Obsolete Facilities, Alps

Mountain Wilderness has as its purpose, to unite mountaineers and mountain lovers throughout the world to protect mountain environments and to defend last mountain wilderness areas

Obsolete facilities are disused artificial equipment abandoned in natural mountain areas. These lengths of barbed wire, abandoned ski lifts or various cables are a real plague for wilderness, environment and outdoor enthusiasts in mountains. Until recently, there was no obligation to remove these old structures, even though they represented a great danger to humans and wildlife.

Paragliders have recently been killed after hitting cables. Birds, including vultures, eagles and owls are regularly killed or injured by cables and other facilities – 835 carcasses were found between 2000 and 2004 in one study. Mammals, and amphibians are also trapped in these items and either injured or killed, particularly in winter when the structures are hidden by snow. This project, will continue the work of Mountain Wilderness, to raise awareness of the issue with local authorities, outdoor enthusiasts and online, and carry out 4 dismantling operations in Mercantour National Park, Vanoise National Park, Mont Cenis Massif and Cerces Massif, where barbed wires and other scrap remains from WW2. In total, it is anticipated that over 100 people will be involved in clearing over 260 ha of 9 tonnes of metal.

The Update

Final Update:
This project is now complete and saw Mountain Wilderness undertake a number of vital operations to remove abandoned, disused, artificial equipment from the natural mountain environment in the Alps and Pyrénées. During the summer of 2019 over 250 volunteers removed over 30 tonnes of obsolete installations on six mountain sites: Cervières (Hautes-Alpes); Canigò (Pyrénées); National Park la Vanoise; Mercantour National Park; Les Gorges du Verdon; and Refuge de la Combe (Haute-Savoie). Dismantling operations included the removal of barbed wire, abandoned military facilities, abandoned agricultural installations, military shell splinters, disused pylons, as well as waste clearance from a popular hiking path.

An operation in more detail:
Mountain Wilderness’s 55th clean-up operation, since it started these actions in 2002, involved a clean-up along a popular hiking path, Blanc-Martel in Les Gorges du Verdon. Each year this area is visited by more than one million people: climbers, hikers and bikers, etc… Unfortunately, among the beautiful clear blue water and limestone landscape, lies a lot of waste on the bottom of the Gorge. Not only pieces of plastic left behind by tourists or washed up ashore by high waters, but also large items such as car tyres, pipes and iron bars remaining from previous construction work.

The Verdon Park – within the frame of the program of the region South Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur “Zero plastic waste in the Mediterranean area” – called on Mountain Wilderness to clean the waste in the steep zones. The Mountain Wilderness team, with the help of 30 local volunteers, removed over 3.7 tonnes of waste, including a car, an iron barrel, tyres, camping gear, a drink can dating back to 1985!, and an abandoned motor which weighed about 130kg and had to be manually removed and carried by 6 people. See the video here

Mountain Wilderness are already planning a return to Les Gorges du Verdon to help with the removal of further technically difficult obsolete items, including an aircraft wreck on a cliff!

Image credit: Steven Wassenaar