Priorities and Projects for 2023

Anti-Doping, Featured, General Assembly

One of the significant segments of the recent UIAA General Assembly (see review here) was the platform provided to the UIAA Commissions, responsible for delivering the federation’s core projects and in alignment with its Strategic Plan. Below is a summary of the Commission presentations from the GA.

Legal Affairs
President: Klara Dvorakova, Czech Republic (CMLA)

The Legal Affairs Commission was created this year. Its mandate is to support all UIAA bodies and specifically in assessing the legality of activities.

In terms of specific projects, the Commission is working on a mountaineering case law database. This is not a study of accidents (please see Mountaineering Commission section for that) rather an international database of public judgements related to accidents in the mountains and in climbing facilities.

Once created the database will allow climbers to search for judgements based on country/criteria and download a summary. Furthermore the Commission invited UIAA member associations to submit and share judgements from their countries.

The Commission also appealed to expand its membership and is specifically looking for lawyers from Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom to support its activities.

President: Urs Hefti, Switzerland (SAC)

Working group progress on complex revisions to papers on women and children at altitude continue to advance. The Commission is also collaborating with the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR) on a paper related to rescue at very high altitudes. Another working group will focus on a revamp of papers dedicated to some of the world’s most famous peaks at high altitude. This includes Kilimanjaro and a number of 8,000m summits. The Commission has also been very active in translating some of its advice papers into video content – notably on drinking safe water and on high-altitude illnesses.

President: Peter Farkas, Hungary (MHSSz)

With the Training Panel now an independent Commission, the Mountaineering Commission is focussing on three specific topics.

The first is the continued development of the Mountain Worker Initiative (MWI) which seeks to improve the conditions of mountain workers globally through the development and adoption of specific guidelines.

The Commission is also seeking to add an annex to the seminal Tyrol Declaration, published in 2002. The aim is to add details which reflect the changing landscape of climbing and mountaineering over the past twenty years.

A vast project, one which demands the creation of a specific working group, focuses on accident reporting. This will take the form of a database and reporting system which collects accident data and near misses from UIAA member federations. A cross-Commission project, its longer-term goal is to offer best practices and recommendations for accident reporting and to publish a series of information papers. On a related subject, the Petzl Fondation, in partnership with the University of Lyon, recently supported a doctoral thesis on the Accidentology of Mountain Sports, written by Maud Vanpoulle.

Mountain Protection
President: Carolina Adler, New Zealand (NZAC)

One of the foremost tasks of the Mountain Protection Commission is its updating of the Environmental Objectives and Guidelines which were published in 2002, the first UN declared Year of the Mountains. This year marks the year of Sustainable Mountain Development, offering the Commission an opportune moment to bring these guidelines into the reality of the world today. Part of this work will be harnessing the considerable number of statements, case studies and papers that the UIAA has contributed to during the past twenty years, and addressing the “triple planetary crisis”, as defined by UN Environment Programme: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

During the GA, the winner of the Mountain Protection Award, the UIAA’s flagship sustainability project, was announced. Discover more here.

President: Lionel Kiener, Switzerland (SAC)

SafeCom presented its Safety Label awareness video, launched recently. It hopes this video will raise awareness amongst the climbing community about the importance of purchasing certified equipment. Lionel Kiener raised the need for the UIAA to continue to develop its presence and message in certain areas of the world, particularly in Asia and South America, where climbing equipment is less regulated than in Europe.

The Commission continues to conduct a significant amount of work on developing and revising its safety standards. This includes corrosion and stress corrosion of rock anchors; welding of top anchors and guidelines for canyoning harnesses. In recent years there has been a rise in low strength harnesses degrading rapidly after only a few years of use. The Commission is trying to simulate this environmental degradation of textile equipment to be able to better understand the cause.  New standards for headlamps and low stretch ropes continue to progress.

President: Steve Long, United Kingdom (BMC)

Like Legal Affairs, Training became an independent Commission in 2022. It offers tangible support to federations developing their training qualification process as well as guidance in how to become a qualified leader. Mentoring and ‘train the trainer’ courses have recently been held, or will soon be held, in the following countries: India, Malta, Mongolia and Saudi Arabia.

The Commission plans on expanding its training resources with more video content and its new training database is shortly to be fully launched and operational. Finally, the Commission is inviting new members to apply, and is seeking to expand the number of countries represented and encourage more female members to join.

President: Pavlos Georgiades, Cyprus (CMCOF)

Goals of the Youth Commission include greater interaction with the UIAA member associations and the creation of more youth camps across the world and under the UIAA umbrella.

The Commission recently created an Innovation Panel led by experts from different countries with the focus of establishing the criteria for future UIAA youth events. This includes course certificates, a more developed syllabus and a greater integration with training practices.

Seven camps are already planned for 2023 and UIAA member associations are encouraged to register details of more camps as well as encourage youth experts to join the Commission’s Innovation Panel.

Ice Climbing
As communicated in a statement in August 2022, the UIAA Ice Climbing Commission was dissolved. The sport is currently being overseen by a working group.

During the GA, members of the working group alongside an athlete representative provided an update on priorities. While working on a long-term basis with the IOC on entry into the Olympic competiton programme remains a core objective, more immediate tasks include: expanding the quality and competitions in the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour (the 2023 calendar can be viewed here); inviting greater feedback and support from athletes including an athlete representative from each competing federation; improving the quantity of ice on competition structures and in a sustainable way; focusing on an even more professional approach for competitions including support for officials and organisers; making the sport more visually appealing; and developing youth programmes and youth climbing. Best practice case studies will also be created to support the development of the sport and infrastructure in different countries.

The Anti-Doping Commission, led by Marija Andjelkovic (Serbia, PSS), was not in attendance at the GA. The Commission continues to provide valuable support to the UIAA particularly in the area of competition sport. The Commission manages in and out of competition testing and ensures full appliance of the WADA Anti-Doping Code throughout the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour. The Commission also provides a similar level of support to UIAA Unit Member, the International Skyrunning Federation.

Alpine Summer Skills Handbook
Produced in collaboration with The Petzl Fondation, the Alpine Summer Skills Handbook was launched in 2011 and has since been translated into 12 languages by UIAA member associations. At the GA, the revised print version (in English) was distributed. The Summer Handbook will be developed in the coming years and broken into a collection of books – including basic knowledge, climbing & mountaineering and canyoning. A winter version of the Handbook, to include chapters on topics such as ice climbing, avalanches, snowshoeing, is being produced with the support of the Alpine Club of Canada and will be presented at the 2023 UIAA GA in Trabzon, Turkey.

All Commission delegation lists following elections held during the GA Management Committee meeting can be found on the Commission pages (linked from the relevant titles above).

Main photo: Commission Presidents (l-r) Peter Farkas (Mountaineering), Carolina Adler (Mountain Protection), Steve Long (Training) and Innovation Panel Lead Jane Carney (Youth) present progress from their respective fields during the 2022 UIAA GA in Banff. Credit: UIAA/Amy Liu