In a column addressed to our colleagues from the newspaper Le Monde, several authorities, mountain professionals and elected officials call for “jointly choosing responsibility, humility and freedom“while the climbing conditions were strongly affected by the summer drought. We convey the grandstand below.
The high temperatures and drought raging across France this summer are having a strong impact on the high mountains. With temperatures above zero degrees for several weeks above four thousand meters above sea level, this environment is even more affected than the others by the effects of global warming.
In this context, the legitimate emotions aroused by tragic accidents inherent in the practice of high mountain climbing have led in recent weeks to the temptation of more coercive mountaineering regulations, the establishment of a “permit to ‘ascend’ or even a ‘deposit’ to benefit mountain rescue.
As mountain professionals, elected officials, mountaineering personalities or amateur mountaineers, we collectively encourage you to make the choice of responsibility, humility and freedom. These values are the basis for the inclusion of mountaineering in Unesco as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2019.
Actors continue to adapt
It is in this spirit that Gérard Devouassoux [1940-1974, mort sur les pentes de l’Everest], guide and first deputy of the mayor, founded in Chamonix (Haute-Savoie) in 1972, the High Mountain Office (OHM), whose 50th anniversary is celebrated, after a dark year which had 45 deaths for the only massif of Mont-Blanc . “We must not,” he said, “repress or create any kind of obligation.” On the contrary, it is necessary to inform in order to prevent, to make the knowledge of the professionals available to “without guides”, to provide information about the precise condition of the mountain, about the difficulties of each race, about the development of the meteorological conditions. »
For fifty years, public authorities, mountain professionals, rescuers and scientists, alpine clubs and sports associations have worked together to better prevent accidents by informing, advising, guiding and training without ever falling into the legal trap. In all the Alps, certain normal access routes to large emblematic peaks are now strongly discouraged. This does not mean the end of summer mountaineering.
As for climate change, mountain players continue to adapt. The guides observe, assess, advise and renew their offer to continue offering unforgettable mountain experiences. Alpine clubs, sports associations and amateur mountaineers follow the same path with adaptation and responsibility.
Many beautiful rock courses remain practical, sometimes requiring more technique and learning, while being accessible. Let’s trust those whose job it is to assess the conditions every day and decide on the rope, to guide on routes where the risk is not increased.
No binding, sanction or authorization
Regarding the need to adapt, let’s not succumb to escalation of communication to shock people’s minds and threaten the natural desire to explore. The mountain must remain a space of freedom in the face of the temptation of everything safe. The practice of mountaineering cannot be conditional on obtaining a permit in the French Alps, the cradle of this centuries-old discipline, which has seen its actors, amateurs and professionals, shape and transmit a true cultural heritage, an art of living fleetingly in a hostile nature, to clear a way there for the time of a conquest of the useless, in freedom and in responsibility. Let’s defend the emergency aid model in France.
Since their creation more than 60 years ago, the high mountain gendarmerie (PGHM) and the Mountain CRS have helped and saved lives together with Civil Security, without discrimination or hierarchy of responsibilities in the face of the unpredictable. The circular of 1958 on the organization of mountain rescue, replaced by that of June 6, 2011, already specified that their assistance, now professionalized, was free, as it was paid for by the state.
It is the nobleness of our choice of society, of the social redistribution of its wealth and the devotion of each of its bodies to allow everyone to benefit from help in all circumstances, in everyday life or in leisure. Neither guarantee nor sanction nor authorization, but prevention, transmission and accountability.
A risk-free society would no longer have any reason to form a body. To be able to accept the risk, to undertake to face it, to be inclined to reduce it without ever fully taming it, such is the greatness of the task of the man and the mountaineer.
The petitioners : Julien Baillypresident of La Chamoniarde, mountain prevention and rescue; Benedict CazanavePresident of the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs; Eric FournierMayor of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc; Olivier Greberchairman of the Compagnie des guides de Chamonix; Christian Trommsdorfchairman of the High Mountain Group.