Alpinists will be relieved to hear some improbable news from the highest point in France.

Authorities have installed two toilets near the summit of Mont Blanc, to counter what Saint-Gervais’s mayor Jean-Marc Peillix describes as the yellow and brown spots that blight the summit of the 4,808m mountain.

The two conveniences have been airlifted to a point at 4,260m, making them Europe’s highest WCs. At peak times, a helicopter will be used daily to empty them.

Last year the mayor called for a permit system for the mountain, which is struggling to cope with 30,000 climbers each year. Italian authorities countered by saying that the estimate of 30,000 visitors to the summit was a joke, as was the idea of a permit system.

The Italians said there were actually fewer people coming to the Alps. Guido Azzalea, of the Italian Alpine Guides Association, said:  “Mountains are a symbol of liberty. You can't take bookings for them like a hotel. If people want to spend the night on a glacier or climb mountain paths made over the centuries, that is up to them.”

And now, presumably, if people want to spend a penny on the mountain, they can do so in a bit more comfort.