Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc, towering over the valleys of Chamonix, St Gervais and Les Contamines in France and that of Aosta on the Italian side, stands at 4,810m2 high. Though visually very much part of the Chamonix mountain range, the administration of the mountain is shared with the town of Saint Gervais and Courmayeur in Italy, with St Gervais having the largest share of the area. It is therefore the Maire of St Gervais, currently Jean-Marc Peillex who decides on matters of safety and access of the mountain (and, not Chamonix as many people think).
Since it was first climbed by 1786 by Paccard and Balmat, whose names you will see gracing the streets in both Chamonix and St Gervais (Place Balmat, Avenue Paccard), it has seen the likes of US president Roosevelt in 1886 and countless others, make attempts to the summit. Today, 20,000 people ascend on average each year during the summer months.
Many consider it a reasonably easy mountain to climb, with some routes being long , but not technically difficult for fit, acclimatised people. Despite this, the rescue service flies an average of 12 times during peak weekends in summer to assist people who are often ill equipped or ill prepared and there are many fatalities.
For 10 years, St Gervais’ Maire has campaigned for better monitoring of the situation. Finally, the Prefet of Haute Savoie- the region in which Mont Blanc is located, has just announced that the 2 mains routes up to the summit via the Gouter and Three Monts will be manned by the Gendarmes (PGHM) during this June through to September.
Whilst putting police on high mountains could be considered extreme, much of their intent is to inform and educate climbers on best practice, mountain safety, ecology and to prevent problems. This will be achieved by reviewing people’s kit, fitness and advising on the weather for summit ascents. They will also play a part in protecting the site from an environmental perspective by keeping an eye out for illegal bivouacking which is only authorised at Tete Rousse.
In addition to this, St Gervais is providing 4 “ambassadors” who will offer tourists information. They will be stationed at the Tramway du Mont Blanc that passes through St Gervais town on the way up to Nid D’aigle and at the Tete Rousse hut. These measures are hoped to reduce accidents and manage an increasingly busy area.
The announcement of police on the mountain has been met with mixed reactions; Some are concerned about preserving what should be a pure sport and wonder whether the future holds a ‘copper behind every rock’ as one internet commentary read; Others, consider that the sheer number of people visiting the area demands some management for the good of all.
Some of our properties with the best view of Mont Blanc include: Chalet Tagues, Chalet Grepon, Chalet Champoutant, Chalet Mont Blanc, Chalet Bossons, Chalet Joux and Chalet Chouette, and check out our “Views to cry for” here http://pinterest.com/alpineproperty/views-to-cry-for/ on pinterest from past and present places.