| ||The Alps, which are the largest mountain range in Europe, began forming about 65 million years ago. At 15,765 feet (4,807 m), Mont Blanc is their highest peak. Known in the 16th century as the Montagne Maudite (cursed mountain), it was seen by the inhabitants of the Chamonix Valley as a chaotic mound of rocks and glaciers until 1786, when the climbers Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard became the first to reach its summit. Many more ascents followed. Between 1787 and 1860, 115 people reached the summit. Then the scientific motivation of the Enlightenment gave way to the quest for physical achievement, then in more recent times to tourism. The summit receives up to 10,000 visitors a year. While it remains the major local economic resource, the site is fragile and is now deteriorating. When tourism becomes a major source of revenue for a region, it leads to increasing artificialization. For example, 80 percent of ski resorts in the Alps are now equipped with snow cannons, but this widespread use damages landscapes and ecosystems: 4,000 m3 of fresh water, stored in artificial reservoirs, are needed to produce 1 hectare of snow.
Visit the YAB Gallery for books and signed prints