Expedition organised in 1990 on K2, the second highest mountain in the word, in the Karakoram range of Pakistan, to remove fixed ropes and discarded gear left behind by all expeditions that have attempted the ascent before. The expedition went up to 7000 m, at the end of the Abruzzi spur, which, together with the base camp, was cleared of tons of rubbish and other stuff left behind by climbing parties, thus deteriorating the aspect and the “wildness” of the whole area. It was the very first such cleaning expedition in the Himalayas.
The interest of Mountain Wilderness in the Himalayas is long-standing. Problems arising with expeditions to the Himalayas – such as the pollution of base camps and normal routes to the main peaks – are among the main action themes that led to the creation of the movement, marked by the “Free K2” expedition. As a result of the success of this expedition and thanks to the trustworthy relationship thus established with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport, the Pakistani Government has asked our experts for co-operation in working out new rules and regulations for mountaineering expeditions, so that environmental problems could be taken into account more seriously and the Free K2 operation would not remain an isolated event. As a result, Mountain Wilderness organized first in Pakistan and then in India – at the request of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation – several courses of Environment-Friendly Mountaineering for future Liaison Officers. The aim of such courses was to teach the trainees the basic technical knowledge of mountaineering, geography, geological and human history of the area, referring especially to the history of mountaineering in the Himalayas, and arousing in them an environmental conscience that would allow them to check the behaviour of future foreign expeditions and improve it. Unfortunately, during the last few years the Pakistani Government has given in to the requests of travel agencies and other commercial organizations, thus neglecting the commitments taken towards Mountain Wilderness.
Oxus-Mountains for Peace
After the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, Mountain Wilderness organized in 2003 an expedition with the intention to re-open the Afghan Hindu Kush ranges (which had been a popular destination in the past) for adventure tourism, such as mountaineering, trekking, nature hikes, fauna watching, as a sign of peace and a return to a normal way of life, which could offer to the extremely poor population of the valleys a profitable income and social and economic improvement. This initiative had, beyond environmental concerns, a clearly expressed humanitarian intent. Members of the expedition were mountaineers from France, Italy, Spain, Slovenia and Switzerland. They reached the top of the highest peak in Afghanistan, Mount Noshaq (7492 m), which had remained unclimbed for 25 years. During the expedition a documentary film “The Lapis lazuli Horse” was produced for television. In the years 2005 and 2006, at the request of the Afghan Ministry for the Environment in Kabul, we organized two courses of Environment-Friendly Mountaineering, which were very successful and included three brave young girls, who were the main characters of a documentary
From its beginning in 1987, the protection of the Dolomites as a world heritage site, was included in the Biella Theses. The initiative has gone a long way, and some uncertain aspects still persist to-day.
During summer 1993, in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Mountain Wilderness, WWF and Legambiente collected over 20.000 signatures by the citizens asking for this step to be taken. During the following winters 1994 and ’95, a team of skiers of Mountain Wilderness joined the famous Marcialonga competition, showing well visibly the symbols of the Association and asking UNESCO to acknowledge this great natural and cultural heritage as belonging to the entire world. At all public events, not only in the Dolomites, the theme has been stressed, also during the 300.000 steps towards the Mont Blanc, starting from Turin.
However, the Italian authorities woke up late to the problem, and in the wrong way, with many contradictions. In 1998, the project was blocked by the Bolzano authorities (Bozen). It had a new start in 2004 thanks to the Ministry for Culture, but in a restricted shape: it was suggested to UNESCO to protect only the natural heritage of the Dolomites, depriving the initiative of all its cultural and social contents.
The five provinces concerned (Belluno, Udine, Pordenone, Trento and Bolzano) started to work on this project with projects, plans of management and documentation, but once again the two autonomous provinces Trento and Bolzano stopped the democratic procedure of participation applied by the other groups. They imposed the silence of the press on the candidature made to UNESCO, they closed the information channels to the people and restricted the protection to a few peaks only, leaving out a number of them that were considered strategic, discarding all valleys from the project: Protection of rocks, no more. In winter 2007 UNESCO found the project to be split into various sections and the local authorities unable to find a common ground. So UNESCO decided to suspend the whole procedure.
It is pointed out that for UNESCO the project was considered most important and granted priority. Mountain Wilderness has always made it clear that the Dolomites are not only an extraordinary site with some glorious landscapes. There is a way of life, history, social conditions and culture that are typical and unique, and worth being protected.
In spite of all the mishaps and restrictions, Mountain Wilderness still supports the project in the hope that by 2009 the Dolomites will definitely be included in the list of Natural Heritage of UNESCO. The next step will be more ambitious: extend the protection to all aspects, also culture.