Jean-Marc Peillex mayor of the French village of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains has made headlines once more after threatening to file complaints against two people who climbed Mont Blanc and slept at its summit, calling them hurluberlus (fools).
This time, the Mayor has focused his attention on two hikers who posted a 45-minute YouTube video titled “DORMIR au SOMMET DU MONT BLANC : 9 jours d’expédition” (Sleeping at the top of Mont Blanc: 9 days of expedition) which detailed their journey of climbing and camping on the mountain.
Peillex told BFMTV on Monday that the climbers had create “bad buzz” by “[flouting] the law,” as all forms of camping throughout the Mont Blanc Natural Habitat Protection Area (APHN) are prohibited, according to a decree passed in October 2020. Failure to comply with the rule can lead to a year’s imprisonment and a fine of €150,000.
The mayor said that the law is intended to protect Mont Blanc’s natural habitats, and that wild camping is only allowed in extreme cases or next to the Tête rousse refuge area.
“They played with fire and they got burned,” the Mayor told the French news station, adding that it would now be up to the courts to respond.
According to Le Figaro, the two mountaineers said that they were aware that restrictions existed to protect the mountain, but that they did not realise there was a total ban on camping in place during the off-season.
I think I’ve heard the name Jean-Marc Peillex before?
Yes, you probably have – he’s no stranger to headlines.
Over the summer, Mayor Peillex warned visitors they might be climbing with “death in [their] backpack” after putting forward plans on social media to make climbers pay a €15,000 deposit to climb Mont Blanc via the Goûter route.
Pelleix explained on August 3rd that he arrived at the €15,000 because it corresponded with “€10,000 for the cost rescue, and €5,000 for the cost of a funeral” as it is “impermissible that the French taxpayer be the one to cover such costs.”
Jean-Marc Peillex has fought against mass tourism on Mont Blanc for several years. In 2018, he requested that French gendarmes block several Latvian mountaineers from making the ascent with a large pole and a Latvian flag to commemorate the country’s independence, and last summer he shared a video warning people not to attempt climbing the mountain as it was “not the moment” and that the mountain was “angry.”
#montblanc les alpinistes doivent renoncer à leur projet d’ascension par la voie royale du Gouter à #saintgervais pic.twitter.com/92HInWTAVR
— Jean-Marc PEILLEX (@PEILLEX) July 16, 2022
The mayor also wrote to President Emmanuel Macron in September 2022 to ask that he “act to fight against the over-visiting of natural areas.”
Do others in the Alps agree with him?
Peillex’s statements can be polarising. Other mayors from towns in the Mont Blanc area have at times disagreed with the Saint-Gervais’ mayor’s approach.
According to CNN, in August, Roberto Rota, the mayor of Courmayeur, on the Italian side of the mountain, told Corriere della Sera that “asking for a deposit to climb the mountain is surreal” in response to Perreix’ attempt to institute a €15,000 deposit to climb the Mont Blanc.
And most recently, Antoine Beis, an aide to the mayor of Chamonix, told BFMTV that Jean-Marc Peillex’s most recent comments constituted “dangerous democratic drift.”