Mont Blanc: Outcry as ex-marine dumps rowing machine near peak

image source, Matthew Disney
image caption, The marine veteran climbed the mountain with a rowing machine to raise money for charity

A Royal Marine veteran from north-west England has been criticised for leaving a rowing machine close to the summit of Mont Blanc.

Matthew Disney attempted to climb Western Europe's highest mountain with the machine on 30 August.

But as he neared the summit, weather conditions were too bad to continue carrying it.

A local mayor complained that it would have to be removed from the peak by helicopter.

However, Mr Disney insists he fully intends to retrieve the device.

His aim had been to climb to the summit of the mountain and then row the 4,810m (15,780ft) height of the mountain to raise money for veterans' causes, he told the BBC.

After reaching a shelter at 4,418m, the weather window he had been given lasted seven to eight hours less than planned, leaving visibility at just 50m.

"I spoke to others and I then turned around. Safety is paramount to me. Even more so for others and the fact that I was carrying the rowing machine. I made a decision that the safety of others' lives was more paramount. I went down to place the rower in the shelter," he said.

Mr Disney, from Blackpool, reached the summit without the machine, he explained, before telling the manager of the shelter about his decision. He argued that the shelter was fairly large and the rowing machine was not obstructive.

image source, Matthew Disney
image caption, Mr Disney says he fully intends to retrieve the machine

In an open letter, the local mayor of Saint-Gervais Les Bains, Jean-Marc Peillex announced he would be sending the bill for the machine's removal to the British Embassy in Paris. The cost for the operation has been reported as €1,800 (£1,642) to remove it by helicopter.

"If the British want to leave Europe, first they have to settle their debts," he was quoted as saying.

'Restore peace to Mont Blanc'

The mayor urged President Emmanuel Macron to take action against people misusing the mountain. In June, two Swiss climbers landed a small plane just east of the summit and then hiked to the top.

He said the president should pass a law immediately to "punish those who break the law, and restore peace to Mont Blanc".

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However, Mr Disney said he already had plans in place to retrieve the machine and had been in contact with the manager of the shelter. He said he had found the appropriate team to collect it but he was confident he had the skills to bring it down himself.

"I've been to 13 countries' highest mountains with the rowing machine. I have appreciation for nature and mountains as a whole. I'm not there to make a mockery of the mountain. I do feel like the mayor has blown this out of proportion. My intentions were to raise awareness of causes for veterans."

It's not the first time that a bizarre object has been left on a mountain:

  • In 2006, a piano was found within 200 metres of the peak of Ben Nevis in Scotland
  • In 2011, a 4x4 vehicle was found near the top of Mount Snowdon in Wales
  • In 2013 the remains of an octopus were found on England's highest peak, Scafell Pike

Mont Blanc attracts nearly 25,000 climbers every year. So far this year at least three climbers have died on the mountain.

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