Climbers aiming to summit Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps, will now have to pre-pay over $15,000 to cover potential rescue and funeral costs in the French town of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains at the foot of the storied European peak.
The European heat wave has exposed the face of the mountain, causing rockfalls and opening new crevasses on the ascent. A surge in incidents where local authorities have had to rescue ill-prepared and novice hikers led the town’s mayor to seek the deposits in advance.
“It’s like these people think they are going to Disneyland or on the London Eye. It may sound cynical for me to compare all this to Russian roulette, but the fact is so many people climb Mont Blanc thinking it’s a game without any real risks,” Saint-Gervais-les-Bains Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper in a telephone interview.
The rescue deposit costs just over $10,000, while the funeral pre-charge is just over $5,000. The totals match the average cost of those two services to local authorities in France.
Mr. Peillex urged that “It is unacceptable that it is the French taxpayer who bears these costs,” according to CNN.
Italian officials in the town of Courmayeur on the other side of the mountain are not pleased with Mr. Peillex’s plans.
“The mountain is not a property … [and] asking for a deposit to climb to the top is really surreal. You can decide to close a path or a passage if there is an actual risk,” Roberto Rota, Courmayeur’s mayor, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, according to the Telegraph.