ARoyal Marines veteran who attempted to climb Mont Blanc with a rowing machine on his back for charity was forced to abandon the device less than 1,500 feet from the summit, prompting a row with the local French mayor.
Matthew Paul Disney attempted to scale Western Europe's highest mountain, which stands at 4,809m (15,780ft) but had to turn back on Saturday morning at 4,362m due to bad weather.
The charity stunt was in aid of raising funds for Rock 2 Recovery and RMA - The Royal Marines Charity.
The fitness enthusiast and global adventurer from Lancashire, left the 26-kilogramme, 2.5-metre long unbalanced Concept2 rowing machine in an emergency hut near the top.
Mr Disney, 36, said he was very disappointed not to have completed the ascent with the machine, saying the the main reason was poor visibility due to bad weather. He did, however, go on to reach the top without it.
Shortly after descending, he said on Facebook he intended to go back up between September 12 and 30 to retrieve the rowing machine, reach the summit and return with the equipment.
However, his unfinished bid prompted a furious response from Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, which encompasses the French side of Europe’s highest Alp.
In an angry Facebook missive to Mr Disney, he wrote: "Can't wait for Brexit that you stay on your island [sic]."
“I have received no apologies and even if it is for charity, it’s an aberration, even more so for a soldier of her Majesty. Shameful”, he later told The Daily Telegraph.
The mayor said he had banned Mr Disney from going back up Mont Blanc to recover the rowing machine and would be sending a bill of €1,800 (£1,640) plus VAT to the British Embassy in Paris for the costs of his men bringing it down.
Mr Disney said the mayor's Brexit comments were "very unprofessional, undiplomatic and could be seen as a mild form of racism".
"I wouldn't litter anywhere let alone a mountain. This is my 13th country’s highest mountain with a rowing machine and 21st without a rowing machine, so I have a lot of love and passion for mountains. I would never dream of littering or making a mockery of a mountain," he told the Telegraph.
Earlier this summer, Mr Disney successfully climbed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon and the distance in-between with the Concept2 Rowing Machine on his back.
Mr Disney posted a photo showing the rower neatly stored inside the hut. "As you can see in the photo, it is not litter, it is not on the top of the mountain. It is not taking up vital space," he said.
He said could "understand the mayor's concern because there are a lot of foolish people".
But he said, he had his climb rubber-stamped by gendarmes after showing them his "experience, skillset, my fitness level and my intention to raise awareness for two military charities, good causes for active and veterans on the brink of suicide."
He questioned the decision by the gendarmes to bar him going back up to get the rowing machine as "they had allowed me to go up with it" beforehand after he showed them his plans.
Mr Peillex responded: “He’s not in his own home and he doesn’t decide.”
This was just one of a string of cases of “disrespect” for the mountain, the mayor said, adding that a German climber forced his dog to the top at night this weekend after being ordered not to by police. The dog came back down alive but with "bloodied paws”.
The outspoken official has written to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, calling for him to pass new a new law next year to “punish all the loonies who break the rules” on the overcrowded peak, often leaving rubbish along the way.
Earlier this year, two Swiss mountaineers landed a small plane less than 400 metres from the top of the famed mountain before heading for the summit with police in pursuit. The two climbers were equipped with ropes and crampons and had already started climbing towards the summit when they were intercepted by police and asked to turn back.
Already threatened by global warming, such people were turning Mont Blanc into an "amusement park" where people expect to see “sea lions juggling with balls and pretty fireworks", the mayor warned.
Local authorities tightened rules on ascending the “normal route” to the summit without booking at a refuge earlier this year saying overcrowding was increasing the risk of mortality.