Two More Mont Blanc Deaths Amid Fears of Tourist Free-For-All

Lyon:  Two Irish mountaineers have died on Mont Blanc, bringing to four those killed there in just three days as concern mounts that the mountain range is becoming a tourism free-for-all.

Rescuers in the French Alpine town of Chamonix said the two climbers had been "very well equipped", but they fell Sunday when it appeared that their rope came undone as they were going up the 4,000-metre (13,000-feet) "Giant's Tooth".

The exact cause of the fall is not yet known, but the deaths came just two days after two Finnish mountaineers were also killed on the Mont Blanc massif when they slipped on a mound of snow and fell into a crevasse.

Authorities are increasingly concerned about the number of climbers attempting dangerous ascents on Mont Blanc, some of them inexperienced.

The issue came to a head after an American climber tried to go up the "Corridor of Death" to Western Europe's highest peak with his nine-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to set a new world record.

Patrick Sweeney, his son P.J. and daughter Shannon, got caught in the start of an avalanche, forcing them to call off the attempt.

The expedition was being filmed and the footage of the fall was subsequently aired on ABC News in the US earlier this month.

According to the video, Sweeney wanted to "set the world record" for the youngest mountaineer to make the ascent, a record held by Briton Asher Silver, who conquered the 4,810-metre (15,780-feet) peak aged 10 in 2009.

But the move drew criticism both in the US and in France, where Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the nearby Alpine town of Saint-Gervais and a critic of the number of inexperienced people attempting to go up Mont Blanc, blasted it as "reckless" and "outrageous".

It "is a demonstration of pride pushed to the extreme, to the point of putting the life of his own children in danger and boasting about it on a popular television channel," he said.

The ABC News clip describes Mont Blanc as the "white killer" and the passage where the two children fell as the "Corridor of Death", but Peillex disagrees.

"Mont Blanc is not a killer but remains a high-altitude glacial universe that dictates its own laws," he said.

"The ascent of Mont Blanc remains a thing for mountaineers, it's not a trek nor is it a terrain that can be exploited for a mention in the Guinness World Records.

"Such acts do not deserve publicity but an exemplary sanction for this reckless father for putting life in danger."
Story First Published: July 28, 2014 18:27 IST

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