All projects nominated for the UIAA Mountain Protection Award receive close support and promotion from the UIAA during their lifecycle. For the annual winner of the Award, there is the added factor of global publicity and prize money. In this mini series, the UIAA speaks to the past three recipients of the Award to discuss their recent progress and the positive impact winning the MPA had. All three of the past editions, and indeed the current one, have benefitted from the support of the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.
The UIAA Mountain Protection Award marks its tenth anniversary this year. Application for 2023 is now closed and the nominees will be announced shortly. The overall winner will be confirmed at the UIAA General Assembly in Trabzon, Türkiye on 21 October.
This first article focuses on the most recent winner. In 2022, the project of Establishing of a Self-Managed Climbing Park by Asociacion 7a Escalada from Peru became the first project from South American to triumph. Feedback comes from Diana Alexia Gómez Cavieres, Head Project Coordinator.
UIAA: How has the project progressed ever since winning the UIAA Mountain Protection Award?
Asociacion 7a Escalada: Since we won the UIAA Mountain Protection Award we have been able to implement the next phase of the project which included the establishment of an outdoor school for children and youth groups from Pitumarca. This has allowed us to organise hikes, Saturday classes, games, climbing activities and special activities once a month, such as art and conservation sessions.
The work with the youth, on the other hand, has focused on developing their skills as leaders of their community, so they accompany us in other activities like recording data on soil erosion and vegetation cover. At the end of the year they will participate in a reforestation event for the areas that were affected by the 2022 fire.
The community was excited when we told them that our project won the UIAA Mountain Protection Award and that this has been thanks to the effort they have put in over the years. This has contributed to their empowerment. They have decided to invest in new improvements for the park such as buying beds for the shelter, building three private rooms and a common kitchen and rebuilding the bathroom after a fire in 2022.
What did it mean to you and your organisation to win the 2022 edition of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award?
As an organisation we feel that we have a great opportunity to set a good example in the development of outdoor spaces in cooperation with local communities. Winning the UIAA Mountain Protection Award has created a new impulse and sense that all the work we have been doing as both an organisation and as volunteers is paying off and is being recognised. This Award has pushed us to work to get more support, create more developed infrastructures, establish alliances and include other people in project, little by little growing further. We are also generating new projects to carry out research and promote work beyond climbing.
How have you benefited from winning the Award that year? Can you see a long-term impact?
For the local community, the UIAA Mountain Protection Award and the prize money from Bally Peak Outlook Foundation represents a major milestone. This is a great support and they now have a better idea of the impact they have achieved with the work. In the long term, the partnership has created many contacts and allies who have supported us with funds for the outdoor school. In addition, this UIAA Mountain Protection Award encouraged conversations for research and community support projects on topics of interest to them such as planting and harvesting water, to contribute to food and water security; and monitoring endangered or vulnerable wildlife, with the intention of protecting priority sites.
How have you invested in the prizemoney?
The prize money was spent in three areas. This included improving our transport options in order to reach challenging and remote areas of the park more efficiently. Another portion of the prize money has been allocated to the outdoor school and allowing the youth to buy the materials to start monitoring soil erosion and vegetation cover. And lastly, we were able to get the collaboration of a university intern to help us during July 2023.
After working for seven years without any remuneration related to the development of the parks, our association felt incredibly grateful and motivated by the recognition of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award and the prize money invested by Bally Peak Outlook Foundation. While it is a job we do for vocation, this project has meant changing our residence and the company becoming a non-profit organisation.
During and after the pandemic, the association could not invest in the necessary improvements, especially when it came to transportation. The community had also seen a decrease in visitors. The UIAA Mountain Protection Award and Bally Peak Outlook Foundation support gave us the impetus to reinvest time and energy in the necessary improvements. This has resulted in an increase in people involved, key partnerships established to make the park’s future development continuous and sustainable, as well as profitable for the local community.
What are the plans for the remainder of this year?
This year we have made a strategic alliance with Uma Rumi, a sister association that supports us in various new projects and in the search for funds to continue working on the development of the climbing parks. In addition, this year the community has changed its board of directors, so a new joint work and cooperation agreement will be signed in order to continue working together on issues related to conservation and water and food security. This is a very important step that reflects mutual trust and durability over time. It is also proof that climbing, mountaineering and outdoor recreation can be an instrument of change or improvement in socio-cultural dynamics.
In May we have carried out the first soil erosion measurement and started with the first permanent plot to evaluate the reception of the local community and climbers. This first stage has given us relevant data with which in July we started with the implementation of the permanent plots to evaluate erosion.
In July we will begin our work with children and youth in a program of creative advocates related to conservation, research and action on conservation issues in the community, ending with a play, which will be presented in October to the entire community, representing the information collected by the young people. This is thanks to the collaboration with the Creative Action Institute (CAI).
For August we plan to conduct trainings on tourism and gastronomy for the community and we will also be organizing an invitation-only event for women in climbing thanks to the collaboration with The Global Climbing Initiative. After coordinating with the needs of the community, the date of the climbing festival was set for the first days of September (see poster above), a date that will be established for future years as “The Anniversary of the Anexo Ch’aqo Wayllasqa”. In the festival we hope to evaluate and test the training in tourism and gastronomy. The UIAA community is warmly welcome to join in the festivities.
In November we have planned to have the first interactive workshop with children and youth on erosion.
We are currently awaiting support from other organisations for work related to planting and water harvesting projects. In addition, we are initiating the formalization of a joint work agreement with the Andean Cat Alliance (AGA) for the monitoring of this feline (Leopardus jacobita) among other species associated with priority sites for conservation in the valleys.