Death Leads Mont Blanc To Ban Wingsuits


Chamonix-Mont Blanc, home of Europe’s highest peak, saw the death of nine other adventurers in July, but it was the tenth who participated in a particular aerial activity that the town’s mayor has now banned. An avalanche killed nine climbers last month as concerns mounted that the mountain’s cliffs, and easy access, were attracting too many new adventurers. Then, a Norwegian wingsuit flyer was killed when his parachute didn’t open. Wingsuit fliers are relatively new to the mountain in the numbers the region experienced since spring. A YouTube video that emerged at that time is credited with expanding the region’s popularity among that group. While the ban is effectively in place, it is not expected to be permanent.

Located near the Swiss and Italian border, the mountain’s Brevent cliff offers soaring for paragliders, hiking for climbers and unique facades for BASE jumpers. The sudden influx of wingsuit flyers may have rattled local authorities. Chamonix Mayor Eric Fournier told reporters that “for us, adventure doesn’t mean extreme risk,” and “we have to ask questions of responsibility and respect for other sports.” Officials said that the ban is meant to allow time for officials to create rules for wingsuit pilots intended to meet the concerns of all parties. At Mont Blanc, some adventurers can reportedly manage multiple jumps per day because of the accessibility of some of the mountain’s cliff faces. The wingsuit jumper killed at Mont Blanc last month had jumped from the Brevent cliff, which offers a 7,500 foot-altitude allowing some wingsuit pilots to fly nearly three miles. His name was Jon Inge Hovda. And he had 15 years experience with parachuting, his brother told The Associated Press. Of all the activities pursued on the mountain, wingsuit flyers may see the shortest season due to weather associated with the region’s longer winters.