Mountain of a Problem


Italian and French authorities are embroiled in a border dispute after French alpine guides closed off access to a glacier on the Italian side of Mount Blanc.

Guides dispatched by the mayor of Chamonix, Eric Fournier, locked the gate to the gigantic glacier. He justified the move by saying that the glacier was in French territory and had been closed off for security reasons.

However, just 50 miles across the border in the Italian town of Courmayeur, the decision has provoked outrage. “The glacier is in Italy and the French have no rights up there,” the mayor of Courmayeur, Fabrizia Derriard, said.

Italy bases its borders on a Nato mapping convention dating back to 1860, which places the Franco-Italian border on the watershed a few hundred feet above the Refugio Torino, in the middle of the glacier. Many Italians would like to see official maps state that the summit of Europe’s highest mountain is shared between the two countries.

Derriard has promised legal consequences and the Italian authorities have already compiled a report on the incident. The Italian Institute of Military Geography will be conducting new surveys in the coming days, although the border dispute on the roof of Europe looks set to rumble on.

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