High altitude party!

1:09 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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Climbers normally head to the summit of Mont Blanc for the awesome views. Guess what these folks are heading up there for? A recent expedition to the summit carried a jacuzzi kit with them to party it up on the top of the Mont Blanc: probably one of the highest bath tub parties or you can call it high altitude craziness.

What do you guys think?

9:36 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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I think they burned a hell of a lot of gas to melt the snow and get it warm enough to actually sit in.

10:03 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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full story and photos: http://www.jaccuzzi.ch/index_e.html

12:58 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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A little disrespectful of the mountain in my humble opinion.

1:29 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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Personally, I think it's pretty ridiculous and wasteful.

They say on http://www.jaccuzzi.ch/index_e.html:

Remark: We realize that our Event, could disturb certain people, especially those who climbed Mont-Blanc that day and were hoping to be alone on a virgin summit. We apologise sincerely. Regarding the pollution level, note that a jaccuzzi for 20 people heated from snow, is equivalent in fuel consumption to less than 10 minutes helicopter flight with 4 people. In our opinion there will certainly be far less often 20 peole ready to carry 45+ lb to the summit of Mont-Blanc (and back) than helicopers ready to take some tourists for a short ride over this fabulous mountain.

Can you imagine arriving at the summit that day to find this group?

4:37 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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There is nothing more I love than to stumble upon a bunch of half naked women and drunken french men while hiking.

5:17 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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IMO...Just another "Because we can" type adventure.

7:06 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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I agree, the activity was out of place, and thus ruined the serenity of the mountain for other users.
Just because you can do something, or even have the right to do something, doesn't make it the smart or wise thing to do.

Just speaking from my own experience, HaHa.

8:36 p.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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Alicia, I'm right there with you... Coming from Maine, I have seen enough half neked french canadian men for a lifetime... I believe I'll have nightmares tonight.

1:56 a.m. on January 9, 2009 (EST)
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I can't help but think what a cesspool that water must have been.

Not to mention draining all that water onto the snow at the top most likely created some dangerously icy conditions on the summit.

8:34 p.m. on January 10, 2009 (EST)
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I personally go to the backcountry to get away from all the craziness of everyday life. I'll be damn if I am going to take city life with me. Just my opinion.

1:47 p.m. on January 12, 2009 (EST)
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I agree with all. Just seems stupid. It's not impressive, just stupid.

8:37 a.m. on January 13, 2009 (EST)
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My wife and I once carried our 100 lb. Klepper folding kayak up to Star Lake, a tiny and very shallow alpine tarn near Madison Hut in the White Mountains. We assembled it (20 min), paddled across and back (10 min tops) then took it apart, and packed it up (30 min), and headed back down the mountain. Was that OK?

I guess my point is that you have to have a sense of humor about these things. I hear that Mt. Blanc is pretty well overrun anyway -- it's not backcountry, at least over most of the late summer period. My French friend Christophe basically says you don't want to go there. Mt Blanc would probably be better off or a nicer experience without jacuzzis OR helicopters OR hundreds of people going up every time the sun shines. But as long as the helicopters and other people are there, why not a jacuzzi?

9:05 a.m. on January 13, 2009 (EST)
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I think we all have a certain sense of humor. BUT....Just because you "Can" do something, doesn't mean you "should" do it, or that it's OK to do it. I experience a lot of schoolyard politics in my job, and I don't mean by the school kids either. I hear: "Well, we aren't the only ones...", and "They did it too..." comments all the time - FROM ADULTS WHO KNOW BETTER! If someone participates in an activity such as this, they are simply making a bad tourist situation worse. I say to them, "If you can't be part of a solution, at least don't become part of the problem."

I see nothing wrong with you paddling a remote pond with your wife, as long as you followed preexisting trails getting there, changed nothing in the ecosystem, or caused any discomfort or inconvenience to others. I'm also pretty sure you weren't half (all) naked, drinking alcohol and partying and hollering while on the water either. Please tell me I'm right! (See, there's that sense of humor I referred to earlier. ;-)

5:47 p.m. on January 13, 2009 (EST)
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I agree with f klock, part of growing up and being mature is developing the ability to discern the difference between fun and folly. Fun is okay, folly is childish and a detriment to society. I think it's fairly easy to have fun with friends without being a PITA.

In all fairness I must admit that my life has not been folly free! But we learn and grow, hopefully.

10:10 a.m. on January 14, 2009 (EST)
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Actually we thought were going to make a surprise visit to Augustfest at Madison, an annual event which does involve a certain amount of drinking and hollering but not (necessarily) nudity. But somehow we got the wrong weekend, so our feat went unnoticed (and uninebriated).

I find it a bit confusing that the hot tub event meets with so much approbation here, but when I tried to start a thread more or less objecting to wakeboarding as advocated by one of our own number I got nary a peep in response. I should think that motor-intensive recreation would be far more objectionable to a group of backcountry enthusiasts than a one-time stunt. At least the hot tubbers actually carried everything up (and down -- think Everest south col) the mountain.

I sent the link to my French friend to see if I could get a rise out of him. His response:

"I knew about it...one more good reason not to go to the top of the Mont Blanc..."

i.e. he already considers the mountain severely compromised.

4:09 p.m. on January 14, 2009 (EST)
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I don't know what wakeboarding is, but what does a water sport have to do with the top of mountains?

And I doubt they carried down the water. And like someone else said, it would of been dirty water afterward, which probably would of froze into something dangerous to others.

7:20 p.m. on January 14, 2009 (EST)
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Hi BigRed,

I think the reason this has drawn so much criticism is due to the fact that most serious hikers and climbers feel that the wilderness is special and deserves our respect and protection.

Putting a hot tub on a mountain is disrespectful, disruptive,and totally out of place. I understand this particular mountain may well see a lot of this type of behavior, and maybe they meant no harm, that still does not make it okay in the minds of a lot of people.
Also as pointed out already, IF they left a large patch of ice in their wake, (pun) that would be very inconsiderate and possibly dangerous. Hopefully they didn't.


The wake boarding by contrast was not out of place as long as it was done in an area that allows, and is appropriate for that type of activity.

Anyway that's how I see it.

4:27 a.m. on January 15, 2009 (EST)
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Maybe what' missing here is the context. What do the locals think about this? I've only spent a few days in Chamonix, but I know it has long been a hotspot -- maybe THE hotspot -- for flamboyant mountain behavior. I totally agree that doing this on, say, Mount Rainier or even any other Alpine summit is totally disrespectful/unacceptable, but this is Mont Blanc!

When I first came to Norway in 1984, I was carrying my American wilderness attitude in my hip pocket (even though I planned to use the huts). My basic attitude was to get as far away from crowds as possible, and when I learned that the huts in Jotunheimen would be swamped during the week before Easter, I immediately began looking at maps trying to find some out-of-the-way place to go. But I got pinned down by bad weather at a place called Spiterstulen in the heart of Jotunheimen, and ended up spending the whole week there (even after the weather improved), sleeping on a mattress on the cafeteria floor and making friends with hundreds of other vagabonds, going on big group tours on the glaciers and mountains, befriending the guides, eventually working in the cafeteria in exchange for room and board, and finally joining in the Easter Sunday festivities. Best week of the six weeks I spent in Norway that year, and it required leaving my go-it-alone attitude at the door.

We North Americans are blessed with access to lots of true wilderness and we have formulated a set of attitudes that are appropriate to that context (and probably also influenced by our recent stubbornly independent pioneer history). But it ain't necessarily so in the rest of the world, and before we go passing judgement on what other people do in the mountains, we ought to try to understand the context/history.

To quote a favorite song:
"You can travel anywhere in any land
But you got to live there to understand
Instead of just passing through
Drink the local beer"

Or another one:
"But you GOTTA know the territory!"

Regarding the water problem, we have no data on this, for all we know they (respectfully) siphoned it off into a crevasse. Their comments about helicopters lead me to believe that actually did think about impacts and I'm willing to guess they cleaned up thoroughly. A single beer bottle left on top would be a total insult (but that's probably been done too). I seriously doubt anyone arrives at the top of Mont Blanc without crampons on their feet and an ice axe in hand, so I don't think the safety aspect is much of an issue.

And I will freely admit to having a very low tolerance to motor-powered sports. How many people on this forum think that recreational snowmobiling on public lands (state and national parks and forests, including Yellowstone) is OK, even though it is perfectly legal. Ditto speedboating/jetskiing etc on public bodies of water. These noisy high-speed activities take a lot of space and tend to exclude people who prefer quiet human-powered activities, and they aren't doing the atmosphere any favors either. To me they are cumulatively a travesty many orders of magnitude greater than the Mont Blanc stunt.

4:44 a.m. on January 15, 2009 (EST)
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Oh, and here's an article on the state of Mont Blanc:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/article4621225.ece

In this context, the hut tub can be seen as a kind of ironic performance art commentary on what people are doing to this mountain.

8:56 a.m. on January 15, 2009 (EST)
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Hi BigRed,

I have to say that the article you linked to gives great evidence as to why these activities should be halted as opposed to excusing the behavior just because the area is already spoiled or because the local populace is "okay" with it.

I will admit that I do not always understand the mindset of people who live in other areas of the world that I have not lived in, you make a valid point.
This is something that I have learned mostly by having a few friends who are from other places and now reside in the US. I do think I am open minded in this regard.I have friends from the UK and from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Romania, and Canada. We often have differing opinions but we do listen to each other, and we learn.

However, conservation is a universal concern. I think most conservation minded people would be disturbed by the tub on Mont Blanc, I am just offering my opinion and yes, maybe it is influenced by my American attitude.
I do not like motorized conveyances in wild places either, unless it is necessary to a peoples way of life there. I think destruction of wild places for recreational purposes is needless and does great harm.
I think we are in agreement there.

5:28 a.m. on January 16, 2009 (EST)
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Hi Trouthunter

Your point is also well taken -- I totally agree that Mont Blanc would be much better off, not say more appealing, without hot tubs, hordes of people leaving their wastes on the mountain, or helicopters flying overhead. What's needed, of course, is some sensible regulation of the numbers of people and the ways they use the mountain, as is done in many areas in the US (but see the "Who owns the wilderness?" thread). But I still think it's -- odd -- to single out a one-time and rather amusing stunt against a background of 30,000 people a year p**sing and s**tting all over the mountain. What you want to get back to is a mountain where it WOULD be a disrespectful travesty to take a hot tub to the top, but banning or just disapproving of hot tubs isn't going to get you there. Or you can accept it as it is, one mountain overrun by tens of thousands of people, helicopters, and one hut tub, surrounded by hundreds of other peaks of equal or greater beauty (if not size) with far less traffic.

These kinds of problems are faced by "highest" mountains all over the world. Everest, Denali, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro all have big people problems. Even if these mountains and the methods of dealing with crowding on them are quite different, they are all bottom line rather unappealing destinations for the wilderness-minded. One simple solution, essentially advocated by my friend Christophe: let the yahoos have their fun, and go some place else, maybe just the next peak over. And let yourself laugh a little when they do something particularly silly.

Mount Washington, in my old stomping grounds of NH, comes to mind. Toll road up one side, a cog railway that burns -- get this-- 1.5 tons of coal to get 60 people at a time to top and blows a really loud train whistle and a lot of black smoke as it crawls up the mountain and is (I think) a national technological monument or some such, museum and BIG cafeteria right on the summit, utter zoo on any reasonably nice summer day. "They" OWN it, and they're actually having fun and appreciating the mountains in their own way -- like the folks in motorboats and snowmobiles, but here all the activity is concentrated in one desecrated place. Follow the ridge north to Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and you'll mostly meet like-minded people who are out to enjoy the mountains quietly. Definitely no hot tub (but one day in August many years ago you might have seen a kayak in Star Lake as you came down towards Madison col :-). Then there's Mt. Whiteface in the Adirondacks, Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina, Yellowstone, all of Yosemite Valley, even Rainier is supposed to be pretty zooey from what I hear... So we actually do have parallels in North America where we have pretty much let a few very beautiful places get overrun, while preserving many more equally beautiful places. In a world where not everybody values wilderness in the same way that I/you/we do, or for that matter is fit or skilled enough for whatever reason to get outdoors in the ways that we think appropriate, this is maybe as good a solution as any.

So probably I haven't persuaded anybody of anything, but having given the matter a lot of thought, I think the hot tub stunt is funny as hell, in part because it can be taken as an ironic commentary on the state of the mountain, and that it's really rather inoffensive at least in comparison to the other burdens Mont Blanc bears.

9:47 a.m. on January 16, 2009 (EST)
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This has been an interesting discussion. Thanks for all the civil comments.

I still think the stunt was silly and, in my opinion, in poor taste, but BigRed has given the location context and a lot to think about concerning the broader issue.

I thought it was interesting that the hot tub organizers basically said, but look, we're not as bad as all the helicopters buzzing around, which apparently is a valid comment for Mont Blanc. My own reaction was, but I probably wouldn't have used a helicopter either.

Mt. Washington with the cog railway and auto road is a good comparison. I've generally relegated my Mt. Washington travels to the non-summer months, just to keep away from the crowds.

Which reminds me of the first time I went up Mt. Washington, on a beautiful March day years ago. I was sitting at the top near the observatory, waiting for my friends and enjoying a relatively wind-free, blue sky day, when a man outfitted in a down expedition suit who looked like he was headed for Everest, appeared and started chatting with me. He asked how I'd come up and so on and congratulated me, which seemed odd, but I returned the well wishes.

"Oh, no," he said rather surprised. "I didn't hike up.” Then he turned and headed into the observatory, which is generally off-limits. Apparently, he'd come up the road on a cat, or some such snow conveyance, for a special winter trip to the observatory. For some reason, I always thought that exchange was funny.

So, long story short, there will always be people on top of mountains doing things their own way, in their own style.

7:43 p.m. on January 16, 2009 (EST)
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BigRed, thanks for the exchange of viewpoints and ideas. This is for me much better and more educational than watching re-runs on television. It is good we can talk.
I do know a thing or two about Mt. Mitchell but the other areas I have not visited.


Alicia, I think that sometimes I have felt a bit like those people who did not come up the mountain the hard way were cheating. (Just being honest)
Some of them might think I am a transient with mental problems wandering through the woods.
You are right, there will always be good people trying to enrich their lives in different ways.

12:21 p.m. on January 17, 2009 (EST)
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I used to live right across a dirt road from a "world class swimming hole" -- a big deep green pool with a high jump, a gorge with water tumbling over and around big boulders, up at the top a little waterfall you could hide behind, and the coolest natural jacuzzi I have seen anywhere in the world. Since we lived there, we felt a little like it was "ours".

But on hot summer days the road became a zoo, with people parking everywhere, going up and down the trails, lots of people in the water, and of course a certain amount of drinking and smoking on the sunny rocks by the big pool. That last means that some people would leave bottles and cigarette butts on the rocks, which we regularly cleaned up, with at first a lot of grumbling and talk about somehow excluding people from the place. There were other hassles, too, and my wife and I sometimes got sick of the whole scene and angry about the way people abused the privilege.

But sometimes I'd head down there on a hot day to cool off, and I'd see some first-timers picking their way up the gorge with looks of open wonder on their faces, and maybe some other folks relaxing on the rocks over a beer, not doing anything obnoxious, and I'd realize that 90% of the people using the place were really having a good time and not causing any problems (in the gorge anyway, the big problem was always he parking situation), and to somehow take it away from these people because the other 10% were leaving bottles and butts around would be unfair, sad, and elitist.

We got an opportunity to put our money where our mouths were -- when the private property that gives access to the gorge came up for sale, we were one of 80 local families that put up at least $500 each to buy and hold the property until the local land trust could pick it up, with the goal of keeping it open to the public. I was later on the management committee for the property and did some trail/maintenance work etc.

So what's the point? I guess it's that just because hordes of people use a place and somewhat despoil it, it's not necessarily all bad. Many of those users are getting the same kinds of rewards that we get from our more intensive backcountry activities, and an opportunity to explore, learn and care about these places. So it's a trade-off, but as long as the place doesn't get too run down maybe "worth it" in some sort of nature-karma sense. This applies not only to my local swimming hole, but Mt. Washington, the S. rim of the Grand Canyon, the campsites on the way up Mt. Whitney, and so on ad infinitum, maybe up to and including Mt. Blanc.

3:57 p.m. on January 17, 2009 (EST)
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I would agree with that BigRed, I know of a similar place that I visit only during winter due to the crowds in warmer months. Close to the parking area of the river gorge you will inevitably find beer cans, plastic bags, socks, ect.
But if you work your way up the gorge a little farther there are some beautiful and unspoiled spots.
This land was held by Bowater Corporation until purchased recently by The Chickamauga Gorge Conservancy.
The Conservancy has been erecting educational signboards at the parking area covering topics like LNT, avoiding hypothermia, poisonous plants & snakes, and trail etiquette.

Many years ago I used to pass an area like this on the way to work, one day I stopped to see what this area was for, I read all the sign boards, went for a short walk down a trail, and was immediately hooked.
I had been camping many times before in the woods by my house.
But this was way different!
There were waterfalls with plunge pools, and the one closest to the parking area was used in the summer as a lounging pool, a place to cool off.

8:41 a.m. on January 21, 2009 (EST)
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except for draining the water and creating unsafe conditions for other climbers, as foolish and irresponsible as it is "Life is short..you only live once!!!" Those people most likely would not trade that experience for all the money in the world. Do what makes you happy! Party on crazies! DON'T DO IT AGAIN!!!

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