France restricts access to Mont Blanc amid safety fears

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Mont Blanc, with 11 peaks above 4,000m, is western Europe's highest mountain range

France has issued a decree restricting access to the summit of the country's highest mountain, Mont Blanc.

As a result of overcrowding and safety risks, climbers will not be allowed on the peak's popular "Royal Route" for the next eight days, officials said.

But mountaineers who have already booked accommodation on the route will be permitted to climb.

Concerns have been raised recently over the numbers of tourists visiting Mont Blanc in the summer.

The restrictions, introduced on Saturday, mean that only climbers who can prove that they already have a booking at the high-altitude shelter known as the Gouter will be allowed to set out for the top of Mont Blanc via the easiest and most frequented route.

Authorities for the Haute-Savoie region said the shelter's overnight capacity of 120 people was frequently being exceeded, which presented "safety and public order" risks.

"Access to the summit of Mont Blanc via this route... is only permitted to those who have a reservation at the Gouter refuge," an official statement reads.

The temporary restrictions are in place to ensure that climbers have adequate accommodation for an overnight stay, it adds.

Why are there concerns?

Mont Blanc, with 11 peaks reaching more than 4,000m above sea level, is western Europe's highest mountain range - and a challenging area for climbers.

Recently, concerns have been raised over the numbers of tourists visiting Mont Blanc in the summer and the risks it poses to those who lack experience, as well as the pollution it causes.

Last year, 15 people died on approaches to the summit, and two people have already been killed in falls this year.

The Mont Blanc massif is extremely popular with walkers and climbers but is Europe's deadliest mountain range, claiming some 50 lives each year.

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