Fylde coast fund-raiser in a 'wacko' storm over Mont Blanc challenge

A Blackpool fund-raiser has found himself at the centre of an international storm after his latest challenge on France's highest mountain.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 4:36 pm
Matthew Disney climbing Mont Blanc carrying his rowing machine

Matthew Disney, who is in the process of completing a series of seven superhuman challenges to support two forces charities, has been labelled a "wacko" by an angry mayor near Mont Blanc.

Matthew, 36, was in Chamonix in the French Alps at the weekend to climb the 4,810m high Mont Blanc - a tough climb in itself but made even harder by him carrying his awkward, 26kg rowing machine with him - and then rowing the distance of the climb at the top on the machine.

But former Royal Marine Commando Matt and his team of four were caught in a sudden white-out just 392m short of the summit and he made the decision to abandon the attempt.

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Former Royal Marine Commando Matthew Disney climbing on Mont Blanc

Matthew, from Staining, said he carried the machine down to an emergency refuge, the Vallot Hut, at 4,362m and stowed it in a corner before returning to climb to the summit.

He said he was going to retrieve the machine but was told by authorities that he was not allowed to do so and has been told he must pay a 1,800 euro "fine" for littering the mountain.

The Mayor of Saint-Gervais, Jean-Marc Peillex, who has long warned about safety and overcrowding on the mountain, published an open letter about Matt's fund-raising attempt claiming he had disrespected the mountain and calling on President Macron to protect it against "wackos".

In the letter he said of Matt Disney, “with a name like that, you’d think he thought he was at an amusement park”.

Spot the litter? Matthew Disney's rowing machine stored in the mountain refuge under a table

But Matthew today said the ascent was carefully planned and in no way did he disrespect or litter the mountain.

He said: "I just can't believe the reaction I have got. My phone has not stopped ringing. I have had newspapers and TV people calling.

"For me the paramount thing was safety, for myself and those with me. We had checked the weather forecast and had a window until about 3pm before the weather was due to come in. We had got to 4,418 m at 8.19am when the clouds just came down and there was a white-out.

"I had to make the difficult decision to try to complete the challenge or to put people's lives at the forefront. That is what I did. I carried the rower down to the refuge and put it in a corner under a table away from the sleeping area. This is a big hut. In 2018 20 people stayed there, so you can see its a big place with plenty of room.

"The Mayor said I had abandoned it because I ran out of strength. That was not true. I actually climbed to the summit after putting it in the hut.

"It was not littering. The machine costs around £800 so I was not likely to just leave it. I love mountains. I have climbed 209 of Europe's big mountains and carried the rower up 13. I am the sort of guy who will carry rubbish for miles to put it in a bin."

He said the climb was no "stunt" as has been alleged in France but a genuine attempt to raise money and awareness for two charities which care for services veterans - the Royal Marines Charity and mental health charity Rock 2 Recovery.

He said: "I was not some random person doing a random stunt. Unfortunately some people in France have jumped on it to make a point. There has been all sorts of talk, even about Brexit!

"I had spoken to mountain rescue people, the PGHM, before the climb and told them exactly what I was going to be doing. They looked at the rower and eventually said it was OK. They even telephoned someone about it right in front of me. But now their commandant has said it was not allowed and I have been told to pay the fine.

"The problem I have is that under the regulations you have to have accommodation at the hut booked before you can go on the mountain and now it is all booked up for the next week, so I can't retrieve the rower."

Matt has successfully climbed the three peaks carrying the rower, Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike and in another challenge he has climbed the height of Everest on a a Stairmaster climbing machine at Bloomfield Road on Valentine's Day this year.

He chose that day in memory of fellow Marine Darren “Daz” Smith, who was killed on that date by a Taliban bullet in 2009 while they were serving in Afghanistan.

To support Matthew’s efforts visit justgiving. com/crowdfunding/ disneyfitnesschallenges or visit his Facebook page at Facebook. com/LordDisneyRM