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British Mont-Blanc climber sparks French mayor’s anger

A British climber who abandoned his rowing machine on the Mont-Blanc mountain in France during a charity summit attempt has prompted a local mayor to call for harsher sanctions on “wacky” climbers.

Matthew Disney, a former British Commando, climbed Mont-Blanc on Saturday August 31, while carrying a rowing machine weighing 26 kg and measuring 2.50 metres long.

Mr Disney had planned to carry the machine to the top; row on it at the summit, and then carry it back down.

The climb was part of a much wider fundraising project by Mr Disney, who has already completed the same rowing machine feat on the three highest peaks in Scotland, Wales, and England (commonly known as the “Three Peaks” challenge).

He is raising money in support of the UK armed forces and military veterans’ charities - Rock 2 Recovery and the Royal Marines Charity - and has already raised more than £15,000 (€16,425).

He had previously been described as “extremely enthusiastic” and “ready to overcome any challenges”.

But Mr Disney became exhausted on the descent from Mont-Blanc, and abandoned the rowing machine in the “Vallot distress area” on the mountain, at an altitude of 4,362 metres, before completing his descent without it.

Now, Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the local commune, Saint-Gervais (Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), has written an open letter to President Emmanuel Macron in protest, and said that recovering the rowing machine would cost the town more than €1,800.

Mr Peillex said: “The machine is still up there. [I pledge] to send the bill to the British embassy,”

This map of Mont-Blanc shows the Vallot area, just underneath the summit (Photo: Twitter / @DisneyRM_)

In his letter to President Macron, Mr Peillex said: “[I request] a vote, without delay, on regulations that will allow us, in 2020, to severely punish all the “wacky” [climbers] who violate the peace of Mont-Blanc, as a means to restore [this peace].”

Some measures to monitor access to Mont-Blanc are already in place, and these have already prevented “a good number of offences,” Mr Peillex said.

Yet, he called for measures “to go further”, and said that it was still possible for people to “cheat” and get past the controls. He called for more regulation on access to Mont-Blanc, and demanded the right to punish climbers who “contravene” the rules.

The mayor has said that if he does not hear back from President Macron within one month, he will call on the Conseil d’Etat - the highest public administration court in France - to make Mont-Blanc a protected area.

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