Mont Blanc is neither a stadium nor an airport

On July 9, after his Sea-to-Mont-Blanc record, an Italian athlete was brought down from the summit by helicopter. A disrespectful attitude towards the mountain and other climbers. In an open letter published in the meantime, Mountain Wilderness, Chamonix mayor Éric Fournier and Saint-Gervais mayor J-M. Peillex also condemn this procedure, and reserve the right to take legal action against the resumption of the climb, presumably on French soil – and on a protected site.

It was too big to pass up, which is why we reported on it on Monday July 10 on The day before, Italian athlete Marcello Ugazio completed the following challenge: starting from the beach in Genoa, he cycled 320 km and then, on foot from Lake Combal, climbed Mont Blanc via the normal route in 14:42. Problem: he didn’t come down on foot, but with a sponsor’s helicopter, even though, according to a french mountain guide present at the summit that morning, “Ugazio’s safety was not at stake.”

As the NGO Mountain Wilderness (MW) reminds us in this open letter published since then, this kind of flight is not authorized in France, and the photo we have published – and below – shows that the helicopter probably landed in France, below the summit on the Col de la Brenva side, apparently. Mountain Wilderness would like to remind you of two essential points, which make this helicopter recovery an offence.

Article L363-1 of the French Environment Code stipulates that “in mountain areas, the disembarkation and embarkation of passengers by motorized aircraft for leisure purposes are prohibited, except on an aerodrome as defined in article L. 6300-1 of the Transport Code”.

Picture of the heli from the post published the day of Ugazio’s ascent. You can see Aiguille Verte and Droites in the background, which leads to believe that the heli was on the French side.

Secondly, the “arrêté de protection des habitats naturels” (APHN – natural habitat protection order) devised by Mr. Peillex and signed by the mayors of the two communes of St-Gervais and Chamonix and the French government. This decree considers, among other things, that “it is imperative to restore the true alpine value of the Mont-Blanc ascent, by raising awareness of the physical and moral challenge it represents, the risks it entails and the respect for the magical and grandiose place it implies” and that “every effort should be made to ensure both its environmental preservation and respect for the spirit of the place, and that “every effort must be made to ensure that the environment is preserved, that the spirit of the place is respected, and that the conditions for ascent are safe for those who aspire to the summit”.

This has led to a tightening of regulations governing flights over Mont Blanc, with the creation of a restricted zone forbidding overflights of the summit (with a few exceptions: refuelling refuges, state aircraft or aircraft involved in assistance, rescue or public safety operations, when their mission does not allow them to bypass the zone, aerial work).

MW and officials reserve the right to take legal action against offenders, and the mayor of Saint-Gervais has already decided to take the matter to court.

The signatories – Mr. Peillex, Mr. Fournier, mayors of Saint-Gervais and Chamonix, and the Mountain Wilderness and Pro Mont Blanc associations – therefore strongly condemn this procedure, and call on the authorities to implement a genuine policy of limiting overflights throughout the Mont-Blanc massif, not just around the summit in France, but also in a coordinated manner in Switzerland and Italy.

The signatories announce that they will refer the matter to the Prefect of Haute-Savoie (State’s representant), and reserve the right to take legal action against offenders; indeed, the mayor of Saint-Gervais has already decided to take the matter to court.