As many, a day in MontBlanc

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Photo: Sylvia Okkerse

We are leaving for a short mountaineering journey in the Argentière basin; leaving stopwatch or stress behind us, just with the wish to live a beautiful day shared with friends, away from the din and sanitizing routines of the workdays. By entering this peaceful kingdom a feeling of being out of the world, or, paradoxically, at the heart of it, fills us. Finally we’ll be able to re-energize ourselves!

Dawn; a few moments of contemplation and fullness, suddenly the aircraft turmoil begins. Until late afternoon, whether one is on a north face or on a glacier, the quietness is broken. the paradise suddenly turned into a fun park. “- Yoann Joly, mountaineer

Stories of this type repeated over and over throughout the years by climbers such as Yoann but also by tourists and inhabitants of the valleys, have led many to a shared conclusion: we must “find a better balance between the so much disturbed peace and serenity of the mountains and their adjacent valleys and the flight traffic caused by civil, tourism and military aviation. This objective is currently assigned to the airspace working group” of « Espace Mont-Blanc » which has the mandate to define « all relevant actions to reduce the impacts of motorized and non-motorized overflights » (noise, emissions greenhouse gas emissions) over the territory …)

In support of this approach, Mountain Wilderness had planned a large gathering on Sunday, June 15th on the « Mer de Glace », in this high emblematic place of the Mont-Blanc, to call for an urgent regulation, harmonized across the 3 borders of the range, not allowing flights below 1000m above ground level, restricting this range to all motorized air traffic but the public service missions.

As the weather did not permit to hold this event (see below), we carried these issues to the first meeting of the “Airspace” working group on June 23.

During this meeting we proposed to segment the various potential situations assuring a no limitation condition for rescue actions but requiring further thinking about the related training issues. Similarly for altitude work, it is necessary to have authorizations harmonized across the borders, as well as flight rationalization, or possibly ecological requirements in all public tenders. When it comes to free flights (including paragliding, hang gliding and other non motorized type of flights) we recommended to engage all stakeholders in a consultation process similar to the one in place for the Ecrins National Park Climbing Convention. Finally, on the delicate subject of leisure flights, we believe it should be completely banned in the heart of the range. Indeed how can the nuisances be limited if no action is taken to minimize the excessive number of flights? And, as Fredi Meignan, President of MW France, said when answering a question raised by a pilot: “In cities, in villages, in the valleys, people have to deal daily with noise. Only in high elevation places can we still listen to silence. The heart (essence ou core) of the Mont-Blanc is exceptional: shouldn’t we respect there the same overflights rules as in national parks? “

(VN, BM)


Silence : We did it anyway !
By Christophe Roulier

Revue98_dossierP12_Encadré_PhotoChristophe RoulierAfraid of rain ? Not us !
On the right Sunday at the right place and at the right time, we did go with the family. We did it in spite of the MW event cancellation, to claim our desire for Silence in these high places.
As shown by this photo, taken a little bit higher than the planned meeting point at the junction with the Leschaux Glacier…We were there at 11 am, after having gone down the ladders… and no need for crampons to hike  that sea of stones.
Picture taken, we left the place at about 2pm, at 3pm we were back at the foot of the ladders, meeting the first drops of rain. At 4pm our raincoats were asking for mercy, half an hour later our underwear were drowning. At 5pm we were naked in our cars, changing clothes.
The event cancellation was the right decision, taking into account the short good weather window, especially considering that several people were coming from very far.
Let’s have no regret then, but please, SILENCE !

(CR, BM)

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