Destinations

British tourist abandons rowing machine on Mont Blanc, prompts calls for crackdown on travellers

A French mayor has called on President Emmanuel Macron to take action against “wackos” climbing Mont Blanc, after a British tourist abandoned a rowing machine on the mountain.

Last week, royal marine veteran Matthew Paul Disney attempted to carry a rowing machine to the top of the highest mountain in the French Alps to raise funds for serving and veterans causes.

But, as the BBC reported, he was unable to bring it back down due to deteriorating conditions and a shorter weather window, and left it at a shelter at 4,418 metres.

“I spoke to others and I then turned around. Safety is paramount to me – even more so for others and the fact that I was carrying the rowing machine, he told the BBC.

“I made a decision that the safety of others’ lives was more paramount. I went down to place the rower in the shelter.”

In a post on Facebook, Disney said he was attempting a “#WorldFirst” to raise money for both “serving and veterans” causes, with the aim of summiting the mountain and then rowing its height of 4,810 metres in distance.

Disney reached the summit without the machine, he explained to the BBC, before telling the manager of the shelter about his decision to leave it there. He argued that the shelter was fairly large, and the rowing machine was not obstructive.

But the mayor of Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex – who is reportedly a longstanding advocated against overcrowding at Mont Blanc – was far from impressed by the incident.

On Saturday (local time), Peillex said a member of Britain’s “Royal Commandos”, presumably referring to the Royal Marines, had carried a rowing machine up the mountain for a charity challenge.

In an open letter posted to Twitter in French, and translated by AFP, as reported by multiple media outlets, Peillex mocked Disney.

“[W]ith a name like that, you’d think he thought he was at an amusement park,” he wrote.

The mayor also complained that the device would have to be removed from the peak by helicopter, according to the BBC, although Disney insisted he intended to retrieve it.

Furthermore, Peillex announced he would be sending the bill for the machine’s removal to the British Embassy in Paris. The cost for the operation has been reported as €1,800 (around $2,920) to remove it by helicopter.

He urged President Emmanuel Macron to act against people misusing the mountain, citing Disney’s attempted summit and a German tourist’s ill-advised ascent of the mountain with his dog despite warnings by police who patrol Mont Blanc.

According to Peillex, the tourist snuck out to climb in the middle of the night with the dog – despite promising to leave it at a refuge – which survived but returned with bloodied paws.

“This situation has gone on long enough!” Peillex said, adding he is calling on Macron to “write and pass laws without delay that from 2020 would severely punish all these wackos who break the law, and restore peace to Mont Blanc”.

Disney told BBC he believes Peillex’s comments had “blown this out of proportion” and said his intentions had been to raise awareness of causes for veterans.

He also said he already had plans in place to retrieve the machine and had been in contact with the manager of the shelter. Disney added he had found the appropriate team to collect it, but said he was confident in bringing it down himself.

“I’ve been to 13 countries’ highest mountains with the rowing machine. I have appreciation for nature and mountains as a whole. I’m not there to make a mockery of the mountain,” he said.

Mont Blanc attracts nearly 25,000 climbers every year; however, daily crowds have reportedly led to flaring tempers among teams jockeying for position, and illegal camping, according to The Guardian. 

The news outlet added this is heightening the security risk as well as the environmental impact on the mountain, alongside warming temperatures in recent years that have melted the permafrost, raising the risk of rockfalls.

So far, at least three climbers have died on Mont Blanc this season.

Featured image: Facebook/Disney RM (Disney climbing Mount Buet with rowing machine)

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