Mont Blanc, at 15,777 feet of elevation is the highest peak in Europe and draws climbers from all over the world. Unfortunately, not all of those climbers are prepared for the challenge, nor do many of them appropriately dispose of trash and waste. It’s a busy, accessible mountain too; some 20,000 people attempt to summit Mont Blanc each year, most during the busy summer hiking season.
15 people died on the mountain last year. Mont Blanc also suffers from trash disposal and water availability, posing serious issues for sanitation and guides who lead climbers to the peak.
For years, local groups had clamored for a permit system to limit the amount of people climbing Mont Blanc and finally, they got what they wanted. As of June 1, all climbers making for Mont Blanc’s summit must have booked a stay in one of the mountain’s three shelters, an attempt to limit crowding. A campaign last summer to dissuade people from trying the climb failed, so this was the next logical step for authorities in the region, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).
It typically takes several days to reach the summit and climbers will now have to have proof they’re staying in either Gouter, Tete Rousse, or Nid D’aigle hotels.
Anybody caught climbing Mont Blanc without booking a shelter stay, or who is camping on the mountain will face up to two years in prison and a $335,000 fine.
The ban will last through September; winter mountaineers are on their own.
Ensuring that climbers have made arrangements for a place to spend the night will help “prevent trouble” according to the official decree announcing the ban. At least one climber who had no such reservation threatened the caretaker at one of the hotels in recent years.
This new rule of course comes on the heels of overcrowding and a string of deaths on Everest at the end of May.
Mountain guide Adrian Ballinger, in an interview with CNN, explained that, like at Everest, a lack of proper experience posed serious physical dangers for some Mont Blanc climbers too.
“That lack of experience,” Ballinger said, “is causing these images we see where people make bad decisions, get themselves in trouble up high and end up having unnecessary fatalities.”
Photo top: Steen Jepsen