Anyone wanting to summit Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc, may soon have to put up a €15,000 (about $15,300) deposit to cover possible rescue and funeral costs under plans announced by a local mayor fed up with the “contempt” of risk-taking climbers.
Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a town on the French side, says too many unqualified climbers are gambling with their lives on the mountain, where recent hot weather has made conditions more treacherous.
“The municipality of Saint-Gervais plans to take measures adapted to the irresponsibility of some and the risks they make rescuers run,” Peillex said in a statement on Twitter.
According to the mayor, the €15,000 deposit corresponds to the “average cost of a rescue (€10,000) and to the funeral costs of a victim (€5,000).”
“It is unacceptable that it is the French taxpayer who bears these costs,” Peillex said, adding that those who make the climb now do so “with death in their backpack.”
Due to the “extremely dangerous” conditions along the Couloir du Goûter – a particularly challenging section also known as the Corridor of Death – Peillex said reaching the summit of Mont Blanc via a popular path known as the Voie Royale, or Royal Way, was strictly advised against.
Climbing Mont Blanc has been made riskier by large rockfalls and a period of drought and heat waves, he added.
The mayor accused around 50 “pseudo-mountain-climbers” who traversed the route in July of “playing the latest fashionable game: Russian roulette!”
His statement said gendarmes in a helicopter used a megaphone to make a group of Romanian hikers turn back from an attempt to summit Mont Blanc using a megaphone on July 30.
On the Italian side of the mountain, the mayor of the ski resort town of Courmayeur, Roberto Rota, has described Peillex’s deposit plan as “surreal.”
In comments confirmed by his press office, Rota told the daily Corriere della Sera that “the mountain is not a property.”
“We, as administrators, can limit ourselves to reporting sub-optimal routes’ conditions, but asking for a deposit to climb to the top is surreal,” he said. “The decision to close a path, a route, is made if there is an objective risk.”
Top image credit: Philippe Desmazes/AFP via Getty Images