Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Helicopter territory

All morning, a red and yellow helicopter has been hovering spasmodically in the vicinity of the Tina Dalle cliffs, above Choranche, which are a popular site for novice climbers.

Finally, I grabbed my camera and drove up there, to see what might be happening. Reaching Presles, I found the helicopter parked in an open field, while its uniformed occupants were seated out on the grass, engaged in serious discussions, with lots of gesticulations. They appear to be carrying out training exercises for pilots. Then they jumped in and took off towards the south, no doubt to refuel, since they reappeared in the skies of Choranche and Presles some ten minutes later.

Although the landscape was hazy, I took advantage of my excursion to take a few photos.

Seen from up there, my familiar and fabulous Cournouze [see the red-sunlit splash image at the top of this Antipodes blog] looks like a mediocre hunk of rock on top of a wooded cone.

All the topological details that are so familiar when seen my house at Gamone are reduced to tiny blobs, not easy to identify.

This sign, halfway down the slopes, designates crossroads where all the surrounding directions ("toutes aures") are visible.

On one side of this spot, the road between Choranche and Presles forms a hairpin bend.

The plateau of Presles is still far above us.

From this place, you have a splendid view of two mountains that are my close neighbors down in the valley. In the narrow gap between the Baret (left) and the Trois-Châteaux (right), just a few hundred meters away from Gamone, the Bourne flows down from Choranche to Pont-en-Royans. And the road, too, goes through that gap.

CORRECTION: The mayor of Choranche, Bernard Bourne, dropped in at Gamone yesterday afternoon to ask for my opinion concerning an ancient public pathway up on the crest above my house. He wanted to know, in particular, if I would be happy if the municipality were to privatize that old pathway (apparently this is a feasible operation), giving me half of the privatized surface above my property, and attributing the other half to my neighbor Gérard Magnat. In a forthcoming blog post, I'll explain why I prefer by far (not surprisingly) that this wonderful pathway remains part of the public heritage of Choranche.

Towards the end of my friendly discussion with Bernard, I happened to mention the noisy helicopter that had been hovering for hours, throughout the morning, around the magnificent Tina Dalle site. In his capacity as mayor, Bernard was able to tell me exactly what it was all about. The evening before yesterday, residents of that cliff-side zone of Presles had noticed an apparently-abandoned vehicle, and informed the gendarmes, who promptly called in the red-and-yellow mountain-security helicopter. They discovered the body of a 56-year-old guy at the bottom of the cliffs, on the territory of Choranche (vertical cliffs often serve as municipal boundaries), and the gendarmes soon concluded that they were faced with a suicide case. [Weirdly, this happened at almost the same time that other gendarmes and another helicopter crew were discovering the remains of a murdered 17-year-old jogger in the Ardèche town of Tournon, opposite the famous vineyards of Tain-l'Hermitage, less than an hour's drive from here.] Yesterday, above the vertiginous Tina Dalle boundary between Presles and Choranche, the helicopter was no doubt searching for evidential items that might have been discarded by the fellow or torn from his clothes during his rocky descent to death.

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