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Climate change Should the Matterhorn be closed to tourists?

The Matterhorn

Switzerland's most iconic mountain has already claimed six lives this year.


Some experienced mountain guides say Switzerland’s most iconic mountain, the Matterhorn, should be closed to climbers for safety reasons, but other experts disagree, reports the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.

This comes after a guide and his guest plunged to their deaths on the mountain on July 24, following a rock fall. Because of the high risk of rock falls at the site of the accident, the rescuers were also exposed to danger when they recovered the victims, the paper reports. And in early June, a British man died on the mountain, also because of falling rock.

The Matterhorn, which rises to over 4,000 metres (13,120 feet) in canton Valais, has already claimed six lives this year.

"The mountain is now too unstable and therefore too dangerous to be used as a tourist attraction, where dozens of people climb every day," the paper quotes one unnamed mountain guide as saying.

The cause of the rock falls is not certain but Hans-Rudolf Keusen, geologist and expert on natural hazards at the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) says rising temperatures are "very probably" a factor. "Permafrost is thawing at ever higher altitudes,” he told the SonntagsZeitung.

Keusen thinks conditions are becoming too dangerous in summer above 2,500 metres. But he opposes closing the Matterhorn, appealing instead to the personal responsibility of mountain climbers.

Canton Valais natural hazards chief Raphaël Mayoraz also thinks it would be “ridiculous” to close off the high mountains because after all, alpinism is a "private activity". "The communities should be content with informing the mountain climbers about risks as a preventive measure," he told the newspaper.

Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that there were two people with the guide that died on July 24.

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