial and abseils would be long and into tricky territory. Hours later my wife saw the helicopter lifting skiers from gondolas. It was good fortune that the failure happened midday giving several hours of daylight for recovery.

A firsthand account of this would be fascinating. I do not recall any intercom devices in the cabins.
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