Growing numbers of tourists trying to reach the Mont Blanc summit have created dangerous conditions for climbers, officials say. (Photo: AFP)
France will impose a daily cap of 214 climbers on Mont Blanc next year, one of several measures taken to limit overcrowding on Europe's highest peak, a local official said Tuesday.
"It's a tough decision but a very good one, because Mont Blanc is a climb unlike any other. You have to be prepared," Mayor Jean-Marc Peillex of Saint Gervais, the Alpine town where the most popular route to the top of the mountain begins, told AFP.
More than 300 people have been pitting their wits against the mountain each day this summer season despite the growing risk of rockfall as high temperatures thaw more ground at higher altitudes.
At least 16 have died so far this year, though just one has occurred on the busy "Royal Route".
Police this summer began requiring aspiring climbers to have a reservation at one of the refuges on the route before letting them proceed.
Peillex said he was considering the creation of a "snow brigade" of officers to enforce the new rules.
Officials say the scramble to summit the 4,810-metre peak has caused tensions among climbers, some of whom are ill-prepared (wearing trainers, for example) or unfamiliar with mountaineering etiquette.
Peillex reported a tourist setting up a tent at the very top of the mountain -- not the landscape most people climbed all that way to see.
Skirmishes have been reported among climbers jostling for position on key sections of the trail, while fake guides have also been found leading tourists up.
The new limits were announced after a series of meetings over the weekend between local officials, France's mountain police brigade, the French mountaineering federation and guide associations.