You may have heard but following violent storms that hit Mont-blanc on the 20th of July 2007 the section of the Tramway du Mont-Blanc between Bellevue and the Nid d’Aiguille has been closed, probably for the rest of the season.
The Tramway was rebuilt a couple of years ago and at the time campaign groups including Mountain-Wilderness called for this upper section to be closed. The reason, to reduce pressure on the normal route to the summit of Mont-Blanc. It is estimated that around 30,000 attempt the mountain each year with up to 200 summiting each day. They leave behind a trail of detruis.
The Tramway lies in the community of St Gervais. The local mayor Jean-Marc Peillex has been running a high level campaign for the last few years
while some of his aims are laudable he’s been accused of wanting his bread buttered on both sides. His community profits from climbers but then castigates them for the ecological damage. His latest wheeze is installing high tech toilets at 4,260 meters to combat the mountains of poop left on the summit (presumably climbers have never heard of packing out their poop?). The mountain crappers will cost €145,000 and will be emptied each day by helicopter transport. Not exactly ecological in itself.
However isn’t the problem that simply too many people, including many inexperienced climbers, are attempting the route? Shutting the upper section of the TMB would relieve the pressure on the mountain as it would present an additional, although not difficult, obstacle to summiteers. It would discourage the gapers and weekend warriors. Remember that Jaques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard, along with later Victorian pioneers climbed from Chamonix town centre, that at a time when equipment was much heavier and less performant.
Along with other local mayors Mr Peillex has also resisted calls for Mont-Blanc to be declared as a national park which would severely restrict tourist flights and ski resort development on the slopes of the mountain.