Featured, Mountain Protection, Mountaineering, Safety, UIAA

Two major international gatherings for the outdoor community took place in June 2018 with the UIAA represented, and leading discussions, at both events.

First, the biennial Sustainable Summits Conference took place in Chamonix, France from 12-14 June where the three-day discussions focused on the future for the world’s high mountains.

The UIAA was represented by Mountain Protection Commission President Dr Carolina Adler and Commission members Stephen Goodwin (Alpine Club, UK) and Irena Mrak (PZS, Slovenia). Furthermore, among the pool of expert speakers, Björn Alfthan (Norway) and Matthias Jurek (Austria) are external assessors for the UIAA Mountain Protection Award while Roger Robinson (USA) runs Clean Climbing on Denali, a UIAA Mountain Protection Award nominee in 2017.

Dr Carolina Adler presenting at Sustainable Summits 2018. Copyright: Nacho Grez

Reflecting on Sustainable Summits 2018 (SS18), Carolina Alder explained the importance of the opportunity for dialogue: “The conference was a great opportunity to discuss important topics for sustainable mountaineering and mountains regions in a practical sense, as well as being a fantastic event that brought together different communities that would not normally meet to discuss these common issues of concern in such a setting. The organisers did a fantastic job in facilitating this unique space for much-needed dialogue. It was also fantastic to see many from the UIAA present, including our own member delegates from the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission – both as keynote speakers and active participants in dialogues with other mountaineering stakeholders”.

Among the discussion points raised during SS18 were the following topics: What roles do the high mountains play in today’s societies?; Climate change: the high mountains on the front line; and, Human activities in the high mountains: impacts and solutions.

Over three days a total of 37 speakers, comprising mountain resort leaders, climbers, researchers, scientists, ecologists and CEOs from leading companies, shared their experiences and exchanged solutions to preserve and protect the high mountains of the world. At the close of the conference, the organisers created a dedicated testimonial document comprising a statement from 37 speakers. The document – in French and English – can be downloaded here.

Carolina Adler and Irena Mrak provided further insight during a discussion ‘From local to global. How can a policy for the high mountains be developed based on field experience’. A full video of their presentations can be viewed below.

“A key take away for me was that, despite coming from different backgrounds and perspectives, there is a general sense of agreement among these communities – mountaineers, mountain guides, scientists, politicians and practitioners –  that the challenges we face in terms of adapting to climate change in the mountain space are indeed very real and have consequences for how we practice this activity today and in the future,” explains Carolina Adler. “However, there is still considerable unrealised potential in terms of what we could propose to innovate our practices and build resilience in mountaineering as an activity that promotes human development and also contributes to local economies – despite our disappearing glaciers and snow. For us to be an effective voice in policy and management decisions, we need to clarify our values, ideas for change, and trade-offs, i.e. where are the limits to what we find acceptable or not to change? These discussions are still needed to deepen this debate, be more effective, and imagine a ‘new’ mountaineering’ that aligns with and responds to an inevitably fast changing world”.

Carolina Alder concludes: “Another key reflection gathered during this conference relates to the role high mountains play in our society today and the human impact generated by mountaineering activities that are exacerbating the undesirable consequences of pollution and ecological damage to these fragile ecosystems. Indeed we are inspired by the mountains, and mountaineering as an activity and way of ‘being’ with nature, contributes to human development through imagination, spirituality and the building of character and perseverance trough physical pursuit. However, we have somehow become passive and complacent in ‘defending’ and protecting mountains from waste and human impacts, and that needs to be improved”.

MRI Scoping and Networking Workshop

Following the conference, UIAA partner, the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), hosted a 1-day workshop to continue the conversations and debates presented at the conference, and together with researchers working on mountain topics contribute to distilling key and relevant topics to consider for novel collaborative research between scientists and practitioners on the role of mountaineering in support of sustainable mountain development. The workshop was attended by research scientists as well as IFMGA guides, UIAA MP Commission delegates, NGOs, and the public sector, including representatives from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Delegates from the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission, Stephen Goodwin, Irena Mrak and Carolina Adler, who is also Executive Director at MRI and facilitator for this workshop, contributed significantly in moderating the discussions and working with others to gather those key ideas gathered at the conference. The workshop was also an opportunity to present the results of the joint UIAA and IFMGA Mountain Protection and Environmental commissions survey on sustainability training and activities among member associations, that was conducted earlier in the year. President of the IFMGA’s al Commissions, Dr Leif Magnussen, presented thee results and also contributed to the discussions on the roles that the IFMGA and UIAA should take in promoting mountain protection and reflecting this in joint guidelines and curriculum content for training schemes.

A full workshop report and follow up will be communicated via the MRI’s website in July.

Summary: 2018 Sustainable Summits

Videos: View here
Photos: View here

The 2020 Sustainable Summits conference will be held in Nepal from 1-5 June.

UIAA at 2018 Outdoor

UIAA Communication Manager Peter Bourne introduces the panel at Outdoor2018

A week after the Sustainable Summits conference, the UIAA was represented at OutDoor, the world’s leading trade fair in the industry which took place in Friedrichshafen, Germany from 17-20 June.

The UIAA ran its own stand at the event taking the opportunity to meet partners, delegates and key contacts from the fields of mountain safety, sport and sustainability. Led by Director of Operations Nils Glatthard, the UIAA held several important discussions with brands in the outdoor environment regarding both potential partnerships and their relationship with, and continued support of, the UIAA Safety Label. Delegates representing the UIAA Safety Commission met with equipment manufacturers to discuss recent developments related to the UIAA Standard for avalanche rescue shovels, the current work regarding a new standard for probes and presented manufacturers with test laboratory findings.

On the final day of the conference, the UIAA hosted a dedicated presentation on mountain protection. With the support of IOC Sustainability Manager Julie Duffus and Sunday Afternoons Brand Manager Chiara Bonollo, the UIAA discussed the implementation of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in the context of climbing and mountaineering, presenting the UIAA’s core projects – Mountain Protection Award and Respect the Mountains and how the outdoor community can get involved with these global causes. Sunday Afternoons is supporting the Respect the Mountains Series in 2018.

Main Image: Dr Carolina Alder and Irena Mrak field questions at Sustainable Summits 2018. Copyright: Nacho Grez