Climbers attempting to reach the summit of Mont Blanc may now have to pay a deposit of €15,000 to cover possible rescue and funeral costs in case they get stuck, or die.
Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint-Gervais-Les-Bains, from where climbers reach the highest peak in western Europe, announced this possible measure in response to many people risking their lives on the mountain, which he described as the latest fashion game of “Russian roulette”.
“The municipality of Saint-Gervais plans to take measures adapted to the irresponsibility of some and the risks they make rescuers run,” he said, in a statement posted on Twitter.
— Jean-Marc PEILLEX (@PEILLEX) August 3, 2022
The mayor said that the specified deposit of €15,000 would cover the “average cost of a rescue (€10,000) and the funeral costs of a victim (€5,000).”
“People want to climb with death in their backpacks,” he said, sharing that dozens of “pseudo-mountaineers” have ignored the warnings after local administration advised people to avoid the route due to heavy rockfall in mid-July. The ongoing intense heatwave has worsened the condition further.
Peillex shared that five Romanians had attempted to climb the peak wearing shorts, trainers, and straw hats and had to be turned back by mountain police.
“So let’s anticipate the cost of having to rescue them, and for their burial, because it’s unacceptable that French taxpayers should foot the bill,” he added.
The mountain can also be accessed from the Italian side through the ski resort town of Courmayeur. Describing Peillex’s deposit plan as “surreal”, Roberto Rota, mayor of Courmayeur, 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.