Two Swiss mountaineers landed a small plane less than 1,300-feet (400m) from the summit of Mont Blanc on Tuesday before heading straight for the summit of western Europe’s tallest peak with police in pursuit, the French gendarme reported.
The pair landed the aircraft at 14,600-feet (4,450m) on the iconic mountain in the French Alps in an incident described as a “provocation” by the mayor of the nearby Chamonix resort, Eric Fournier.
“It constitutes an intolerable attack on the high mountain environment and on all existing protective measures,” Fournier said, describing the behavior as “unprecedented”.
Police saw the plane on the east face of Mont Blanc, Lieutenant Colonel Stephane Bozon, who heads the gendarmerie’s mountain rescue service in Chamonix, told AFP. The area, officials said, is not an authorized landing zone.
The two climbers were equipped with ropes and crampons and had already started climbing towards the summit when they were intercepted by police and asked to turn back, according to local media.
Bozon said they were reflecting on what offense had been committed.
Officials have been grappling with a surge in adventure-seeking tourists in recent years, many without sufficient equipment or experience, hoping to scale the mountain during the summer season. The increase in numbers has led to some people camping illegally and concerns over sanitary risks such as water availability and problems with waste disposal.