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‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The mayor of one of the villages in close proximity to Mont Blanc wants to make climbers pay a €15,000 deposit before ascending the mountain to 'anticipate their rescue and funeral costs' as the mountain becomes more dangerous due to rising temperatures.

'To pay funeral costs' - Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers
Alpinists walk on the famous "Couloir du Gôuter" on the Mont-Blanc range near Saint-Gervais, eastern France in 2017. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

The mayor of the French village of Saint-Gervais, located at the foot of Europe’s tallest mountain, has warned visitors they might be climbing with “death in your backpack.”

Having made several pleas to visitors, hoping to discourage them from climbing the famous mountain this summer, Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, has put forward plans to make climbers pay a €15,000 deposit to climb Mont Blanc via the Goûter route.

The sum corresponds to “€10,000 for the cost rescue, and €5,000 for the cost of a funeral” as it is “impermissible that the French taxpayer be the one to cover such costs,” said Peillex in a public statement on August 3rd.

The mayor is correct that the mountain has become more dangerous amid rising temperatures. The normal route – Goûter – has become considerably less safe, with rockfalls and landslides disrupting the iconic path up Mont Blanc due to drought and heat. 

While access has not officially been closed, many guides are avoiding certain routes this summer, including the Goûter

The Goûter route often welcomes a less experienced group of climbers, while other accesses to the summit, like the Italian routes, are typically more dangerous and require higher technical abilities. That being said, ascending Mont Blanc in general is not an easy climb. 

READ MORE: Climbing Mont Blanc: 10 reasons to think twice

The mayor wants visitors to respect and listen to the mountain, saying in a video in mid-July that it “is not the moment” to attempt climbing the mountain, as it is “angry.”

Peillex has also referred to ascending Mont Blanc during this summer’s conditions as “playing Russian Roulette”‘

According to the mayor, there have been several dozen “pseudo-alpinists” seeking to climb Mont Blanc this summer. Mountain rescue teams have counted at least 50 people who have defied local authorities’ recommendations.

In his most recent announcement to the public, the mayor used the example several Romanian tourists attempting the climb in “shorts and sneakers.”

Pilleux also wants to see ski lift companies agree to close access to certain lifts during dangerous periods, such as heatwaves, to help keep people off the mountain during these times.

Even in normal conditions, Mont Blanc is one of the deadliest mountains to climb in the world, with many underestimating the difficulty of ascending Europe’s tallest peak. The leading causes of death on the mountain are falling, being hit by falling rocks, or becoming lost or caught in dangerous weather.

Between 1990 and 2017, 102 people had died between the Tête Rousse Hut and the Goûter Hut, a stretch that takes most people about three hours to hike, according to the New York Times.

The Times also reported that “of the 387 accident victims who needed emergency services, 84 percent were amateurs unaccompanied by a professional guide.”

READ MORE: Hot summer forces climbers away from Mont Blanc

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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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