French mayor to ask Mont Blanc climbers for €15,000 rescue and funeral deposit

Move comes as hikers defy warnings of falling rocks on popular Alps route

The mayor of a town in the French Alps has demanded climbers pay €15,000 as a deposit in case they need to be rescued. AFP
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The mayor of a town in the French Alps has demanded climbers pay a deposit of €15,000 ($15,348) before climbing Mont Blanc in case they die or need to be rescued from Europe's highest peak.

Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of Saint-Gervais, imposed the fee to prevent amateur mountain climbers defying warnings of dangerous climbing conditions on the popular Gouter Route.

At least €10,000 of this money would cover the cost of a rescue and €5,000 for a funeral, in case the worst happens, it was revealed.

In a statement on Twitter, Mr Peillex hit out at "pseudo-climbers", whom he said were engaging in “a game of Russian roulette” by embarking on high-risk treks.

He has claimed that would-be climbers have shrugged off warnings and attempted the ascent “wearing shorts, trainers and straw hats” and had to be turned back by mountain police.

“People want to climb with death in their backpacks,” he said. “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.”

Mont Blanc and other Alpine hiking trails are normally thronged with tourists in summer.

But with warmer temperatures speeding up glacier melt and thawing permafrost, routes that are usually safe this time of year now face hazards like falling rocks released from the ice.

Local guides suspended tours of the Gouter route due to heavy rockfall in June. Since then, conditions have since deteriorated because of a heatwave in which temperatures reach 42°C in some parts of southern Europe.

The rapid melting can make glaciers more dangerous, as seen with the sudden collapse of Italy's until then seemingly harmless Marmolada glacier this month, which saw 11 people killed as ice and rock hurtled down the mountain.

More than 100 people have died on the Gouter Route in the past 20 years.

Updated: August 04, 2022, 5:32 PM
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