French mayor urges action on ‘wackos’ after tourist abandons rowing machine on Mont Blanc


September 04, 2019 05:39:55

The mayor of Chamonix in the French Alps has urged President Emmanuel Macron to act against “wackos” climbing the nearby Mont Blanc, after a series of incidents including a British tourist abandoning a rowing machine on the famed mountain.

Key points:

  • Matthew Paul Disney carried the 26-kilogram rowing machine up Mont Blanc on his back
  • Mr Disney said he was attempting a “world first” to raise money for a good cause
  • Mr Peillex called on Mr Macron to enforce laws from 2020 to “restore peace to Mont Blanc”

Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, who for years has sounded the alarm against overcrowding on Western Europe’s highest peak, said a member of Britain’s “Royal Commandos” hauled the exercise machine up the mountain for a charity challenge on Saturday (local time).

But he could not bring it back down and left it in an emergency hut situated at 4,362 metres.

Matthew Paul Disney, a Royal Marine veteran, attempted carrying the 2.5-metre, 26 kilogram rowing machine up to the summit — altitude 4,809 metres — on his back.

In a post on his Facebook page, Mr Disney said he was attempting a “world first” to raise money for veterans’ causes.

But Mr Peillex was not amused and mocked Mr Disney in an open letter published on Sunday, saying “with a [sur]name like that, you’d think he thought he was at an amusement park.”

The mayor also complained that the device would have to be removed from the peak by helicopter, according to the BBC, though Mr Disney insisted he intended to retrieve it.

Mr Disney told the BBC that he had to leave the device behind because the weather window he had been given was about seven to eight hours shorter than planned, leaving visibility at just 50 metres.

“I spoke to others and I then turned around,” he said.

“Safety is paramount to me. Even more so for others and the fact that I was carrying the rowing machine.

“I made a decision that the safety of others’ lives was more paramount. I went down to place the rower in the shelter.”

Mr Disney said in a Facebook post last month that he had also carried the device up to Mount Etna, in neighbouring Italy.

‘The situation has gone on long enough’

Mr Peillex also noted that over the weekend, a German tourist made the ascent with his dog despite warnings from police brigades who patrol Mont Blanc routes during the busy summer season, and a promise that he would leave the dog at a refuge before attempting the summit.

Instead, the tourist snuck out for the top in the middle of the night with the dog, which survived but returned with bloodied paws, according to photos posted on Mr Peillex’s Twitter account.

The weekend incidents came after two Swiss climbers in June landed a small plane just east of Mont Blanc’s summit and then started hiking to the top.

Stopped by the mountain police, they were given only a 38 euro ($62) fine and allowed to fly off, since technically they had only broken laws from the 1960s setting out landing sites in the area.

“This situation has gone on long enough!” Mr Peillex said in his letter.

He called on Mr Macron to “write and pass laws without delay that from 2020 would severely punish all these wackos who break the law, and restore peace to Mont Blanc”.

Officials are already grappling with a huge influx of climbers hoping to scale the peak, which has sharply increased security risks as well as environmental impacts.

Warmer temperatures in recent years have melted permafrost, raising the risk of rock falls on the most popular routes.

Retreating glaciers, which are melting under the effect of higher temperatures, are also leaving the granite slopes more vulnerable and less supported.

In May, officials banned climbers from scaling Mont Blanc unless they had booked a room in one of the three official shelters.

The Alpine peak now attracts nearly 25,000 climbers every year, but the daily crowds have led to flaring tempers among teams jockeying for position, and rampant illegal camping.

So far this season at least three climbers have died on Mont Blanc.






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