Establishing a Clear Pathway

Featured, Membership, Youth

The Baroque city of Turin – the first capital of Italy – provided the setting for a recent meeting of the UIAA Youth Commission (YC). The meeting marked the start of a new era for the Commission for whom Mark Dennison (BMC, UK) was recently elected as President.

Dennison is a keen rock climber and has spent the past 15 years working as an outdoor instructor. He has been part of the Commission for four years and has significant experience in youth participation in climbing. He served as Peak District Area Youth Coordinator for the BMC before joining the federation’s national Training and Youth Committee. From there he became the BMC representative on the UIAA Youth Commission.

One of the primary projects of the UIAA Youth Commission is the Global Youth Series (GYS), comprising typically week-long events – ranging from ice climbing to mountaineering to rock climbing – organised for young climbers and mountaineers in collaboration with UIAA member federations. These youth camps have been designed not only to improve a youngster’s technical aspects but provide a tangible cultural experience and allow young climbers from different countries to develop friendships through their shared passion.

The GYS events have been part of the UIAA’s partnership with ARISF (The Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations). The Youth Commission is currently working on a new funding proposal to ARISF having just completed one cycle from 2013-2016.

UIAA Global Youth Summit, Arco (Trento), 2016

The ARISF agreement set in motion five objectives:

  • Support development of youth climbing and mountaineering in new countries to demonstrate and share best practices and invite others through using experts and sponsors. Methods include seminars, festivals including training workshops.
  • Train the Trainers – conduct site visits to assess events for suitability for hosting UIAA GYS Global Youth Summit events by holding site specific leader training preferably with those linked in with the Training Standards Panel.
  • Increase UIAA and UIAA YC membership from new countries in poorly represented areas so that it has global reach. Use promotional national and regional events to support this.
  • Create resources to compliment the events to help federations develop their youth climbing and ice climbing programmes.
  • To assist ice climbing competitions gain more youth participants from new countries through festivals training and advice sheets and video materials and assist in the organisation of these events with the UIAA ice climbing commission.

“Our objective is to develop our partnership with ARISF and ensure we focus closely on all five goals,” explains Dennison. “One of the first tasks during our Commission meeting was setting ourselves a target of three GYS events a year in three different continents and drawing up a list of candidate events.”

The meeting in Turin was attended by UIAA Vice-President Peter Farkas who presented the federation’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, where all three pillars (safety, sport and sustainability) have a strong youth component.

The UIAA Youth Commission is made up of 17 full members (from four continents) and five corresponding members. Despite already enjoying a strong international presence, Dennison is keen to ensure the Youth Commission develops a close relationship with as many of the UIAA’s 92 member federations as possible. To achieve this, the Commission would like to have a liaison contact at each federation to exchange information about youth events and projects.

During the Turin meeting, the Commission set some clear objectives. “When people join the UIAA it may not necessarily be for a youth reason,” explains Dennison. “And for a lot of federations it is not about getting something out of the UIAA’s work in youth but what they can give. Many federations have strong youth programmes in place and a clear pathway from when a young person first shows an interest in climbing or mountains to getting them to where they want to be. Our role is sharing this pathway and making it easier, especially for federations in developing countries, to put together programme for people to encourage them. We’d like to see more programmes and information shared between federations and for the UIAA to drive this.”

Establishing a clearer pathway is one target, another is working more closely with other aspects of the UIAA’s work. Dennison explains: “We have until now often worked in isolation and there is great scope for cross-Commission projects. It can work both ways, a youth element in some Commissions; and Commission expertise in our GYS events.”

Dennison closes with the Commission’s core message: “Our focus is not only on the technical requirements but the environmental, cultural and ethical aspect of areas we are working in. There are many opportunities for work the Youth Commission can do but this will only be possible if we have a strong group of delegates from many federations to move forward these projects.”

The Youth Commission meeting in Turin was organised by UIAA Youth Commission member Rosella Chinellato on behalf of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI).

For further information:
UIAA Youth Commission

For member federations interested in more information about GYS events, both as organisers or encouraging youth members to participate in events, please contact: