Encouraging sustainable practices on mountains everywhere

Supported by the Petzl Foundation, the 2014 Sustainable Summits conference was led by American Alpine Club members and Denali National Park staff who brought people together from all over the globe.


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"Are we loving our mountains to death?" When you get a question like this, you have to ask, is this true? If so, what can we do about it? A good example is Alaska's Denali, first climbed 101 years ago. Today this iconic peak is buffeted by user impacts, social challenges, and environmental threats - increased rock fall, receding glaciers and a changing climate. So too, are Mont Blanc, Mount Fuji, Kilimanjaro, Bolivia's massifs, Antarctica's Vinson, and even Mount Everest. Sustainable Summits is an initiative to take on these challenges.

The Sustainable Summits conference was attended by researchers, guides, mountaineers, parks managers, decision makers, and thought leaders who came to share their ideas and solutions. To foster ongoing collaboration and a bias for action, there were 100 attendees representing all seven continents. This was a global event, as all sessions were live-streamed and are permanently posted online.

The conference not only covered the universal problem of human waste management, but also included solutions for energy, capacity management, leadership/decision making, and working with local people whose economic livelihood is based on recreation. Two special evening programs were held: A Celebration of 100 years of Climbing on Denali/Mount McKinley, and "The Everest Knot", a panel of climbers, guides and leaders from Nepal who discussed coping with rapid change.

A Petzl Foundation trustee, Blaise Agresti, who is a mountain gendarme and guide in the French Alps, attended the Sustainable Summits conference. He gave a talk about the issues caused by the growing number of climbers on the normal route of the Mont Blanc. In his talk, he focused on the dangers of the Goûter couloir, using research data taken from a recent risk study funded by the Petzl Foundation.

"The momentum to protect our mountain continues," wrote attendee Christina Rinas. "One of the best parts, echoed by many attendees, was the sense of community they felt. Bringing people together, whether for a one-day event or a long-term partnership, really can make a difference." Our ongoing challenge: protect the places we love to climb.

Ellen Lapham and Roger Robinson, co-chairs, Sustainable Summits, says:

Roger Robinson and Ellen Lapham "For decades we've seen big changes in our mountain regions worldwide. Ice climbs have disappeared in Africa and rock fall has made many routes in the European Alps too dangerous. Popularity has made many remote places crowded, with no infrastructure to handle all who go there. The problems seem to be mounting. Roger and I believe that the best way to solve big problems is to inspire a great team and give them tools. The 2014 Sustainable Summits Conference brought together those who are passionate about solutions. We thank the Petzl Foundation for their inspired support and encouragement. Our next Sustainable Summits - New Zealand 2016!"

How to manage risks on the Mont-Blanc, by Blaise Agresti (from 60 minutes):

Uploaded in september 2014