Mont Blanc sits on the cross roads of Europe and it’s exceptional value and symbolism is in evidence to all. It’s rare qualities, its situation at the heart of Europe, and its position as Europe’s highest mountain give Mont Blanc a universal recognition. But, although Mont Blanc is the third most visited natural wonder on the world (behind the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls) it is the only one of the grand massifs of the seven continents which doesn?t benefit from UNESCO status. But why and what are these criteria?
The UNESCO convention for world heritage adopted in 1972 allowed for the designation of sites with an exceptional universal value: such as the pyramids in Egypt, the Galapagos Islands or Kilimanjaro. There are now 730 sites of which 144 are natural and 23 mixed (natural and cultural) in 125 different countries. 57 of these sites are mountains, or mountain ranges but Mont Blanc doesn?t feature.
Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe with an altitude of 4807m. With new technologies the altitude of Mont Blanc can be accurately measured and its oscillations measured (between 4807m and 4811m). This constant fluctuation is due to the level of snow which accumulates on the rock summit (which is estimated to be 4780m) which is in turn dependent on precipitation and temperature. It is foreseeable that with global warming there will be an augmentation in precipitation and this will favor an elevation of Mont Blanc. The rise of the massif continues today at a rate of 1.5mm a year but is in competition with the forces of erosion.
Due to the fascination with which Mont Blanc captures the spirit and the imagination the massif has played a leading role in the birth and evolution of geology. Literature, natural history and the history of science converge when one talks about the rock structures of the massif. This interest in Mont Blanc started with Saussare in the 1700s who studied Mont Blanc as the key to understanding the formation of the Alps and all mountain chains. So the massif du Mont Blanc was and continues to be an object of scientific interest of the premier order, which has permitted the advancement of our knowledge of the Alps. A heritage which must be developed and conserved for the future.