Christophe Profit Removes Safety Gear from Mont Blanc, Authorities Respond

Should high mountains remain the sole domain of those with the skill, fitness, and luck required to survive their rugged terrain? Or should those mountains be tamed to allow less skilled climbers to tackle the planet’s dangerous peaks in (relative) safety?

This question has pulsed in the background of modern mountaineering snafus, from the Everest disaster of 1996 to the now-viral photographs of traffic jams on its peak that circulated in 2019.

The latest incident to prompt the discussion involves Christophe Profit, a luminary in the French mountaineering world. A list of his accomplishments would take up too much space here (check out this 2008 Planet Mountain profile, which includes a curriculum vitae that was long even then). But suffice it to say that Profit knows what he’s doing and is, as they say, kind of a big deal.

Profit, now a Chamonix guide, has recently found himself under criminal charges for removing iron stakes on a ridgeline along the Goûter Route, one of the normal routes up Mont Blanc. The stakes were placed as a safety measure meant to offset the danger posed by a recently opened crevasse along the way. But Profit holds that such gear only encourages unqualified climbers to tackle routes they would otherwise avoid.

“I removed these stakes to prevent amateur mountaineers without experience from taking unnecessary risks, when…there was a possible alternative route,” Profit said at his trial, according to French outlet 20minutes.

a climber in a red jacket on the summit of mont blanc

A climber with only steps remaining before the summit of Mont Blanc. Photo: Shutterstock


The living legend is unapologetic, claiming that removing the stakes is a “political” act. He did not attempt to hide his actions, even emailing the mayor of Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex, to claim responsibility.

Mayor Peillex ‘s government immediately pressed charges of “endangering the lives of others” and “theft,” 20minutes reported. The prosecution did not pursue the endangering charge.

“Security is essential, especially when there are more and more people in nature. Me, I did my job, I did what the guides asked of me [by ordering the stakes placed] and it is not because we secure a place with a crevasse 16 meters high that we increase attendance. We are improving security,” Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex said in a statement.

An argument of philosophy

Peillex’s concerns about crowds — and loss of life on Mont Blanc — are well documented, including by ExplorersWeb. One of his most famous initiatives was a gambit to charge prospective climbers in advance for search and rescue and funeral costs.

Despite their differences of opinion on implementation, it appears on the surface that Peillex and Profit are both concerned with human life and overcrowding on Mont Blanc. But it’s hard to shake the notion that the altercation is about something more nebulous.

Profit’s deliberately sweeping language and Peillex’s responses, which include saying Profit’s philosophy is “an elitist vision of the mountain,” seem to fall on either side of the philosophical debate framed at the top of this story.

The case concludes on June 5, when the court will issue a judgment. Penally, nothing is at stake but a fine. But whatever the verdict, it won’t close the case on a debate that continues to strike at the heart of the mountaineering community.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
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