REVIEW: 2020 UIAA GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The 2020 UIAA General Assembly (GA) was held on 23-24 October. Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual meeting took place online for the first time in the federation’s 88-year history. A record number of delegates – 130 representatives from 68 countries – joined on Zoom and a further 250 member federation representatives and partners followed an accompanying livestream on YouTube.

Presidential Election

Peter Muir from the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) was elected as the new President of the UIAA. Muir becomes the UIAA’s 14th President (including two Acting Presidents) and the second from Canada.

Muir succeeds Frits Vrijlandt, Royal Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Club (NKBV), Netherlands as UIAA President. Vrijlandt’s second and, as defined in the UIAA Articles of Association, final four-year term came to an end at this year’s General Assembly.

Peter Muir, UIAA President

In his brief opening address, Muir said: “Thank you all for the faith you have expressed in me. I will work hard to meet a challenge that I take on with great enthusiasm. My message to all candidates and volunteers is that offering your time is appreciated and the most valuable thing you can give. Thank you to Frits for all of your contributions and dedication as UIAA President.” Muir also paid tribute to the campaigns of Amit Chowdhury, now an EB member, and Peter Farkas, UIAA Mountaineering Commission President, who both ran for Presidency.

Frits Vrijlandt on his final GA as UIAA President:
“It is time for me to reflect on the past eight years. I am proud of all the work we have undertaken together and extremely proud to have been part of the UIAA family. There have been many highlights including welcoming new and returning members, witnessing the work of our Commissions and Continental bodies. Other achievements include the launch of the Mountain Protection Award, the Rock Climbing Festival Award, the Respect the Mountains Movement, the growth of competition ice climbing and the tremendous support we have received from sponsors and partners such as The North Face Korea, Outdoor Research, The Petzl Foundation and Bally. There have been some regrets as well such as the departure of CAI and for not succeeding yet in ice climbing becoming part of the official Olympic competition programme.”

Executive Board

Muir will lead an Executive Board comprised of:

Zoljargal Banzragch, Mongolia (elected in 2019), Mongolian National Climbing Federation
Lode Beckers, Belgium (elected in 2019), Climbing & Mountaineering Belgium
Amit Chowdhury, India (elected in 2020), Indian Mountaineering Foundation
Mahmood Hashemi, Iran (elected in 2019), I.R. Iran Mountaineering & Sport Climbing Federation
Martin Lascano, Argentina (elected in 2020), Federaciòn Argentina de Ski y Andinismo
Françoise Jaquet, Switzerland (elected in 2020), Swiss Alpine Club

Board positions will be discussed and confirmed in due course.

Management Committee

The following nominees were elected to the UIAA Management Committee by the General Assembly:

Anne Arran (re-election), United Kingdom, British Mountaineering Council, Continental Representation: Europe
Kul Bahadur Gurung, Nepal, Nepal Mountaineering Association, General Representation
Steve Long, United Kingdom, British Mountaineering Council, General Representation
Jean Miczka, France, Fédération française des clubs alpins et de montagne, Largest Federation Representation
Greg Moseley (re-election), South Africa, Mountain Club of South Africa, Continental Representation: Africa
Phil Powers, United States, American Alpine Club, Continental Representation: North America
Stein Tronstad, Norway, The Norwegian Climbing Federation, General Representation

They join the existing MC members:
Simon Alden, Malta, Malta Climbing Club, General Representation
Jochem Driessen, Netherlands, Royal Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Club, General Representation
Stuart Gray, New Zealand, New Zealand Alpine Club, Continental Representation: Oceania
Josef Klenner, Germany, German Alpine Club, Largest Federation Representation
Christine Pae, Korea, Korean Alpine Federation, Continental Representation: Asia

The UIAA thanks Frits Vrijlandt and outgoing Executive Board members Helène Denis (FFCAM, France) and Yongfeng Wang (CMA, China) as well as Management Committee members Georges Elzière (FFCAM, France), Juan Garrigos i Toro (FEDME, Spain) and Reza Zarei (IMSCF, Iran) for their longstanding commitment and dedication to the UIAA.

The backgrounds, skills and talents of new EB and MC members are diverse. They include those who have served in key roles such as president and board members of major national climbing federations. The range of professional backgrounds includes natural and political science, law, expedition and tourism management, international mountain guidance and training, polar research as well as civil and aeronautical engineering. The UIAA will undoubtedly benefit across all of its activities from the enthusiasm and expertise of its new EB and MC members – the diversity of personnel offers the UIAA greater universality, better representation and increased resources when facing the many and varied aspects of the federation.

EB and MC members now represent 18 countries from all continents reinforcing the UIAA’s role as The Global Mountain Network.

Record participation – over 300 delegates followed the 2020 UIAA General Assembly

Member Association Elections

The UIAA General Assembly elected four new member associations during the General Assembly. They are:

Full Members

Mexico: Federación Mexicana de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada A.C
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Climbing & Hiking Federation

Associate Member
Azerbaijan: Mountain Club of Western Caspian University, Azerbaijan

Observer Member
International: International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR)

Changes of Membership
Costarican Federation of Mountain Sports (FECODEM) is now elected as a Full Member, formerly an Observer Member
National Adventure Association of Malaysia is now elected as a Full Member, formerly an Observer Member

Profiles of all new member associations will be published over the coming months.

Honorary Membership

Following a nomination put forward by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and presented by their President Lynn Robinson, legendary mountaineer Doug Scott, a former member of the UIAA Management Committee (2008-2012) and various UIAA Commissions (Mountaineering Commission 2011-2020 and the Traditional Values Working Group) was awarded Honorary Membership of the UIAA.

Doug Scott, pictured here with his wife Trish, was awarded Honorary Membership of the UIAA

A champion for the traditional values of mountaineering, Doug Scott’s achievements are significant. The first Briton, alongside his friend Dougal Haston, to conquer Everest and on a previously unclimbed route up the South West Face, his list of climbing feats are remarkable and will be explored in greater detail in an upcoming profile.

Doug has committed himself to a number of projects including writing several memoirs and through his stewardship of Community Action Nepal (CAN), a charity dedicated to causes in the country where Doug achieved many of his feats. CAN won the UIAA Mountain Protection Award in 2018. He also spearheaded the UIAA paper ‘Preservation of Natural Rock for Adventure Climbing’, a cause he passionately campaigns. Doug Scott is also an honorary member of The Alpine Club and the American Alpine Club and Patron of the British Mountaineering Council.

Doug Scott was delighted with the recognition from the UIAA family: “This has been an unexpected honour which I am very proud to receive. I join a long list of names over the years for whom I have the greatest respect.”

Future General Assemblies

The location of future UIAA GAs is dependent on the possibility of international travel and the development of the Covid-19 pandemic. The GA voted on the locations of the next three meetings:

2021 Trabzon, Turkey on 23 October
2022 Banff, Canada, on 29 October
2023 Malta, date TBC

Strategic Plan UIAA 2021-2024

Presented by Lode Beckers, UIAA General Secretary, the GA voted to approve the process for the UIAA Strategic Plan 2021-2024. Beckers paid tribute to the valuable work conducted by various groups over recent years and explained that the Strategic Plan 2021-2024 will be a working process for the coming years.

It will be guided by the profile approved at the UIAA GA in 2019:

The UIAA is the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation. As the leading global network, we promote climbing and mountaineering and advocate for access to climbing areas and mountain ranges. While looking to our future, we value our heritage and care for the mountains, their fragile ecosystems, vulnerable communities, and cultures. We serve the best interests of our member federations and of our worldwide community. For the Climbers. For the Mountains. For the World.”

The mission will be carried out through strategic priorities are defined as:
1. Provide guidance on critical and emerging mountaineering issues
2. Setting and maintaining high standards
3. Assisting and supporting national federations and their members

Beckers called for a ‘broadly based ownership of the implementation process’ from the new President through to member federations, Commissions, the EB, the MC and partners.

In charting the progress of the Strategic Plan 2021-2024, the UIAA will communicate regularly on the process.

Presentations and Panels

Alongside the formal part of the GA, a series of presentations and moderated panel discussions took place, designed both to provide members with information on UIAA activities, to discuss sharing of best practices and to debate some of the topical mountaineering questions of the day.

Moderated Panel Discussions

Panel discussions were moderated by Tarquin Cooper, UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour commentator.

The first panel discussion focused on working groups and Commission projects and tackled access, mountaineering and training, rock climbing, youth as well as an update from The Petzl Foundation on the progress of the UIAA Summer Skills Handbook translations.

Mountaineering: Peter Farkas (MHSSz, Hungary), MountCom President, highlighted the significant work undertaken in collating accident statistics, the result of nearly five years of research. MountCom is now working on delivering this information in an publishable format. The data will prove valuable in supporting the ‘safe adventure’ focus of the Commission.

Training: Steve Long (BMC, UK), Training Panel President, presented the UIAA’s valuable work in training and the framework it offers federations in delivering their own programmes. Long highlighted the close collaboration with UIAA observer members, IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations) and UMILA (Union of International Mountain Leader Associations) who work directly with guide and leader professionals. Vast experience and expertise is the fruit of this collaboration and now at the benefit of all members. The pending Skills Certificate project is another exciting arm of the Training Panel. It will provide individuals looking to climb safely, from hiking to ski mountaineering to adventure climbing, with the ability to find if an instructor is accredited at international level through their federation. This will have a benefit for all stakeholders – trainers, clubs, federations and eventually through this greater demand for membership, the UIAA.

UIAA Alpine Summer Skills Handbook: Stéphane Lozac’hmeur, The Petzl Foundation Project Manager, provided an overview of the progress made in their work with UIAA members of translations of the Alpine Summer Skills Handbook. Details, as well as work on new chapters, are provided in the UIAA Guide to the General Assembly. Lozac’hmeur emphasised that the Handbook is not a ‘for profit’ publication rather designed to help improve the core skills of climbers and mountain goers.

Access: Like Training, the Access Working Group forms part of the Mountaineering Commission. Its President Juan Jesus Ibanez Martin (FEDME, Spain) explained that the Access WG is working on creating an information library where documentation related to free and responsible access protocols can be shared. This will be of significant benefit to smaller UIAA members who may be dealing with access issues for the first time. Ibanez Martin also called for closer collaboration between the UIAA Access WG and Access representatives within UIAA member associations. He also addressed the situation mountain hut owners have faced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic particularly in Europe where the loss of the spring season was followed by complex summer months which saw a reduction in hut spaces and implementation of social distancing. One of the more positive aspects of recent months has been the recognition by some governmental authorities to those carrying a licence from a mountaineering club. During lockdown, there have been examples of authorities affording greater access and freedoms in the mountains to those carrying a licence.

Youth: Pavlos Georgiades (CMCOF, Cyprus) explained the importance of the Youth Commission in providing a platform to communicate with youth from all over the world. The YC will collaborate closely with other Commissions in creating a syllabus which can then be presented at different youth seminars integrated into UIAA-endorsed Youth events. Youth Commission events have been significantly impacted by Covid-19 but Georgiades hopes that in 2021 a greater number of national events can be held.

The 2020 UIAA Rock Climbing Festival Award will roll into 2021. Photo: Minwook Joo

Rock Climbing: Anne Arran (BMC, UK) provided an update on the 2020 UIAA Rock Climbing Festival Award which has rolled into 2021. Application is now open for festivals in Oceania and SE Asia. Arran addressed how the Award, and collaboration with the UIAA’s Continental Bodies, enables the federation to dialogue with potential new members in different areas of the world.

The second panel discussion focus primarily on sustainability topics and advocacy.

Mountain Protection: Dr Carolina Adler (NZAC, New Zealand) provided an update on the Mountain Protection Commission’s work in three areas – the Mountain Protection Award, Respect the Mountains and the UIAA Sustainability Guidelines. Specific details can be found in a recent article. Dr Adler also detailed the UIAA’s longstanding commitment to climate change, including its signing of international resolutions and involvement in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a platform for the UIAA to be the voice for the climbing and mountaineering community at a global level. She also referenced the work conducted in publishing the UIAA’s first annual Carbon Footprint Report and its support for past UIAA Mountain Protection Award winners through a recent communication series.

Climate Change: Having led a motion on climate change which was approved at last year’s GA, MC member Josef Klenner (DAV, Germany) followed up on progress made by the German Alpine Club. This has included not only advancing its longstanding commitment to replacing diesel with solar polar in mountain huts but also the federation’s ability to now act on the analysis it has undertaken on climate change. This includes tackling recommendations such as reducing the carbon emissions created by travel to its training courses and cutting back on its extensive printing material.

High Mountains and Overcrowding: Greg Moseley (MSA, South Africa) evolved a discussion which was held at least year’s GA on the overcrowding of some of the world’s most popular climbing routes. Moseley reflected that on these climbs the true spirit of mountaineering has sadly been lost. The UIAA will continue to advocate on the subject of overcrowding and issues such as the negative side of adventure tourism and increased accident rates often caused by inexperienced and underprepared mountain visitors using cable cars to fast-track access to summits.

New initiatives. Three members provided details on ‘best practice’ projects from their federations. Greg Moseley introduced an outreach programme organised by the Mountain Club of South Africa which offers youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds to visit mountain areas, often for the first time. Eduard Cayón (CEC, Catalonia) presented his federation’s work on inclusion and educational programmes which offer different groups a full immersion into mountain activities. Stein Tronstad (NCF, Norway) detailed his federation’s 30-year accident reporting system. The database, now fully digitised, provides Norwegian climbers with access not only to accident statistics but analysis articles on climber safety. Tronstad encouraged the UIAA to work on uniting best practices and data between different countries.

During the third panel, the UIAA addressed the work of its Anti-Doping, Ice Climbing, Medical and Safety Commissions as well as the work of its Covid-19 Crisis Consultation (CCC) Taskforce.

The upcoming UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour has been significantly impacted by Covid-19. Photo: UIAA/Levi Harrell

Ice Climbing: President of the UIAA Ice Climbing Commission Carlos Teixeira (FCMP, Portugal), communicated on the impact Covid-19 has had on competition ice climbing. While the 2020 season was successfully completed before the widespread outbreak of the pandemic, the 2021 season will witness significant changes. Further details are available here.

Anti-Doping: Vice President of the Commission Nenad Dikic (Serbia, representing ISF), detailed the working relationship with the Ice Climbing Commission and Unit Member, the International Skyrunning Federation. With a loss of competition and therefore in-competition testing, increased out of competition testing is taking place and the Commission is working in the implementation of the new WADA code for 2021. This will require changes to the existing UIAA clean climbing educational programme.

ISF: Silvio Calvi, representing the International Skyrunning Federation, informed delegates about the federation’s upcoming GA where its Strategic Plan 2020-2022 will be discussed. Calvi also reported on the difficulties of a near non-existent year for skyrunning events, very few competitions were held and those which took place were under significant restrictions. The ISF is also working with other organisations on a clearer definition of mountain running terminology.

Safety: Amit Chowdhury (IMF, India), Commission President, highlighted the imminent update of UIAA Standard 123 on rock anchors addressing the problem of stress corrosion cracking observed in many locations close to the sea. The new Standard proposes three classifications based on use: high, general and low corrosion resistant characteristics.  SafeCom has conducted significant work through various working groups including those for proposed new standards such as avalanche probes, trekking poles, static ropes, prussik cords and load sharing devices. Further details can be found here. Chowdhury also promoted two resources on the UIAA website – an article providing guidance on the perils of buying climbing gear online, the second its new ‘Ask SafeCom’ series where the Commission answers gear-related questions from climbers.

MedCom: Urs Hefi (SAC, Switzerland) informed delegates about MedCom’s support for the first climbing paper published on Covid. It will be available on the UIAA website shortly. MedCom is working on three main projects – organising a training course in Africa with the MCSA in either 2021 or 2022; updating its advice paper on women in mountaineering; and producing a video on drinking safe water on expeditions.

Covid-19 Crisis Consultation (CCC) Taskforce: Françoise Jaquet (SAC, Switzerland): As a member of the UIAA Covid-19 CCC Taskforce, created in April as the UIAA’s coordinated and international response to the pandemic, Jaquet provided an insight into the group’s work and the type of support it provides. The UIAA Covid-19 portal has provided a wealth of information from and for UIAA member associations. It includes 77 member updates from 46 countries and 29 UIAA updates and statements. Members can also submit feedback through an online form.

Continental Reports

The UIAA Continental Bodies gave short reports, to be expanded in the 2020 UIAA Annual Report, on the main trends in their regions of the world.

Africa: Greg Moseley (MSCA, South Africa). The formation of the Confederation of African Mountain Clubs (CMAC) is an exciting development which may empower more clubs to become affiliated with the UIAA. Moseley also encouraged greater international participation in Pan-African meets and between international climbers and local climbers and clubs when visiting the continent.

Asia: Christine Pae (KAF, Korea). The UAAA (Union of Asian Alpine Associations) is the Continental body in Asia and counts 18 members from 13 countries, 15 of which are UIAA members. Pae discussed the impact of Covid-19 cancellations on programmes across the continent and its devasting impact on the Himalayan trekking and mountaineering season. On the bright side, the Asian Mountain Museum Alliance has been created to celebrate the shared mountain heritage between nations. So far it includes the involvement from associations in India, Korea, Japan, Nepal and Taiwan.

Central & South America: Martin Lascano (FASA, Argentina) presented the situation in a vast continent with a lot of untapped potential in terms of organised mountaineering activities. Five countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Guatemala) are currently members of the UIAA although there is significant interest from associations in other countries. National federations are enjoying considerable success in raising climbing and mountaineering topics at national level. Political issues, inaccessibility and poor infrastructure, remain concerns. The impact of Covid-19 has seen much of Latin America’s climbing areas closed, on a positive side it’s has mobilised the climbing community online.

Europe: Anne Arran (BMC, United Kingdom) detailed the work conducted by a number of associations in Europe notably EUMA, European Union of Mountaineering Associations. The UIAA has over 40 member associations on a continent with over 159,000km of mountain trails, 2,878 huts and shelters and 4,335 climbing areas. EUMA recently published a statement on climbing tourism, is working on a plotted map of mountain huts and on good governance. Further details can be found on its website.

North America: Peter Muir (ACC, Canada) will be vacating his position to Phil Powers (AAC, United States), recently retired CEO of the American Alpine Club (Mitsu Iwasaki, his successor, has held the role since June 2020). Muir paid tribute to Powers’s work which saw the AAC membership rise significantly and witnessed significant implementation in grassroots education and public policy. Muir also provided details on the activities of all UIAA members on the continent, subjects addressed in more detail in the 2019 UIAA Annual Report.

Oceania: Stuart Gray (NZAC, New Zealand) highlighted a number of areas including the impact on the Australian and New Zealand guiding community owing to the complete collapse of international tourism. Gray also tackled the contentious subject of access and land ownership where indigenous populations are reasserting their rights to land ownership and how to positively engage climbing communities in these debates. In Australia’s Grampian National Park 3,000 climbing routes are currently closed and in New Zealand significant discussions are taking place on the management of national parks. Gray also emphasised the UIAA’s ability to mediate on a selective basis in such discussions and to act through its global network.

UIAA Court

Pierre Humblet, President of the UIAA Court, reminded delegates about the role of the UIAA Court as an internal, independent judicial body of the UIAA. Its purpose is to help resolve possible disputes between the UIAA, UIAA members and UIAA bodies. The Court also provides regular advice concerning implementation of the UIAA Articles of Association, regulations and is also available to be consulted on historical aspects of the UIAA and its management structures.

Annual Report

UIAA Communication Manager Peter Bourne introduced the 2019 UIAA Annual Report and sister publication the GA Digital Magazine. As well as being a deliverable for the General Assembly, the Annual Report has undergone a number of updates and evolutions over the past two years with the scope of serving all stakeholders as a supporting document throughout the year. A digital version is available on the UIAA website and print copies sent to member federations in the summer of 2020. The digital magazine has been conceived to reduce the number of supporting documents for the GA and condense them into one publication. It dually serves as an update on UIAA activities between two editions of the Annual Report.

Over a number of months the UIAA Office – Nils Glatthard, Stephanie Stettbacher, Carol Kahoun, Rob Adie, Peter Bourne, Agnes Semelet and supported during the GA by moderator Tarquin Cooper and public notary Jonas Laager – worked diligently to guarantee all technical and digital solutions were in place and in wider preparations for the UIAA’s first ever digital GA.

Further Information

For further details on the UIAA General Assemblies click here.
The digital magazine, a Guide to the 2020 UIAA General Assembly, can be found here.
A full directory of UIAA member associations can be viewed here.