Mont Blanc is to limit the number of climbers next year by half, one of several measures introduced to limit overcrowding on western Europe’s highest peak, local officials said yesterday. Currently, more than 400 people every day, many underprepared, are attempting the peak and at least 16 have died so far this year.
“It’s a tough decision but a very good one, because Mont Blanc is a climb unlike any other. You have to be prepared,” Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex of Saint Gervais, the Alpine town where the most popular route to the top of the mountain begins.
The new limits were announced after a series of meetings over the weekend between local officials, France’s mountain police brigade, the French mountaineering federation, and guide associations. Starting summer 2019, the number of hikers allowed to tackle the popular Royal Route to the mountain’s 15,780ft peak, used by three-quarters of climbers, will be limited to 214 per day. The quota tallies with the combined daily capacity of three refuges along the Royal Route.
“This is not about punishing mountaineers but simple common sense: we want the number of people setting out on Mont Blanc to correspond to the number of places available in refuges,” said Jean-Marc Peilleux, mayor of Saint-Gervais
Twice that number have been trying to reach the top over the summer, some of them “ill-prepared thrill seekers” with little to no gear who undertake the climb without even booking a place in a refuge. Many some treat the ascent as little more than a gentle climb, but a section of the Goûter ridge near the top is so dangerous that it is nicknamed the “corridor of death”. The mayor is also pushing to fine people who attempt the climb without proper equipment. One man was recently spotted on a pass wearing trainers instead of mountain boots with crampons.
Temporary restrictions had already been imposed on climbers this summer with authorities turning away climbers without pre-booked accommodation at the Goûter refuge.