The mayor of the French village of Saint-Gervais, located at the foot of Europe’s tallest mountain, has warned visitors they might be climbing with “death in your backpack.”
Having made several pleas to visitors, hoping to discourage them from climbing the famous mountain this summer, Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, has put forward plans to make climbers pay a €15,000 deposit to climb Mont Blanc via the Goûter route.
— Jean-Marc PEILLEX (@PEILLEX) August 3, 2022
The sum corresponds to “€10,000 for the cost rescue, and €5,000 for the cost of a funeral” as it is “impermissible that the French taxpayer be the one to cover such costs,” said Peillex in a public statement on August 3rd.
The mayor is correct that the mountain has become more dangerous amid rising temperatures. The normal route – Goûter – has become considerably less safe, with rockfalls and landslides disrupting the iconic path up Mont Blanc due to drought and heat.
While access has not officially been closed, many guides are avoiding certain routes this summer, including the Goûter.
The Goûter route often welcomes a less experienced group of climbers, while other accesses to the summit, like the Italian routes, are typically more dangerous and require higher technical abilities. That being said, ascending Mont Blanc in general is not an easy climb.
The mayor wants visitors to respect and listen to the mountain, saying in a video in mid-July that it “is not the moment” to attempt climbing the mountain, as it is “angry.”
Peillex has also referred to ascending Mont Blanc during this summer’s conditions as “playing Russian Roulette”‘
— Jean-Marc PEILLEX (@PEILLEX) July 16, 2022
According to the mayor, there have been several dozen “pseudo-alpinists” seeking to climb Mont Blanc this summer. Mountain rescue teams have counted at least 50 people who have defied local authorities’ recommendations.
In his most recent announcement to the public, the mayor used the example several Romanian tourists attempting the climb in “shorts and sneakers.”
Pilleux also wants to see ski lift companies agree to close access to certain lifts during dangerous periods, such as heatwaves, to help keep people off the mountain during these times.
Even in normal conditions, Mont Blanc is one of the deadliest mountains to climb in the world, with many underestimating the difficulty of ascending Europe’s tallest peak. The leading causes of death on the mountain are falling, being hit by falling rocks, or becoming lost or caught in dangerous weather.
Between 1990 and 2017, 102 people had died between the Tête Rousse Hut and the Goûter Hut, a stretch that takes most people about three hours to hike, according to the New York Times.
The Times also reported that “of the 387 accident victims who needed emergency services, 84 percent were amateurs unaccompanied by a professional guide.”