Featured, General Assembly, Mountain Protection, UIAA

The Swiss Alpine Club’s (SAC) AlpineLearning Project Weeks was confirmed as the seventh winner of the annual UIAA Mountain Protection Award at the 2019 UIAA General Assembly in Larnaca, Cyprus on Saturday 2 November. During the GA, BALLY was announced as new partner of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award.

Construyendo Vidas 2019 – Bolivia 2019 by Mujer Montana was confirmed as Best New Initiative, Mountain protection worldwide through citizen science and volunteering by Biosphere Expeditions was announced as Runner-Up and Ama Dablam 2020 by High Altitude Mountain Cleaners won the Community Award.

2019 UIAA Mountain Protection Award: Mike Maunsell – UIAA Mountain Protection Commission VP; Françoise Jaquet – Swiss Alpine Club President; Frits Vrijlandt – UIAA President; Irina Gladkikh – IOC Associate Director, Winter Sports and Recognised Sports and IF Relations

The Alpine Learning Project, founded in 2014, was created in order to provide school classes with the unique opportunity to experience the high mountain landscape of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jungfrau-Aletsch, Switzerland, and in the process, to be able to better understand the principle of sustainable development of the Alpine region.

For five days the classroom is moved to several mountain huts of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) and during that time, children dive into the world of mountaineering, learn how to use and protect the Alpine region and discover the Jungfrau-Aletsch region together with a mountain guide.

As a result, many children take their first steps into the world of mountaineering. The project aims to inspire young people to take an interest in mountaineering while at the same time teaching them important basics for a sustainable use of the alpine habitat by theory-based and practice-related learning tasks. The project gives young people an insight into various topics. One of them is the maintenance of the valuable cultural landscape.

The AlpineLearning Project, whose work is underpinned by the principles of education and sustainability, was chosen from 12 high-quality projects operational from across all corners of the globe. Projects included those supported, or run, by UIAA member associations or by for profit and non-profit organisations.

UIAA Mountain Protection Commission President Dr Carolina Adler believes that the Swiss Alpine Club’s focus on youth education was an important factor when considering the winning project.  This year’s MPA winner, the Swiss Alpine Club, presents an exciting project that places great importance on education for ensuring mountain protection and stewardship values are fostered with our youth. But this is no ordinary classroom setting! The novel aspect in this project is in taking young people to the mountains and providing them with a unique learning experience based at alpine huts and among stunning mountain surroundings. The combination of environmental topics, as well as social and heritage aspects, make for a very comprehensive learning experience that we are sure to leave a lasting impression for future champions of sustainability and mountaineering”. The Award was collected by SAC President Françoise Jaquet from UIAA Mountain Protection Commission Vice-President Mike Maunsell.

Bruno Lüthi, Head of Hut Operations for the Swiss Alpine Club was delighted that the project had been recognised for its work. “This means a lot to us and we are very proud and happy. For the project team it is a great honour and appreciation of their efforts. Through winning this Award, we hope the project will become even better known and that it will inspire more classes to take part.  For partner search and expanding the project to other mountain areas of Switzerland, winning the MPA will certainly prove helpful.”


Shortly after the confirmation of the 2019 UIAA Mountain Protection Award winner an exciting announcement was made regarding the future of the project.

The 2020 and 2021 UIAA MPAs will be partnered by Bally, the Swiss luxury fashion brand, founded in 1851, with a pioneering heritage in climbing and mountaineering.

Main Image: 1953 Everest Expedition. Copyright Bally

When Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made history as the first climbers to    set foot on the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, the latter was wearing a pair of Bally boots. Inspired by its heritage, the company’s recent Peak Outlook initiative marked a long-term commitment to preserving the world’s most extreme mountain environments. Peak Outlook began in Spring 2019 with the sponsorship of a critical clean-up expedition to the summit of the world’s highest peak. Led by Dawa Steven Sherpa and his team of experienced climbers and guides, all of whom are native to Nepal’s high Himalayas, the expedition successfully removed two tonnes of waste, helping to restore the pristine landscape between Everest Base Camp and its iconic peak.

During the 2019 UIAA General Assembly Award Ceremony, Bally presented a short film that showcased the Peak Outlook clean-up mission on Everest. The project shares many of the values and the vision of two recent MPA winners – Mount Everest Biogas Project in 2017 and Community Action Nepal in 2018.

Bally’s involvement with the UIAA and sponsorship of the Mountain Protection Award will ensure extra resources are available for future editions and further strengthen the efforts of the winning initiative.

Bally CEO, Nicolas Girotto

“Bally’s partnership with the UIAA is an important milestone in our long-term commitment to mountain preservation worldwide. Mountains play a special role in Bally’s heritage, and through the launch of our Peak Outlook initiative, we aim to leverage this connection to bring awareness to the impact of outdoor tourism on mountain environments around the world. I am proud to partner with the UIAA through the sponsorship of the Mountain Protection Award to continue our efforts together in supporting the climbing community.”

UIAA Protection Commission President, Dr Carolina Adler

“Next year marks the eighth annual running of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award. Year on year, thanks to the efforts of the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission and Award Assessment Team and the continued development and appeal of the platform, the quality of the candidates has grown immeasurably. Many of the showcased projects are organised in partnership with our member associations and all have a vision to make a lasting impact, to engage climbers and mountaineers directly in their initiatives and to offer solutions and ideas which can be adapted worldwide. We are delighted to partner with Bally to ensure the continued innovation and evolution of one of the UIAA’s core projects.”


AlpineLearning Project Weeks is an eventful and unique opportunity for school children.  The aim is to give children and young people access to the varied world of learning and adventure in an impressive cultural and natural landscape, to promote valuable skills and to arouse interest in sporting activities in the alpine terrain.

The project was conceived with the idea to raise young people’s awareness to the issues of sustainable development, as Bruno Lüthi explains. “The original thought behind AlpineLearning was to sensitise the youth about the challenges of the alpine region in an out of the classroom setting and to show them what sustainable development means. Simultaneously, we wanted to engage them in first mountain sport experiences, to also wow them.  SAC huts create the ideal environment for these experiences and have enough capacity, outside of school holiday periods, to host such projects”.

An AlpineLearning project week takes place in SAC huts in the UNESCO World Heritage site Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch.  The local municipalities are heavily involved in the UNESCO World Heritage site.  The project weeks are normally held in the low season and during the week, when the hut can be used to capacity.  These weeks also generate important income for the hut wardens, who are often local to the region. The project is open to all school classes from the region as well as to communities distant from the mountains.

The integral parts of the project week are a guided mountain or glacier tour, several course blocks and an excursion, for example, to a local power station.  The courses focus on the topics of training in climbing and mountaineering, lessons on sustainable development, the protection and use of the alpine region and nature experience and collaboration in the mountain hut.

In these course blocks the children learn facts about the high mountain landscape and its development, discover animals and plants and sharpen their eyes in the seemingly barren and rocky alpine region. While the children help the hut team with everyday work, they also get in touch with important topics such as recycling and energy production. Furthermore, the Swiss Alpine Club and the Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Management Centre collaborate with the universities of teacher education of Berne (PH Bern) and the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) to assist in delivering its educational component.

The children learn what it takes to live and work in a mountain hut. In addition, they have the opportunity to interview various local stakeholders such as mountain guides, cableway employees and mountain farmers. This enables them to gain an insight into their interests, activities and perspectives and helps to provide answers to the overriding, complex central questions of the project week: What makes sustainable development possible in alpine regions? And what role does mountaineering play in this?

During the climbing element of the week, young people learn the basics of the sport often for the first time. At the same time they develop valuable social skills such as taking responsibility and being able to trust each other. As a result of the project, the schoolchildren learn how sustainable development depends on many different aspects. In the future they will see the Alps through entirely different eyes. Indeed, many children will want to return to the alpine region afterwards to show their parents.

The project also shines a light on the possibilities for youngsters to get involved themselves, through volunteering (such as clean-ups in the mountains, environmental and landscape conservation missions).  They learn how much voluntary work goes into the operation of a hut.  This can in turn motivate and inspire them to become active themselves.

Given the success of the project, it is natural to ponder if it could be extended not only to further regions in Switzerland, but also to other UIAA members.  “In order to successfully implement such a concept, what is needed is a relatively accessible mountain hut with a motivated team, engaged teachers and mountain guides, didactic learning material, as well as logistical and financial support through third parties.  These prerequisites are present in many other countries.  If needed and applicable, the existing teaching material could be transferred to other mountain regions”, explains Lüthi.

There are also plans to further extend the project within Switzerland. Lüthi closes: “As a first step, the plan is to transfer the concept to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sardona and establish the programme for the next two years. However, we also want to engage and expand the initiative to other mountain regions and huts in the future”.

Through its commitment to mountain protection and youth education, the Swiss Alpine Club’s AlpineLearning Project is a worthy winner of the 2019 UIAA Mountain Protection Award. As winner, the Swiss Alpine Club received the MPA Trophy, a cheque for 5,000 USD and the gold 2019 MPA logo.


Organisation: University of Colorado at Boulder
Project: Sustainable Waste Management in the Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) National Park
Location: Nepal

Clean Climber
Clean Climber

Fundacion Acceso Andino 
Sustainable Andes

High Altitude Mountain Cleaners
Ama-Dablam 2020

Protect Our Winters Switzerland
Towards climate-neutral mountaineering

Pure Project
Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments

Swiss Alpine Club
Alpine Learning project weeks

Mujer Montaña
Construyendo Vidas 2019 – Bolivia

Alpine Club of Iran
Mountain Sports Center with the approach of Environmental Sustainability by Passive Solar Energy

Biosphere Expeditions
Mountain protection worldwide through citizen science and volunteering
Operate worldwide with mountain projects in Kyrgyzstan, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Russia, Oman, Poland

Gandaki Urja
Converting organic waste to Compressed biogas and organic fertilizer

PSD Nepal
PSD Nepal plastics upcycling & recycling in Langtang National Park, Rasuwa, Nepal

Past MPA winners

2013 – Menz-Guassa Community Conservation Area, Ethiopia
2014 – Pamir Horse Adventure, Tajikistan
2015 – KTK-BELT Studio, Nepal
2016 – Mountain Wilderness, France
2017 – Mount Everest Biogas Project, United States
2018 – Community Action Nepal, United Kingdom

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