A challenge to adapt
The impact of global warming is particularly severe on our mountain environment: dramatic glacial melting, a reduction in snowfall, recurrent rock fall, and the destruction of animal and plant habitats. We must face up to these changes that present a huge challenge to adapt.
Diversification and a new kind of seasonality
Since the end of the 90s we have diversified our traditional programme of activities (mountaineering, hiking and skiing) by developing valley-based activities that are less dependent on conditions in the mountains, such as rock climbing, white-water sports, ‘Accrobranche’ rope-ways, and most recently, mountain biking. This diversification allows us to lessen the impact of the worsening conditions in the mountains.
In 2018, following several summer heatwaves and the worsening conditions in the mountains, we completely reviewed our range of mountaineering activities. Previously focused on the ascent of Mont Blanc, which is particularly vulnerable to global warming and excessive visitor numbers, we opted to significantly limit our number of ascents in favour of developing courses with flexible programmes based on learning skills and an immersion in the environment rather than conquest of the summit itself.
We have also progressively modified the seasonality of our activities. Our ‘summer’ mountain activities now start from the end of April and run until the beginning of November. Others are no longer scheduled for mid-summer owing to a lack of satisfactory conditions.
Information sharing and reactivity
All our mountain guides have the means to collect and share real-time information on mountain conditions. Together with data shared by mountain hut wardens and mountain rescue teams, this information allows us to be reactive and adapt our programmes accordingly. As a result, we can alter the size of a group, a programme for the day or put an ascent on hold depending on the conditions recorded that day.
You can read an overview of the evolution of the mountain environment and the work of mountain guides in response to global warming in a booklet called ‘Mountain guides and climate change: a history of adaptation’, which we published in 2021 in partnership with the Syndicat National des Guides de Montagne (France’s mountain guides’ union). This entertaining work is aimed at a general readership, is well illustrated, and is available in French and English online or in hard copy from our offices.