French mayor asks Mont Blanc climbers for rescue and funeral bond of €15,000 | France
Climbers attempting to summit Mont Blanc from a popular trail in France will be required to pay a €15,000 (£12,640) deposit to cover costs in case they need rescue, or worse, to die.
Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, from where climbers can reach the top of Europe’s highest peak via the Route du Goûter, imposed the measure in response to dozens of people challenging the warnings and engaging in what he describes as “a game of Russian roulette”.
The finest detail states that €10,000 would cover the cost of a rescue and €5,000 the funeral.
Local guides suspended operations along the route, which is accessible to climbers of all abilities, in mid-July due to heavy rockfall, with the local administration strongly advising people to avoid it. An intense and prolonged heat wave made conditions on the mountain more perilous.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Peillex said dozens of “pseudo-mountaineers” ignored the warnings. He described how five Romanian visitors had attempted the climb “wearing shorts, trainers and straw hats” and had to be turned away by mountain police.
“People want to climb with death in their backpacks,” he added. “So let’s anticipate the cost of their rescue, and their burial, because it is unacceptable for French taxpayers to foot the bill.”
The summit can also be reached by taking the Chemin du Ratti from Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, although it is much less used. Still, Roberto Rota, the mayor of Courmayeur, said he had no intention of restricting access. “The mountain is not property,” he said. “We as admins can limit ourselves to pointing out suboptimal conditions along the routes, but asking for a deposit to climb to the top is truly surreal.”
The debate over the safety of mountain activities this summer has intensified amid the heatwave and since 11 people were killed when a huge mass of ice broke off a glacier on the north side of the Marmolada, the highest peak in the Italian Dolomites, in early July. . The mayors of the towns surrounding the Marmolada closed the main access points for security reasons, but some climbers tried to circumvent the ban.
A path leading to Monte Cervino on the Italian side was temporarily closed on Thursday after 13 climbers were rescued following a landslide.
More than 100 people have died on the Route du Goûter in the past 20 years. French mountain guides, who have suspended operations until August 15, described “witnessing rock falls throughout the day and night”.
Dry conditions across the Alps were exacerbated by low snowfall during the winter and above normal spring temperatures.