If you ever decide to join the 20,000 or so people who take a crack at the summit of Mont Blanc every year, there's a very good chance that you'll pass through territory managed by the man pictured above: Jean Marc Peillex, the mayor of the French town of Saint Gervais.
Peillex spends a lot of time thinking about the conditions under which people should (and shouldn't) access the high mountains. And he has some strong opinions, many of which aren't shared by his counterpart in Chamonix, just next door.
Peillex believes that nature should remain (mostly) natural, and that it's wrong to build gift shops and four-star hotels and "selfie spots" in the middle of the fragile alpine landscape. He also thinks it's dangerous to allow inexperienced tourists to head out on their own into the wilds of the high Alps: He told me that more than 100 people die on Mont Blanc every year.
I heard a lot from Peillex during the half a day I spent in the mountains with him last week. (All of this is research for the book.) Next, I'm heading to Chamonix to interview the mayor there, Eric Fournier, who is generally much more in favor of making the high mountains accessible to all. There aren't any easy answers here; I find it fascinating.