French Authorities Restricting Access to Mont Blanc to Reduce Overcrowding

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Mont Blanc. Credit: Sebastian Smith | Unsplash

Climbers wanting to summit Mont Blanc, the EU’s highest peak, will now have to book a room in one of its shelters before making the ascent or face jail time. The new rules aim to reduce risks caused by overcrowding and unprepared tourists attempt the iconic peak.

French authorities have introduced new rules that require people who want to scale Mont Blanc by the standard route to book a room in one of its three shelters if their bid includes the usual overnight stay. The rule, which goes into effect on Saturday and applies until the end of the climbing season in September, has been introduced amid concerns about overcrowding and rockslides on the 15,780-foot mountain.

Under the new rules, climbers caught camping illegally on the route could face a two-year prison sentence and a €300,000 ($335,000) fine, said regional administrator Pierre Lambert.

Lambert added that he had decided to impose the rule about booking a room as climbing the mountain by the normal route “meant at least one overnight stay for the great majority of mountaineers.” He said the overcrowding at the shelters had led to problems with sanitation and security, with one shelter caretaker even being physically threatened.

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Traffic jam on Everest this week. Credit: Planet Possible Facebook

The new rules come as concerns grow about overcrowding on the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, where eight people have died in a week. A traffic jam of climbers on Everest has been blamed for two of four new fatalities reported on Friday in the peak’s “death zone.”

Fifteen climbers died on Mont Blanc last year, and a 25-year-old man from Slovakia fell to his death on Friday at the start of the route, commonly known as the “Route Royale.” Nearly 25,000 climbers undertake the ascent each year.