Mountaineers have been stunned by the number of ill-prepared day-trippers trying to climb some of the highest Alpine peaks in shorts and sneakers.
There has been a spate of incidents in which experienced climbers have come across tourists wearing jeans and sweatshirts trudging through the snow at altitudes of up to 13,000 feet (4000 metres).
Alpine guides are warning that many people have no idea of the challenges they face in the Alps and the Dolomites and are risking their lives.
Seven people have died on the Italian side of the Matterhorn so far this summer, with experts saying at least four of those were caused by poor preparation and inadequate equipment.
The issue came to a head this week on the slopes of the Breithorn, a peak that lies on the border between Switzerland and Italy.
A group of mountaineers, properly equipped with boots, crampons, harnesses and snow goggles, were dumbfounded when they came across a couple in casual dress.
“I have never before encountered people at 4,000m wearing sneakers and jeans… and being absolutely ignorant of the risks they were running,” Victor Vicquery, wrote on Facebook.
He said he tried to dissuade them but they kept climbing. Italy’s National Alpine Rescue Corps warned that the number of clueless tourists stumbling around the high peaks was on the increase.
“Some people approach the high peaks as though they are going for a city-centre stroll, wearing gym shoes, jeans and sweatshirts. The mountain is an extraordinary place but it is not a city park or a sandy beach. We have to respect it,” the alpine association said.
It is not just a problem amid the wind-swept ridges of the Alps. Italy’s north west coastal region of Liguria has also seen tourists, often wearing flip flops and swimming costumes, coming to grief along the paths that link the five picturesque villages known as the Cinque Terre.
In the past few weeks the Italian Alpine Club has come to the aid of a German family who tried to negotiate a rocky path with a child in a pushchair and an elderly Italian man who attempted a cliff-top trail with a leg in plaster. “There are people who think they can go off for a two-hour hike with just a small bottle of water, convinced that they will find a spring to drink from. But there are no springs here – there’s just us,” said a spokesman for the alpine club.
Last week Jean-Marc Peillex, a French mayor whose territory includes Mont Blanc’s 15,780ft (4809m) peak, said the summer influx of “ill-prepared thrill-seekers” and “dangerous buffoons” should be banned.
A total of 15 climbers have died on Mont Blanc so far this summer and the same number died last year.