The mayor of Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex, has called for a permit system to be established for Mont-Blanc. Speaking as part of his initiative “La Montagne A l’Etat Pur – The mountain in its purest form”. M.Peillex said that Mont-Blanc has far too many climbers and this brings with it ecological and safety concerns. He called on the government and other concerned parties to study some way of regulating the number of visitors as happens in other countries.
In Peru the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has introduced a strict permit system. Each permit costs $90 and only 500 hikers per day are allowed to start the trail based on a first-come first-served basis. The system had initial teething problems especially with commercial groups but is now strictly enforced. The revenue from permits have brought improvements to the trail. In the United States many mountains have a permit system. The popular Mount-Whitney, highest summit of the continental USA, restricts the main walking route to 150 day hikers and 50 multi-day hikers per day but uses a complicated lottery system. The permit is free but there is a $15 administration charge levied by the US Parks Service who administers the mountain.
Although Mont-Blanc is more usually associated with the town of Chamonix the normal route is considered to be the Voie des Cristalliers or Voie Royale. From Saint-Gervais climbers can take the Tramway du Mont-Blanc to the Nid d’Aigle (Eagle’s Nest). The route then heads to the refuge de Tête Rousse before passing across the couloir du Goûter to reach the refuge of the same name. The couloir du Goûter is notorious for stone fall with many dramas under its slopes. During the heatwave of 2003 the route had to be closed due to the dangers. After a night at the Goûter the climb continues via the Dôme du Goûter, the refuge Vallot and l’arête des Bosses before reaching the summit at 4810 meters. In the four months this summer an estimated 30,000 climbers will attempt the summit via this route. However it is not the most popular mountain in France. 250,000 walkers climb the slopes of the Charmant-Som close to Grenoble. The French forest service has recently spent 60,000 € improving the access to the summit.
Last year M.Peillex won the prestigious Marianne d’Or 2005 de l’écologie. The Marianne d’Or is awarded to innovative environmental projects. During the week 18-25th August Saint-Gervais has welcomed a number of media personalities to climb to the Aiguille de la Bérangère and then to the summit of Mont-Blanc. Another clean-up operation is also planned for September. An old washing machine was amongst the rubbish found in a previous operation. M. Peillex’s campaign has met with some dissent. He has passed a bye-law banning bivouacs on the Voie des Cristalliers. Alpinist Christophe Profit was amongst a number of climbers who protested this decision believing that it is not within the spirit of climbing.