- Title: "Respect Mont Blanc!": locals fight back against careless climbers
- Date: 1st October 2019
- Summary: SAINT GERVAIS LES BAINS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 11, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (French) MAYOR OF SAINT GERVAIS LES BAINS, JEAN-MARC PEILLEX, SAYING: "The problem is that the sanctions don't exist which would allow us to make climbers respect the tranquility of the place. There isn't any law forbidding people to climb up Mont Blanc with a bike or with a rowing machine. So there are people who act in bad faith who say 'If it's not forbidden that means it's allowed', and at the moment you just can't sanction these people." TOWN WITH MOUNTAIN BEHIND (SOUNDBITE) (French) MAYOR OF SAINT GERVAIS LES BAINS, JEAN-MARC PEILLEX, SAYING: "We will have to change our behaviour because of the climate change we are already witnessing, and professionals will most likely have to change their route and their habits, the period in which they work, and all this will require us to make intelligent changes, and we know we mustn't make things worse. So defiling the mountain further will not be tolerated." PASSY, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 11, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MONT BLANC
- Embargoed: 15th October 2019 10:59
- Keywords: France Mont Blanc pollution
- Location: SAINT GERVAIS LES BAINS/MOUNT BLANC, FRANCE
- City: SAINT GERVAIS LES BAINS/MOUNT BLANC, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Pollution,Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA004AZ9L5JB
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS NOTE: PLEASE NOTE STORY NUMBER 6014 FRANCE-ENVIRONMENT/MONTBLANC WHICH WAS PLAYED OUT ON THE 14TH OF SEPTEMBER 2019 HAS BEEN WITHDRAWN BECAUSE REUTERS DOES NOT HAVE ACCESS TO A PHOTO IN EDIT - PLEASE MAKE NO FURTHER USE OF 6014 AND USE 2049-CORRECTION-FRANCE-ENVIRONMENT/MONTBLANC INSTEAD
The terminus of the Mont Blanc tram, the "Nid d'aigle" ("Eagle's Nest"), at an altitude of 2,380 metres.
As climbers and hikers prepare their bags ex-mountain guide Christophe Delachat and Phillipe Godard, a former member of the Gendarmerie High Mountain unit, get ready to carry out checks.
The pair belong to the newly-created "brigade blanche", set up at the start of the summer hiking season and in charge of verifying that everyone wanting to climb western Europe's highest mountain via the "royal route" has a nominative booking at one of the huts along the way.
Anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 people from all around the world climb Mont Blanc every year between May and September, 75 percent of them via the "royal route".
Between 200 and 300 people a day flood the mountain's often technically challenging narrow paths leading to overcrowding at the huts with some climbers camping outside the official refuges.
With rockfalls - worsened by climate change - pollution and rude behaviour from some climbers the 2018 season is remembered locally as a nightmare.
"When they'd climb they would do their business outside, you'd walk through their excrement to get to Mont Blanc, it was dirty, really dirty, they would not take anything back down," Delachat said on Thursday (September 12).
The new booking rules have broadly been well received, though some independent guides have pointed to logistical difficulties involved in last-minute booking with so many trips dependent on the changeable weather.
Climbers are only required to have a booking. The "brigade blanche" does not have any coercive power. Whenever they see a would-be mountaineer without the necessary equipment -- sneakers in place of proper climbing shoes, not the right ropes -- or planning on climbing alone, they can only try and convince them to get the tram back down. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Some climbers take this relative freedom to extremes. In August, the brigade could do nothing to stop a British man carrying a 26 kilo rowing machine to the top. Exhausted, the former commando was not able to bring it back down and left it at 4,362 metres.
On September 8, a Russian man tried to make the climb with his 10-year old son in the midst of a storm. The brigade managed to change his mind.
In June, a group of Swiss visitors landed on Mont Blanc in a small plane and they face a mere 38 euro fine.
Such incidents have angered local mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, who has long fought to have stricter regulation in place on Mont Blanc and who created the "Brigade Blanche" which he says has been successful so far.
He blames consumerism fuelled by social networks for increasing disrespect on the mountain and urges the authorities to enable sanctions, even suggesting the mountain become accessible only to proven mountaineers above a certain altitude.
"We will have to change our behaviour because of the climate change we are already witnessingâ€¦ We know we mustn't make things worse. Defiling the mountain further will not be tolerated," he said.
(Production: Marina Depetris)
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