Extremes on Mont Blanc Prompt Mayor to Seek ‘Funeral Deposit’ for Climbers

The mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a village at the foot of Mont Blanc in France, is planning to charge climbers a deposit of €15,000 to reach the peak via the popular Goûter route. The reason? To cover rescue and funeral costs should things go wrong — as seems to be happening more often lately.

In a statement on August 3, Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex said the €15,000 sum comes from  “€10,000 for the cost of a rescue, and €5,000 for the cost of a funeral.”

The decision reflects his defense of his taxpaying constituency.

It is “impermissible that the French taxpayer be the one to cover such costs,” he asserted.

 

This isn’t the first time the Mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains has publically dissuaded prospective Mont Blanc climbers. Earlier in the summer, he asked that climbers “listen to the mountain, not to want to be stronger than nature.

 

 

In his statement Wednesday, Pelleix noted that several dozen “pseudo-alpinists” have sought to climb Mont Blanc this summer regardless of the recommendations in place. Mountain rescue teams have counted at least 50 people who have defied local authorities’ recommendations, he said.

A popular — but dangerous — route

The Goûter route is one of Europe’s most popular — and dangerous — mountaineering routes. Its relatively low technical difficulty tends to attract climbers who overestimate their skills.

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The Goûter route on Mont Blanc. Photo: Wiki Commons

 

And conditions on the mountain — and the Goûter in particular — are growing more and more dangerous as climate change wreaks havoc. Europe has experienced extreme heat all summer, leading to increased rockfall, landslides, and new crevasses on mountains across the continent.

The Compagnie des Guides des Chamonix has voluntarily ceased operating on the Goûter in response to the growing danger.

“Following a winter when it snowed little and a spring when it was already hot, the falls of stones at the Couloir du Goûter are already significant,” said Olivier Greber, president of the Chamonix guide company, earlier this summer.

For now, the Goûter route and others like it around Europe remain — technically — open to climbing.