Italian observatory set to lobby for freedom in the mountains

Access, Mountaineering

A new group called The Italian Observatory for Liberty set up to resist attempts by national or local authorities to constrain freedom of access and risk taking in mountaineering and climbing was unveiled at the “Festival della Montagna” in Trento earlier this month.

“The attacks on freedom involve many types of sports and of social life,” said group member Carlo Zanantoni. “But the accidents occurring in mountaineering have a large resonance in the media, because they particularly attract the attention of the public.”

“It isn’t easy for the public to accept the principle, sustained by the fathers of the liberal society, that there are forms of liberty that cannot be violated, as long as they don’t cause damage to the society,” he said.

Zanantoni said the group was formed to combat an obsession with safety, typical of advanced societies, that is in conflict with what drives mountaineers who seek adventure and liberty.

The first members of the group who were present at the Trento Conference said that the numerous and increasing attempts to curb liberty by lawyers and local authorities weren’t just confined to France and Italy, the two countries where an observatory has been created; it is a worldwide problem.

Members said they would welcome the moral support of the UIAA in their venture and any support that could lead to the creation of their own observatory by federation members.

Speakers at the Trento conference included Bernard Amy, president of the French Observatory, Zanantoni, Alessandro Gogna, mountaineer and writer, author of a public enquiry about liberty in mountaineering, lawyer Carlo Bonardi, Maurizio Dalla Libera and Gino Comelli, a mountain Guide and head of mountain rescue in the Fassa valley.

Pier Oliveti, Italian Alpine Club (CAI)  delegate to the UIAA Management Committee, emphasised the role of CAI in creating strong links at the level of local sections to institutionalise the role of the observatory.

Similar issues were discussed last year at a meeting in Grenoble, France when French mountaineers debated a wide range of problems, from the fundamental values of mountaineering to its relationship with the mountain environment and the local population. About 30 preparatory “cafés montagne” were organized during 2010 throughout the country.

That process concluded with a meeting in Chamonix on 28 May 2011 where a proposal was passed to collect information on any attempt by governments, local and jurisdictional authorities to restrict freedom and fight it.

Editor’s note: Carlo Zanantoni is a member of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) who was on the UIAA Safety Commission. He is now a corresponding member with the commission.