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Mountain guides refuse to lead hikers up classic routes during heatwave

Woman hiking up Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is one of the peaks affected (Image credit: Getty)

Some of the most popular hiking trails in the Alps are now off-limits to visitors due to unusually high temperatures making the routes unstable. Local authorities have posted warnings on several mountains, and guides are refusing to lead tours on many classic routes for safety.

As The Guardian (opens in new tab) reports, the heatwave currently gripping much of Europe is speeding up glacier melt and thawing permafrost, causing landslips and rockslides in areas that would usually be stable and safe for hiking at this time of year. It's not uncommon for certain routes to be closed later in the summer, but rising temperatures mean they are having to be cordoned off much earlier in the season.

“Usually we see such closures in August, but now they have started at the end of June and are continuing in July," said Pierre Mathey, head of the Swiss Mountain Guide Association.

Even some famous ascents up the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc are affected, so if you're planning an Alpine vacation, make sure you plan carefully and check which routes will be accessible.

Floods and fires

This year's summer heat is also cutting off routes for hikers in the US, and was partly responsible for floods that devastated Yellowstone National Park back in June. Sudden snowmelt combined with unusually heavy rains led to rivers in the park bursting their banks, with floodwater washing away bridges, destroying chunks of road, and overwhelming waste water systems.

Meanwhile, tinder-dry forests have been hit by wildfires, including the Washburn Fire at Yosemite (opens in new tab) that threatened the park's ancient giant sequoia trees. 

The heat is taking individual hikers by surprise as well, and calls to mountain rescue services have increased sharply (opens in new tab) over recent years, partly due to people setting out unprepared to extreme weather. Many walkers have died in this year's heatwave, and the National Park Service has issued a warning urging visitors to take the temperatures seriously.

"All hikers should ensure they are drinking plenty of fluids, eating snacks, traveling in the early morning hours, resting during the heat of the day, and dressing appropriately for the weather," the service said in a statement (opens in new tab) following the death of a visitor in Canyonlands National Park last month.

Cat Ellis
Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).