The two mountain huts on Mont Blanc's normal route, the Tête Rousse and the Goûter refuges, will reopen this Saturday following two weeks of closure due to heavy rockfall exacerbated by the summer heatwave. St Gervais mountain guides have cleared the Goûter Couloir - known for its frequent rockfall and instability - of some suspect blocks, although a high risk of danger remains.
"The end of the heat wave and some precipitation marked a significant change in the conditions on the Mont Blanc massif, characterised by greater mountain stability," Jean-Marc Peillex, the mayor of St Gervais and initiator of the hut closures, said in a press release. "This situation allows for the reopening of the Tête Rousse and Goûter refuges from Saturday 20th August, with the exception of the Tête Rousse base camp."
On 18 June, scientists measured a record high temperature of 10.4°C at Col Major (4,750m) near the summit of Mont Blanc (4,807m). In July, local guides stopped working on the route and authorities strongly encouraged climbers to seek alternative objectives as high temperatures increased instability in the couloir.
In a statement, Mr Peillex said that safety warnings and withdrawals from the route had done little to discourage climbers, claiming that around 50 "pseudo-alpinists" had since attempted the route in what the mayor called "a game of Russian roulette." In response, he closed the two huts in a further attempt to deter climbers.
While the normal route was not "banned", the closure of the huts was a de facto closure given the safety quota-driven requirement for climbers to pre-book accommodation if not ascending the mountain in a day.
"This does not mean that there is no longer any risk, since the mountain is a natural environment that acts only under its own rules, with no possibility of human control," Mr Peillex said. "In the event that the climatic situation deteriorates again, or in the event of new episodes of major rock falls, I would then be obliged to immediately issue an order to close the huts."
Reiterating the risks, Mr Peillex added that the Goûter route remains "a mountaineering route", rather than "a star attraction of a theme park where falling rocks are made of polystyrene."