UKH

Guides shutting down Classic Alpine routes due to heatwave

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 Trangia 31 Jul 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/31/heatwaves-put-classic-alpine-hiking-routes-off-limits

This seems to be applying to taking guided parties on the routes, but what about unguided parties? Do some counties have the legal right to close routes, and presumably prosecute climbers who ignore the ban? 

Common sense might dictate the objective risks from stone fall, glacier and serac collapse etc is becoming too great anyway on many routes (eg the recent tragedy on the Marmolata).

We seem to be entering uncharted territory here but global warming is having an increasing adverse effect on Alpine conditions, and the economic costs on resorts will be devastating where so many rely on tourism coming so close on the Covid.

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 jon 31 Jul 2022
In reply to Trangia:

I may be wrong, but the fact that guides stop guiding a route or mountain doesn't usually prevent non guided parties from climbing. That said, it if an accident occurs you'd probably find that you have no insurance. Let's face it, the guides don't take decisions that mean a huge loss of income lightly, so it does point to very dangerous conditions.

In Chamonix at the moment there's an interesting variation whereby all paths leading to Montenvers have been closed by the municipality following a double fatal accident on a construction site up there. I'm pretty sure you'd be in trouble if you ignored this.

 Will_he_fall 31 Jul 2022
In reply to Trangia:

AFAIK no mountains are closed- just local guiding companies have decided to stop guiding them. I don't know of anywhere where there is an actual law/government statement saying they're closed.

As an example, the Zermatt guides aren't going to the Matterhorn,  but the hut has been open and people have been climbing. Someone did receive a broken arm from falling rock there recently though...

You can still go, you've just got to decide that you have a higher risk tolerance/ don't mind the potential of getting killed to death by huge falling rocks...

I can't see that your insurance would be affected by any of the above. 

 pec 31 Jul 2022
In reply to jon:

> Let's face it, the guides don't take decisions that mean a huge loss of income lightly, so it does point to very dangerous conditions.

I understand that they've stopped guiding clients up the Dent du Geant at the moment. Given the absolutely cavalier attitude to their own and their clients safety I witnessed when I climbed it a few years ago it must be horrendous for them to think it's too dangerous.

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 morpcat 31 Jul 2022
In reply to Trangia:

You can still go climbing on those routes.

Please don't.

1
In reply to Trangia:

Interesting that, in it's title, the Guardian refers to 'Hikes' and then goes on to mention The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc!

 ExiledScot 31 Jul 2022
In reply to pec:

It's the approach from leaving the glacier to the breakfast table, it's always been a bit loose at the best of times. 

 Damo 31 Jul 2022
In reply to Will_he_fall:

Agreed. I've only read a few articles on the various closures and in one re: Mont Blanc one of the local officials specifically said the mountain is not closed.

Unless something fairly specific is mentioned in the insurance T&C then what some guiding company/ies does would not affect your insurance. If it was possible for the local govt to close the mountain or ban climbing and you ignored that closure then it almost certainly would.

 Andy Hardy 01 Aug 2022
In reply to phizz4:

Also Mont Blanc is partly Swiss according to the article. I never knew that.

In reply to Trangia:

On Marmolada the entire north side of the mountain is closed down to the reservoir, despite the fact that the serac fall is concentrated in one area and topology means it's unlikely that the other part of the glacier would fail in such a catastrophic way. That said, the south side is open for business, its just that you need to ab the 28 pitch routes or be a proficient base jumper, or be happy to sit it out for a few months until the retract the ban. I mean sure, you could down climb the west ridge Via Ferrata, but technically that is on the North side. And you never know, the glacier might fall upwards.

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 Dogwatch 01 Aug 2022
In reply to phizz4:

> Interesting that, in it's title, the Guardian refers to 'Hikes' and then goes on to mention The Matterhorn and Mont Blanc!

Yes they keep doing that, using "hiker", "climber" and "trekker" interchangeably.

 jcw 01 Aug 2022
In reply to Andy Hardy:

nor did anyone else!

In reply to Damo:

> Unless something fairly specific is mentioned in the insurance T&C then what some guiding company/ies does would not affect your insurance. If it was possible for the local govt to close the mountain or ban climbing and you ignored that closure then it almost certainly would.

It most certainly is possible for the local govt to close the mountain or ban climbing, and if the local mayor, commune or prefecture who have legal control over a given area of mountain or countryside want to, they can impose almost any restrictions they think fit, backed up with fines imposed by the local gendarmerie. Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint-Gervais, has issued numerous controls on the route up Mount Blanc that falls in his area in the past, and gendarmes have certainly been posted on the route up to the Gouter hut, turning people back without bookings, when the route had been officially closed due to the level of rock fall, when encountering people who fail to carry the required equipment and those illegally camping in the vicinity of refuges.

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 pec 01 Aug 2022
In reply to ExiledScot:

> It's the approach from leaving the glacier to the breakfast table, it's always been a bit loose at the best of times. 


Yes, its a pile of choss really but used to be bound together by snow, it was the first time I went up it.

Last time it was all dry but still seemed ok, more so on the way up when the temperature was below freezing (odd considering there was no snow) but even in descent it didn't feel dangerous as long as you handled it carefully, there was no spontaneous rockfall.

Makes me wonder why it's so bad now, perhaps whole sections of the slope are sliding if it was previously held together by permafrost below the surface and now that's melting? Just speculating.

 jcw 01 Aug 2022
In reply to jcw: I realize we've been forgetting the Hinterer Koukouspitz, so called because it was in figuratives spitting distance of  Mont  Blanc when Savoie elected to join France. A gross oversight by Graham Brown of what was then known colloquially as a Swiss (banking?) roll on the approach to his triptych. To avoid international embarrassment the file is closed at official British  request in AC archives I believe until 2050, the longest legally permitted, it is so sensitive. 

Post edited at 20:44
 ExiledScot 01 Aug 2022
In reply to pec:

Some people just don't know how to walk delicately, especially when tired or in crampons. Sloppy ropes skills when in coils allowing the rope between to drag and catch stuff etc... seen people ab and or lower the last 25m onto the glacier too... sometimes you just have to meander a bit to follow the best route down. I can see why guides are wary as you can't predict the idiots above you. 

 jon 02 Aug 2022
In reply to jcw:

Bet you thought that'd slip through unnoticed.....!

 HardenClimber 02 Aug 2022
In reply to jcw:

> I realize we've been forgetting the Hinterer Koukouspitz, so called because it was in figuratives spitting distance of  Mont  Blanc when Savoie elected to join Fran......

Could you explain a bit more?

 jcw 03 Aug 2022
In reply to HardenClimber:

Wikipedia on  cuckoo spit

The froghoppers, or the superfamily Cercopoidea, are a group of hemipteran insects in the suborder Auchenorrhyncha. Adults are capable of jumping many times their height and length. 

Rather appropriate  counter claim against the froggies, I thought, after the plebiscite which established a right on Mont Blanc. In fact i've been to the nearest point where the three countries meet on the Dolent, and it's not at the summit

In reply to jcw:

The French would argue that Mont Blanc summit is entirely in their territory too.

In reply to pec:

youtube.com/watch?v=4PGMKRDrohk&

This is a link to footage from Cervino (Matterhorn) yesterday. It's a substantial rockfall. The story (separate in Italian) notes that 3 pairs were above at the time and all were helicoptered off.

No injuries were recorded, which is as lucky as it gets.

 pec 03 Aug 2022
In reply to aostaman:

The guidebook says about a section exposed to stonefall when en-route to the Colle del Leone. That's rather more than just a bit of stonefall!

There doesn't appear to be snow above the rockfall releasing stones as it melts. It looks like a whole section of the rockface has collapsed which, as I suggested above, makes you wonder if its the melting of permafrost making large areas unstable?

 Doug 04 Aug 2022
In reply to ecrinscollective:

I was going to post that but you got there first. But I wonder how much this is just the mayor of Saint Gervais raising his public profile yet again ? He does seem to like this sort of annoucement.

In reply to Doug:

Yeh he does love to a show of this stuff.

OP Trangia 04 Aug 2022
In reply to ecrinscollective:

Merci

 Big Lee 05 Aug 2022
In reply to Trangia:

I think if guides don't want to be on a route in the middle of summer then it's probably because there are too many unpredictable elements that can't be controlled adequately. Taking a client up a route has more elements of unpredictability than an experienced partner of known qualities. So on that basis I would say that there could be routes ok for experienced climbers in theory, given the overall level of unpredictability is lower.

5
 Pero 05 Aug 2022

The mountains generally are in a bad and deteriorating state. E.g. the first snow slope on the Nadelhorn is now bare ice and exposed to rockfall from the Ulrichshorn. Normally the rocks stop quickly in the snow, but now there is nothing to stop them bulleting down to the lower glacier.

There's also more rockfall generally earlier in the day, so there's a significant risk even if you are on the route in good time.

There is a huge amount of meltwater flooding off the glaciers.

 cdpej 06 Aug 2022
In reply to Pero:

did you go higher up the Nadelhorn?  I was wondering how that was faring

In reply to Trangia:

Sorry if I've been a Muppet and missed some well reported news events but whatever happened to Planpincieux?   In danger of collapse https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-53692476 and later danger not as bad?  https://www.chamonix.net/english/news/planpincieux-glacier-risk-collapse-dropped-august-2020

I feel sorry for people in the danger zone, I'm not sure how easy it is to predict this stuff, not sure I'd sleep easily in my bed if I was underneath it.

Would it be better to accept a scheduled disaster and fire a mortar round into it, because it's going to go at some point or other!

Post edited at 10:36
In reply to cdpej:

I was there mid July and it was fine higher.

In reply to Big Lee:

> I think if guides don't want to be on a route in the middle of summer then it's probably because there are too many unpredictable elements that can't be controlled adequately. Taking a client up a route has more elements of unpredictability than an experienced partner of known qualities.

Yes, and a thousand, say, guides and their clients crossing a danger zone in a month with statistically one party getting killed might be unacceptable to a company of guides, whereas, to one climber, a risk of one in a thousand getting killed might be  acceptable.

It's the same reason you have lollipop men/women outside school gates.

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In reply to cdpej:

Went up it Thursday, Windjoch is very steep and complicated/exposed to rockfall in decent.  The snow arête on the ridge is fine but getting down is pretty involved. 

 jimtitt 18:15 Sun
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Yes, and a thousand, say, guides and their clients crossing a danger zone in a month with statistically one party getting killed might be unacceptable to a company of guides, whereas, to one climber, a risk of one in a thousand getting killed might be  acceptable.

Have you told your insurance company this?

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In reply to jimtitt:

> Have you told your insurance company this?

No. Why do you ask?

 Phil1919 18:48 Sun
In reply to Trangia:

Ultimately its not the economic costs that will be our undoing but the environmental costs. Its just taking us humans a long time to realise this.

In reply to Robert Durran:

You would kind of assume insurance companies know already!

In reply to MG:

> You would kind of assume insurance companies know already!

Yes, from the fact that the insurance covers repatriation dead or alive in the event of an accident. Apart from there being a market for their insurance in the first place.

 IceBun 20:26 Sun
In reply to Big Lee: or maybe they know the area and the routes like the back of their hands from numerous ascents.  They also know the regular hazards so are better able to compare with previous years and as a community of users have shared the new and growing hazards. Maybe guiding is more predictable as a result of this rather than less predictable. I’m sure there are safe routes which experienced parties can and are doing I’m just not sure that the level of unpredictability is lower.


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