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At the top! K2 Expedition ‘Women Climbing for Climate Change’ a Success

Posted on August 10th, 2014

07 Aug 2014

Photo courtesy: K2 Expedition Team

Photo courtesy: K2 Expedition Team

As part of the first Nepali Women K2 Expedition 2014, three young women climbers from Nepal – Maya Sherpa, Dawa Yangzum Sherpa and Pasang Lhamu Sherpa – successfully summitted K2 at about 14:45 local time on the afternoon of 26 July 2014. Climbing with the message ‘Women Climbing for Climate Change’, the team has set a new world record as the first women from Nepal to summit the second highest peak in the world. The team set off on their journey from Kathmandu to Pakistan on 17 June 2014.  (read article here)

 


Mountain Tourism and Sustainability in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan: A Research Review

Posted on August 2nd, 2014

A report produced by the University of Central Asia, Mountain Societies Research Institute has recently been published.

msri_activities_outcome_partnershipsThe paper reviews research on mountain tourism in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, identifies knowledge gaps and analyses the contribution of the literature to more sustainable tourism. Eighty-seven regional and international publications were analyzed using the United Nation’s 12 Aims of Sustainable Tourism Framework. Recommendations are made to broaden the scope and strengthen the quality of applied research to support the development of tourism as a driver of economic and social development in mountain communities and more broadly in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The report is downloadable here

Source: University of Central Asia


Back to a week-end for the Widerness in Mont-Blanc

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

Along with the General Assemblies of Mountain Wilderness International and proMONT-BLANC (the associations umbrella for the Mont Blanc protection ), a little crowd of mountain purists met in Chamonix during the week-end of June 15 in the Chamonix Valley.

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Beyond the traditional statutory work of the associations the participants wanted to highlight their continued commitment to the protection of Mont Blanc, and to the preservation of wilderness spaces not only in this Alpine area but also in all the European mountains.

 

Quoting John Muir:
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

Eight mountaineers of various ages (Christophe Dumarest, Yoann Joly, Amy Bernard, François Labande Carlo Alberto Pinelli, Sébastien de Sainte-Marie, Claude Eckhardt and Carolina North) came together in the Majestic hotel to share with the public the experience of their relationship with the mountain environment and to explain how their practice in these pristine spaces helped them to become the fully living and sensitive human being they are today. These folks, some very young other less, simple climbers or seasoned mountain guides, other dubbed by their peers in prestigious Mountaineering Associations, have explained how much their wilderness experience had affected their lives, often growing them to become more self-confident, or to reconstruct oneself after an accident, to finally find in a “pacified” mountaineering practice the fullness of great scenery and the brotherhood of the climbing rope.

The Wilderness made me

Talking on the Wilderness

They also spoke of the difficulties to sometimes find this wilderness nearby in our overbuilt mountains, which sometimes pushes them to run across the world to find a peaceful or a wild place. Testimony is the story of this freezing bivi in the crude Eiger’s north face, watching the dancing lights and the sound of snow groomers at the foot of the face. One of them went on to described its genuine pleasure of camping atop an easy mountain with his little and marveled son in the heart of a National Park,… And all of them had this dream for future generations to be able to experiment this sense of grace!

Getting these feelings in the Mont-Blanc was the subject of another panel session during the weekend.
The “Citizen Meetings for Mont Blanc” was a time to take stock of the current environmental situation and to enable some pragmatic ways forward for an improved range protection. The debate focused on three themes: “Mont Blanc Nature”, “Can we do everything to Mont Blanc”and “Mont Blanc tomorrow.”
The debate, moderated by François Carrel, a journalist, included some, local and regional politicians, state representatives and some mountain environmentalist leaders.

Citizen meeting on Mont-Blanc protection

The Mont-Blanc protection in action

The first objective of this panel was to make known all the work currently in progress within the « Espace Mont-Blanc » to provide a new tri-national management plan for the range. Best known as”Future Strategy for Mont-Blanc”,its aim is to ensure that a coherent policy is put in place addressing all the major issues across the Mont-Blanc territories. The second was to allow all the stakeholders representatives (community, state, associations) to express their ambitions and wishes for the range, This has been achieved. To illustrate this, all players were in agreement to state that the acceptable boundaries of real estate developments had been crossed over and that we were already moving fast toward a critical threshold marking the end of a good environmental sustainability level.
For all of them, the Mont Blanc is still a major issue and a challenge which deserves to be addressed from multiple perspectives: nature, land management and living space.

Quoting several players :
For the Sub-Prefect :”the current legal structure [of the Future Strategy for Mont-Blanc] is rather soft” and he expressed the desire that the « Espace Mont-Blanc » adopts, “a more advanced legal structure that integrates a participatory democracy.”

Barbara Ehringhaus (proMONT-BLANC President), underlined that “the relationship between elected officials and associations have evolved from a frontal opposition to a constructive cooperation”.

The Regional Commissioner stated that “the Mont -Blanc area should be considered as a major European space of the Alpine Arc for experimentation and innovation.”

Following these debates MW International and proMONT-BLANC have adopted a motion inviting all the territory stakeholders to have greater ambitions and a stronger commitment to preserve this exceptional Mountain Range and in getting really involved in developing and implementing the « Future Strategy » for the environmental goodness of the Mountain, the Valleys and their Inhabitants. ..

>>See the “Motion for the Mont-Blanc Range Future

On the Airspace Management and Touristic Flyovers issue the associations have requested, for the entire Mont-Blanc territory, a similar regulation to the one currently enforced in all the Natural Parks and Natural Reserves of France in order to preserve the quietness of its wild spaces, its inhabitants and its visitors for a better appreciation of this breathtaking scenery and for an improved quality of life.

(VN, BM)


MOTION for the Mont-Blanc Mountain Range Future

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

General Assemblies of
Mountain Wilderness International and proMONT-BLANC
June 14, 2004

 

mw-International_bluegOZ_1uIcThe long maturation process of the management tools of the Mont-Blanc territory has led «Espace Mont-Blanc*» to define a so called “Strategy for the Future” with a special emphasis on certain themes including the management of natural areas, the airspace and public attendance of the range.
Mountain Wilderness International and pro MONT-BLANC, having come together during their general meetings in Argentière on June 14, 2014:

  • Recall the role that the associative sector, in particular Mountain Wilderness and pro MONT-BLANC, has played and is still playing in the development process for the protection and sustainable management of Mont-Blanc
  • Recall that the current (preservation) process is a replacement project of an International Park, it requires all the players to demonstrate a genuine ambition to preserve this exceptional site,
  • Require all partners, especially the “Espace Mont-Blanc” municipalities, but also the regions and the three concerned states to get fully involved in the “Strategy for the Future” and its implementation in an action plan taking into account the major environmental and tourism management issues at the heart of the territory and its valleys,
  • Request on the particular airspace management theme and sightseeing flights that measures be taken on the entire Mont-Blanc territory similar to those enforced in French National Parks or Natural Reserves so that the range, its residents and visitors can find the peace that these this fabulous scenery deserves.

As it was found in the Mont Blanc Citizens Meetings held on June 13, the challenges are of a high acuity and deserve urgent commitments from all stakeholders : local, regional, inter-regional, national and European.
We, the associative world will take our part.

*Espace Mont-Blanc (EMB): Mont-Blanc Space, the transnational grouping union of the 3 countries commons (?) that have decided to work together for the development and the preservation of Mont-Blanc territories.

(VN, BM)


As many, a day in MontBlanc

Posted on July 23rd, 2014

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Photo: Sylvia Okkerse

We are leaving for a short mountaineering journey in the Argentière basin; leaving stopwatch or stress behind us, just with the wish to live a beautiful day shared with friends, away from the din and sanitizing routines of the workdays. By entering this peaceful kingdom a feeling of being out of the world, or, paradoxically, at the heart of it, fills us. Finally we’ll be able to re-energize ourselves!

Dawn; a few moments of contemplation and fullness, suddenly the aircraft turmoil begins. Until late afternoon, whether one is on a north face or on a glacier, the quietness is broken. the paradise suddenly turned into a fun park. “- Yoann Joly, mountaineer

Stories of this type repeated over and over throughout the years by climbers such as Yoann but also by tourists and inhabitants of the valleys, have led many to a shared conclusion: we must “find a better balance between the so much disturbed peace and serenity of the mountains and their adjacent valleys and the flight traffic caused by civil, tourism and military aviation. This objective is currently assigned to the airspace working group” of « Espace Mont-Blanc » which has the mandate to define « all relevant actions to reduce the impacts of motorized and non-motorized overflights » (noise, emissions greenhouse gas emissions) over the territory …)

In support of this approach, Mountain Wilderness had planned a large gathering on Sunday, June 15th on the « Mer de Glace », in this high emblematic place of the Mont-Blanc, to call for an urgent regulation, harmonized across the 3 borders of the range, not allowing flights below 1000m above ground level, restricting this range to all motorized air traffic but the public service missions.

As the weather did not permit to hold this event (see below), we carried these issues to the first meeting of the “Airspace” working group on June 23.

During this meeting we proposed to segment the various potential situations assuring a no limitation condition for rescue actions but requiring further thinking about the related training issues. Similarly for altitude work, it is necessary to have authorizations harmonized across the borders, as well as flight rationalization, or possibly ecological requirements in all public tenders. When it comes to free flights (including paragliding, hang gliding and other non motorized type of flights) we recommended to engage all stakeholders in a consultation process similar to the one in place for the Ecrins National Park Climbing Convention. Finally, on the delicate subject of leisure flights, we believe it should be completely banned in the heart of the range. Indeed how can the nuisances be limited if no action is taken to minimize the excessive number of flights? And, as Fredi Meignan, President of MW France, said when answering a question raised by a pilot: “In cities, in villages, in the valleys, people have to deal daily with noise. Only in high elevation places can we still listen to silence. The heart (essence ou core) of the Mont-Blanc is exceptional: shouldn’t we respect there the same overflights rules as in national parks? “

(VN, BM)


Silence : We did it anyway !
By Christophe Roulier

Revue98_dossierP12_Encadré_PhotoChristophe RoulierAfraid of rain ? Not us !
On the right Sunday at the right place and at the right time, we did go with the family. We did it in spite of the MW event cancellation, to claim our desire for Silence in these high places.
As shown by this photo, taken a little bit higher than the planned meeting point at the junction with the Leschaux Glacier…We were there at 11 am, after having gone down the ladders… and no need for crampons to hike  that sea of stones.
Picture taken, we left the place at about 2pm, at 3pm we were back at the foot of the ladders, meeting the first drops of rain. At 4pm our raincoats were asking for mercy, half an hour later our underwear were drowning. At 5pm we were naked in our cars, changing clothes.
The event cancellation was the right decision, taking into account the short good weather window, especially considering that several people were coming from very far.
Let’s have no regret then, but please, SILENCE !

(CR, BM)


Mountain Widerness International General Assembly Report

Posted on July 7th, 2014

20140614_120043On June 14, 2014, the biennial General Assembly of Mountain Wilderness International was held in Argentiere (Haute-Savoie) with 44 delegates representing eight of ten of Mountain Wilderness associations (Germany, Catalonia, Spain, France, Italy, Pakistan, the Netherlands and Switzerland).

This meeting was an opportunity to take stock of the activities of the association for two years.

From an administrative point of view, the executive team set up in 2011 and expanded in 2012 with a Treasurer enabled a new momentum, including: a higher frequency of operational meetings and a better structuring of the activity, as well as new rules for contributions of association members and, for the first time, a provisional budget. Renewed and extended, it is still headed by the President Jordi Quera (Catalonia).

Though international projects are struggling for achievement due to lack of volunteers to implement all the actions, the Asian desk, headed by Carlo Alberto Pinelli, had a strong presence for Mountain Wilderness in the Himalaya-Karakoram-Hindu Kush region. A training for trek guides and high altitude porters was successfully held at Passu (Pakistan) in September 2013, it was followed by a refresher course, in May 2014, organized by Mountain Wilderness Pakistan.

In Val di Mello (Italy) Mountain Wilderness International will take the management of a former mountain pasture building transformed into an information center for environment and wilderness protection during the summer time. Volunteers who wish to engage in this adventure may contact MW International. A test period should be conducted this summer as a prerequisite before making a six years rental commitment.

Several new actions have been approved by the Assembly: a training course for trek leaders and staff in Ethiopia, a special training dedicated to women guides in Nepal (Sherpa Women) with Salewa and a full crossing of the Alps project by fair means. Some projects have been put on hold such as the Scandinavia wilderness crossing. The footprint project (aiming at measuring the human impact on the main world’s ranges) is expected to be reactivated.

The major assembly’s goal set for the coming years is to further develop both internal and external communications. The website should be expanded, and a presentation brochure in English as presented at the meeting will be published. The growth of member associations and active volunteers is also a priority. Along with this, Mountain Wilderness welcomes a new member, Mountain Wilderness Austria, created in 2013.

Notwithstanding a relatively limited success, the fight for Mont-Blanc protection continues, the Assembly adopted a proMONT-BLANC, motion requesting a stronger commitment of competent authorities in the preservation process of the range.

The picture painted by the national organizations clearly showed that most of the Mountain Wilderness actions take place right there in the regions, but also that the main topics dressed by MW span all aspects of the mountain protection.

The GA decided to hold a strategic meeting, open to all those who feel concerned, to think and debate on the organization’s future and on directions to give to its projects.

Delegates, after a productive day, have decided to meet in two years, in Catalonia.
(HT, BM)


New mountain National Park in Spain: the Guadarrama National Park

Posted on May 23rd, 2014

After years of strugglesand administrative proceedings, in which Mountain Wilderness has actively participated, in 2013 a new Mountain National Park was approved in Spain; the Guadarrama National Park.

Even if it does not contain large elevations (Peñalara, 2.432m.) or alpine characteristics, on the contrary, it has other important values; the beauty of a landscape formed of medium and high mountains, its special geomorphology, the variety of its fauna and flora, its climatic conditions, its hydrology and many other environmental values. The proximity to Madrid, a metropolitan area with six million inhabitants, only at 40 km. of distance from the Park, threats seriously this special mountain environment (overcrowding and uncontrolled urbanism).

In addition, the Mountain range of Guadarrama has an historical value for the practice of climbing and mountaineering in Spain. Generations of sportsmen and naturalists have been formed here, being pioneers of mountain activities in Spain.

Nevertheless, the assessment that we do on this new National Park is very critical. The initial expectations that we had on a project that in our opinion would restrain the aggressions that the Mountain range was suffering, have been disappointed. It has been chosen to defend the economic exploitation of its resources, and to convert the Mountain range in something more close to a thematic-tourist park than to a mountain area.

The National Park remains short regarding its extension that has been circumscribed to the area of summits, excluding ample areas with exceptional values, sometimes greater than those of the summits. Two ski resorts (Navacerrada and Valdesquí), are located in the “heart” of the Park. Their bad conditions, are incompatible with the concept of a National Park. Mountain Wilderness pleads for the progressive dismantling of these ski resorts, the soil and landscape recovery and the country planning of all environment and its adaptation to a National Park.

In any case, we congratulate ourselves with the declaration of a new National Park and will try to contribute to its extension and improvement.

 

Ridge from Peñalara peak to Claveles peak

Ridge from Peñalara peak to Claveles peak

Barranca valley

Barranca valley

General view of center part of Guadarrama

General view of center part of Guadarrama


EVEREST, TRAGEDY AND FARCE

Posted on May 13th, 2014

 

Credit: Gazette.com

Credit: Gazette.com

It took the death of sixteen sherpas in the labyrinth of the so-called “Nutcracker” icefall that separates the Everest base camp from Camp 1 for news of what has been happening for years on the slopes of the world’s highest peak to reach a wider public. But already back in 1997 Jon Krakauer, in his best-selling book “Into thin air”, had lucidly and bleakly described the degradation – complete with deaths and amputations – that the excesses of commercially-run expeditions have brought to mountaineering in the Himalayas. Anyone who thought that those reports might have led to a change of course was seriously wrong: what happened was exactly the opposite, as can be seen in the chilling photos published in June 2013 by the National Geographic Magazine. Climbing Everest has become a cynical and ruthless business that each season involves thousands of visitors and hundreds of often unscrupulous tourist operators – and brings large sums of valuable currency to the Nepalese Exchequer. This is why it is extremely unlikely that the government will take serious measures to limit the flow of foreigners beyond base camp. Every stage of the ascent of Everest from the Khumbu side is now effectively managed by Sherpa highlanders, who earn on average between twenty and forty times the salary of a government employee. It is the Sherpas who tame the dangerous first icefall with metal bridges and then (rightly) charge a toll; it is they who provide the kilometers of fixed ropes on the rest of the route to the summit, along which trudges the interminable procession of their rich, jumar-armed clients. It is the Sherpas who dig out the sites for tents at the higher camps, who carry the oxygen bottles, food, sleeping bags

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and stoves; who cook dinner and breakfast for the droves of foreigners obsessed with the futile ambition of reaching the summit despite not being up to it. And lastly, it is the Sherpas who, for compulsory payment, carry down the bins from the latrines of the base camp, full to the brim of human excrement. For them Everest has become the goose that lays the golden eggs: the work may carry serious risks

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but it is particularly lucrative. However justified and sincere our grief for the recent tragedy may be, it should nonetheless not blind us to an awareness and an evaluation of its context, which has more grey areas than white. In the certain knowledge that without their help the commercial business machine would

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come to a halt, the Sherpas have recently become a powerful lobby that is about to consider the normal route up the mountain as its private property. Are they wrong? Within this crazy and overcrowded context we have

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to say that they are not. It is the context that needs to be addressed if even a spark of the real Himalayan mountain-climbing spirit is to be salvaged. A desperate venture, because there can be no solution that is not founded on a radical reduction in the numbers of visitors and a consequent fall in revenue for everybody concerned: the government, the Sherpas, the guides and the agencies that organize the commercial expeditions. It is, above all, the latter who are the real culprits in this disaster: they have imposed a consumer-driven, unauthentic type of pseudo-mountaineering that both denies and betrays the very rationale of real mountain-climbing. There is no point in hiding the facts: the ascent of Everest has become a pathetic parody of itself. The poison brought by this approach to mountain-climbing, introduced through the sound of dollars by the commercial expeditions, has plagiarized the Sherpa’s minds and corrupted the fragile roots of their traditional culture, to a point to make them accomplices. For this reason alone we can forgive them, even when they fail to help a foreigner in serious difficulty who happen not to be climbing with the agency for which they are working just then, or when, knives in hand, they threaten the few independent parties that dare to come close to one of their fixed ropes. The episodes described by Fausto De Stefani and Simone Moro are typical, albeit not (yet) generalized.
But everybody has a limit, even the most “robotized” Sherpa. A few days ago a refusal by employers to allow a pause in preparing the ascent route (which is particularly insidious this year) so that the workers could observe their traditional funeral ceremonies and recover from the shock, was met with violent protests that culminated in an all-out strike. This fit of identity pride (combined, in truth, with a more prosaic request for improved insurance coverage and the easily comprehensible fear of paying the ultimate price) was enough to force dozens of pseudo-climbers to abandon the attempt and go home with their tails between their legs – which says it all on the subject of the complete dependence of these bunches of incompetent Tartarins de Tarascon on the help of the Sherpas.
Now let us for a moment indulge in the pleasures of Utopia and attempt to list the minimum measures that could be taken if the world that revolves around Everest were not what it is.
The first measure could be the imposition of a limited number of climbers per season, reducing them by at least half. The loss of revenue for the Nepalese government could be made up in part by a significant increase in the royalties.
The second measure should be a ban on the use of oxygen during the ascent (not at night), at least below eight thousand meters, and a requirement to carry the empty oxygen bottles back down the mountain. This would suffice to eliminate three quarters of the would-be “conquistadores”.
The third measure should be a limit on the equipment used on the ascent route, with fixed ropes only on the really difficult stretches. In addition, each expedition should be required to recover all equipment placed along the route, including ropes.
The fourth measure should limit permission for the ascent only to those who can prove that they have climbed at least one Himalayan peak of over seven thousand meters.
The fifth measure would involve the liaison officers that the government imposes on all expeditions. These individuals, who nowadays are totally useless and often easily corrupted, should be required to follow special training courses similar to those held for several years by Mountain Wilderness in other Asian regions (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan).
It goes without saying that none of this will come to pass; or not, at least, until the UIAA decides to consider stringent and effective measures and put them in place. The first step could be to draw up a particularly strict code of behaviour for commercial expeditions, while anyone who fails to observe those rules scrupulously should be expelled without right of appeal from every Alpine Club. Utopia within Utopia?
Course in Passu 2013 183

Carlo Alberto Pinelli
Director of the Asian Desk of Mountain Wilderness International


Rally for Mont-Blanc/Silence!

Posted on April 18th, 2014

 

Rally for Mont-Blanc

 

Top of Europe, Wold Mountaineering Capital, Heart of the Alps.
Shared by three countries, the Mont Blanc range is a highly emblematic place, it draws a lot of attention as in everybody’s eyes it incarnates the high mountains. That is why we

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all wish the Mont Blanc’s outstanding environment to be really protected and preserved.
But, today, without a specific regulation, the Mont Blanc’s kingdom of beauty and silence suffers from the increasing number of flyovers and of the insistent uproar of motors echoes .

Mont-Blanc deserves better

Currently “Espace Mont Blanc” is launching its international “Strategy for the Mont Blanc future”, that includes an “Airspace” chapter with an ambitious goal to restore quietness and serenity to the place now troubled by the permanent noise caused in some part of the range

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and in nearby valleys by touristic, civil and military aviation.

Always committed for a true protection of Mont Blanc, Mountain Wilderness asks Espace Mont Blanc to implement a uniform and strict regulation for motorized flyovers with the same rules as in French National Parks and Nature Reserves.

Motorized flyovers at less than 1000m over the ground should be restricted to public services only.

Mountain Wilderness invites you to gather on Sunday, June 15th in a high place of the Mont Blanc range :
> To reaffirm that Mont Blanc deserves to be protected
> To support Espace Mont Blanc’s “strategy for the

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future” and its “airspace” chapter
> To ask for a quick implementation of a uniform international regulation of flyovers in the Mont Blanc range.
Rally on Sunday, June 15th 2014 at 11:00 on the “Mer de Glace at the place – Les Moulins” at 2000m altitude.
With flags and signs –and no superfluous noise- we will demand a regulation protecting the quietness of the airspace in the Mont Blanc range.

(CD, BM)
▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬
Information : Practical Info-Silence (pdf), Contact silence.montblanc@mountainwilderness.fr
Press : presse@mountainwilderness.fr


THE MOUNTAIN FOOTPRINT PROJECT

Posted on April 15th, 2014

From its inception in 1987, Mountain Wilderness International (MWI) has placed a strong emphasis on the human experience of wilderness. This “wilderness”notion,

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can be defined as a nature whose status has not been conditioned or altered by humans.

The work carried out over 25 years by the MW movement worldwide attempts to change behaviors to achieve a balance between man and nature and to preserve the wilderness of the mountain.

But how can this work be evaluated?

To address this question Mountain Wilderness International has launched an innovative project: the “Mountain Human Footprint” project with the aim to assess the human impact on the highest peaks of the World. An evaluation template, defined by MWI, has been tested on four peaks in Bolivia (the Sajama, the Acotango, the Huayna and the Jhanko Laya) by four MW Catalonia members, including MWI president, Jordi Quera. This is the key tool to achieve this objective.

 

The expedition enjoyed strong local support from various organizations and people involved in mountain activities.

It was also an opportunity, through a rehabilitation program, to train local young people to a professional level

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in various mountain sports. This expedition laid the ground of the work which now could be implemented on all the globe Mountain Ranges.

To carry-out this project, MWI needs to capitalize on as many Mountaineering practitioners as possible using the “Footprint Mountain Ratio” template to establish a large survey of the status of the wilderness of our mountains worldwide.

This project is a milestone in the awareness and preservation of natural areas. It is undoubtedly an important first step toward further work that could more generally assess the “ecological footprint” of human presence on our mountains and monitor its evolution.

Help us to undertake this new challenge: Download and distribute the evaluation template Mountain Human Footprint ratio card

Once completed send it to your local Mountain Wilderness organization by e-mail or post or to Mountain wilderness International – Via Laietana, 54, 2n, desp.213.08003 Barcelona. Catalonia. Spain, internationalmw@gmail.com



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