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French mayor demands €15,000 fee to climb Mont Blanc (bbc.co.uk)
38 points by LinuxBender 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 56 comments





I wish this was adopted more. Far too often we see cases of adventurers taking unnecessary risks, only to have taxpayers bail them out.

This is unfair on many fronts, but the biggest one is those incurring rescue costs often don't contribute to the local tax base in the first place.

People should be able to take an adventure if they want, but they should accept the financial risks associated with this.

A deposit system is 100% fair to everyone involved.


Sounds reasonable, and was probably triggered by events like these. It seems in some years, they had almost 100 deaths a year.

"Mont Blanc deaths spark calls to end ‘free-for-all’"(2014): https://www.thelocal.fr/20140717/mont-blanc-climbing-alps-da...

"...With figures quoting up to 100 deaths each year in the entire Mont Blanc range, some consider it one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. But it's a reality that many see as entirely avoidable...

...It’s on the same list that includes going to Mont Saint Michel and getting a tan on one of France’s beaches and the whole thing reminds one of a large amusement park that goes by the name of Disneyland,” Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the town of Saint-Gervais which sits at the foot of the mountain, told The Local. “Mont Blanc is sold like it’s a simple trek, but in reality it’s a high-altitude act of mountaineering...”"

"French rescuers refuse to airlift Mont Blanc climber" (2014): https://www.thelocal.fr/20140709/mont-blanc-rescue-climber-a...

"Fed up French officials refused to airlift a Polish climber off the slopes of Mont Blanc, when he called for help after deciding he didn't want to walk down. The local French mayor blasted 'ad hoc' alpinists for being like 'urban consumers'."


> "The French approach to risk is very different than the Anglo-Saxon attitude. They're attitude is 'go on, do what you want to do. But don't come running to us if you get in trouble,'" he said, noting Anglos are surprised by that because they assume they'd be barred from the climb if it was dangerous.

I notice this too. North America has a "presumption of safety" that leads to some weird behaviour.


In Greece, we saw a board next to a cliff: Great danger! Walk quickly.

They meant it, as they always do over there. Even so, some English speaking tourist went right to the edge, as there were no fences so they presumed it safe


Yeah, it's the same for swimming or sailing. If a port captain in France ask you 'are you sure?' or do off hand remarks about your skills he isn't being polite. You really to be sure about your path and your skills. If the beach have a red flag, you better know the area and the tides

Like foreign tourists getting right up close to bison as though they were sheep?

This is not about rescue costs or solidarity. An insurance for this is quite cheap. This is about having fewer people up there and maybe more tax money locally.

It's a trend among French mayors since tourists are back after 2yrs of covid. They want to get rid of the crowd while still benefiting from high-income tourism.

In the end this is allowing only rich people to enjoy mountain / wild-life.


Would it be fair to assume you did not read the article at all?

Your boring theories only betray the fact you didn’t read the article at all.

Technically not a "fee", it's a deposit that, if you are the sort of person with the sort of equipment who has any business climbing the mountain in the first place, you will get back.

Unless you are unlucky and get taken out by an avalanche. At that point you won't care, though.

I see it as a big wake-up call that this isn't a walk in the park. I hike, nothing hazardous but even then I see plenty of unprepared idiots.


Both valid points. On your first point, it is relevant that (in the US anyway) $5000 is not an unusual price for a funeral. But yes, I suppose you are unlikely to care about it in either case.

Honestly a refundable deposit sounds like a reasonable option. Although I do wonder if it makes more sense to have some sort of permitting process if there are too many underprepared climbers.

Or a small insurance shop at the bottom selling you cover. "Flip-flops? Your premium will be E15000 thanks"

_deposit_ not fee, title is click bite

Basically due to climate change (and especially the current heat wave) it got very dangerous to climb the mountain and they don't want tax payers to repeatedly have to pay for rescue and burial costs of climbers. So there is a deposit now.


Sounds entirely reasonable. If you are doing something dangerous you should be ready to carry the costs of failures.

Not a fee as mentioned in the article's title, a refundable deposit as explained in the article.

Whilst the article does say it is a deposit (as do many other stories[1][2]), I haven't seen any clarify that it will actually be refundable on safe return - it could well be that he means a deposit in the sense of "paying into a fund" rather than "a refundable deposit" which would essentially be a fee...

[1] https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/trends/want-to-get-to-mont... [2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/04/french-mayor-m...


"Paying a deposit" is rather clear and implies it is refundable (otherwise it's not a deposit but indeed a fee).

Now, in French the word used is 'caution' [1], which means 'security deposit' (like a renter would pay their landlord, for instance) and makes it beyond doubt that it is refundable.

[1] https://mairie.saintgervais.com/triste-ete-2022-acces-au-mon...


> "Paying a deposit" is rather clear and implies it is refundable

Yes, it might imply it's refundable but none of the (English) stories have made that explicit - you can deposit into a common fund to pay for something (such as rescues or funerals) with no expectation of refund.

> Now, in French the word used is 'caution' [1], which means 'security deposit'

That does make it more explicit, thanks!


It would still be reasonable if they kept the fee. Even if nothing terrible happened, someone has to clean up the mess or it could end up like Everest. Right?

Yes, very poor on the BBC's part.

Edit: OK, they have now corrected the title.


The article title is actually:

"French mayor threatens €15,000 deposit to climb Mont Blanc"

Not really the same thing.


The title has been updated since the article was originally posted.

Why not just require an appropriate level of travel insurance OR a deposit?

If the problem is recovery + funeral expenses


I think the Mayor also wants to limit the number of climbers. A 10-20euros private insurance would not be an effective deterrent, but having to put down 15k certainly is.

I don't think there is 10-20euros travel insurance one can buy that does not exclude mountain climbing or any activity that requires specialistic gear.

Google and quite online quote tells me that I can get a insurance that covers mountaineering to 6,000m (that's very serious mountaineering...), climbing, paragliding, skydiving, etc. for one week throughout Europe and Morocco with 5 million pounds medical cover for £100.

Still a massive difference and deterrence level compared to putting down 15k euros.


You can get top-up insurance for loads of sports [1] if you want cover for "Mountain Unicycling - Competition" or "Jousting" or "Praying Mantis Training"

Of course, there are some things they won't cover - if you're skydiving you have to either be qualified, or undergoing instruction. And it might be a bit expensive - if you're doing scrambling at 7000m in nepal, it'll cost you £150 or so.

[1] https://www.sportscoverdirect.com/activity-topup-insurance/


Year long insurance for climbing is not all that expensive in EU. I know quite a few people who have it.

That is nice to know I am mostly into "off the shelf travel insurance" even 150euro if going into the mountains for me still would be worth it.

Definitely look for it, you can buy it also for much shorter periods if you know you are going to mountains. In some countries, you can buy it for a day via SMS.

Insurance at that price level doesn't cover something like Mont Blanc.

There is no insurance company that will insure you on doing that. Unless I don't know something - for which I would be glad to hear back that I am wrong.

Any travel insurance I have seen always excluded all kinds of sports which is also mountain climbing. They exclude everything that requires specialistic gear.

I also work in insurance industry as a software dev - nothing that I have seen would let insure someone who would go under-prepared. One could fill in form that he goes fully prepared but once lied insurance company won't pay anything.

Basically they will sell you insurance if you are fully prepared and basically you don't have any chance of claiming insurance.


> There is no insurance company that will insure you on doing that. Unless I don't know something - for which I would be glad to hear back that I am wrong.

There's loads of specific insurance for these sorts of activities. You won't find it covered by most regular providers but there are oodles of companies out there that cover most extreme sports activities.

A quick google found this for example: https://www.snowcard.co.uk/mountaineering-insurance

But if you're the sort of person to go up a serious mountain in flip-flops you're probably not thinking about insurance anyway!


> There is no insurance company that will insure you on doing that. Unless I don't know something

You can find an insurer for everything. You disclose to them what you want to do and they set a price. It is up to you then to figure out if it's worth paying for it or not.


There are a number of rescue and related insurance options for climbers, either through affiliation with professional organizations (eg: AMGA) or privately as a perk of clubs/public organizations (American Alpine Club membership tier that includes rescue and insurance packages). These are meant to cover the costs of being helicoptered off the side of a mountain and some associated medical bills.

Not true at all. I've done work for insurance companies in the past as well. While it's true most of them will not diverge from their standard contracts, some are very open to clients suggesting 'custom' insurance no matter how obscure the clauses. The only caveat of course being that it will cost you substantial amounts.

> I also work in insurance industry as a software dev - nothing that I have seen would let insure someone who would go under-prepared. One could fill in form that he goes fully prepared but once lied insurance company won't pay anything.

If you break the terms of the contracts you won't get covered of course. Same as with car insurance where you won't get coverage if you were DUI.


Global Rescue comes to mind, I used to have a $100k evacuation policy with them thanks to some of my Mountaineering club affiliations.

Eh? Winter sports cover is a normal travel insurance add on.

> Winter sports

Cliimbing to the top of the highest mountain in the EU will probably not count as "winter sports", but as extreme sports. Winter sports will cover skiing and alike, though.


We are arguing about the definition of extreme sports, but for my travel insurance for skiing and kitesurfing I need the "extreme sports" addon. The point is, "extreme sports" depend on the insurer.

There is insurance for exactly that and quite affordable actually.

Yes which require specialist gear.

"He said the number of rescues and deaths in the Mont Blanc massif had not risen this year" (last paragraph): it almost reads like the journalist and the mayor lament that those numbers didn't go up, nullifying their whole argument. Or did I miss something?

If they can't manage to get people to be well equipped before tackling the peak, what are the chances they are going to be able to enforce a permitting system?

Honestly, as someone that has climbed Mont Blanc twice, what is necessary is not more red tape, but to actually enforce the current equipment rules at the Gouter. And based on the importance that mountaineering brings to the area, it wouldn't hurt to go and knock down the loose rock in the Gouter couloir.


What kind of lunatic pushes an ice ascent in high-summer? I'd want a deposit up front too.

The headline is false. It’s a refundable deposit to cover potential rescue costs.

Pretty good idea, actually. He should also name it "Darwin Tax" maybe.

Why not just require mandatory insurance covering this? It would cost much less.

I wonder what is the rate of incidents here. So how high such premium would actually be.

It sounds reasonable for non residents. But as someone paying taxes in France I would be royally pissed if this applied to me.

Why is that? Are people who live in France somehow less likely to get in trouble while climbing mountains?

No but we pay a lot of taxes, which should cover this.

It's a refundable deposit.

What happens when I do get into an accident and require evacuation?



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