As the highest mountain in the Alps and the tallest in Western Europe, Mont Blanc is arguably one of the most popular mountains to climb. Easy access and a non-technical route mean over 400 people a day attempt the summit each summer.
But all these crowds come at a cost — overcrowding in the mountain huts and people risking their lives without the right skills to climb the mountain (supposedly a guy in running shoes was attempting to climb the narrow Bosses Ridge leading to the summit this summer). For years now, Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor whose Saint-Gervais commune includes Mont Blanc, has had enough.
Earlier this summer, he limited access to the Goûter hut because of overcrowding and threats of violence amongst climbers. The refuge can hold up to 120 people but at peak times this summer, over 140 people were trying to cram inside.
Finally this week, Mr. Peillex and all the interested parties, including high mountain search and rescue, government officials, and mountain guide associations, agreed to introduce a more permanent solution in the form of compulsory climbing licenses for the Goûter route and fines for people without proper equipment. This will limit “the summer influx of ill-prepared thrill seekers and dangerous buffoons,” according to Peillex.
The statement from the group reads:
“The daily quota of climbers will be fixed in relation to the number of places that there are in the three refuges of this route. That means 214 mountaineers maximum each day. It will also justify the reservation of an overnight stay in one of the refuges. We will distribute a document to mountaineers, it is a form of license.”
The new law will go into effect next summer — 2019. The hope is that the license requirement will reduce both traffic and the disrespectful behavior that has become all too common on the mountain.
This sounds like a good idea, i’m interested to see how it plays out and what effect it will have. Any time you can reduce buffoonery (running shoes, are you serious?!) it makes it safer for others. If someone wants to climb without the proper gear, that’s fine. However, I have a problem when their lack of preparedness makes it hazardous for others.