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Adopting a mountaineer’s code of ethics

Bob Berwyn

In an era marked by an erosion of moral and ethical values and a coarsening of society in general, mountain enthusiasts from around the world have banded together proclaim a code of conduct aimed at protecting the inherent freedom of mountain sports, and promoting social development, cultural understanding and environmental awareness.The so-called Tyrol Declaration was unveiled in September 2002 at an International “Future of Mountain Sports” congress, and has since been endorsed by various national mountaineering associations.For one, the declaration attempts to resolve the dichotomy between the “leave no trace” ethos and freedom to “do whatever you want,” said Yosemite climber Tom Frost during a ceremony marking release of the document.”I think the idea was to come up with some commonly agreed ethical standards,” said Lloyd Athearn, Golden-based deputy director of the American Alpine Club. “There are different practices in different countries different legal standards and constructs, so sometimes it’s a challenge to find common ground,” Athearn said. “the Tyrol Declaration sets out and codifies a list of things we believe in,” Athearn said, explaining that the word is still slowly trickling out in this country.The declaration is based on the traditional unwritten values that have long been inherent in mountain sports, while at the same time trying to address modern issues a section on advertising and sponsorship, for example, calls for such arrangements to be in the “best interest of mountain sports.”Athearn said much of the document is based on common-sense principles that many mountain sports devotees adhere to in any case. But he explained that it has become less common for novice mountaineers to gain experience in an apprenticeship-type setting, where an experienced teacher shares knowledge about how to treat your partner, or the environment.”There’s a change in the type of people coming to mountain sports,” Athearn said. With exposure of “extreme” sports in the mass media, there are more people getting involved who aren’t getting exposure to the traditions and protocols, he said.The international effort to develop a code dates back as far as the mid-1990s and the disastrous and deadly climbing season on Everest, Athearn explained. When the media spotlight honed in on the world of mountain sports, many leaders of the community recognized the need for self-regulation to avoid a potential imposition of outside legal requirements (this dynamic is once again at work in the discussions surrounding last winter’s Canadian avalanche death toll, as some government officials call for more regulation, while the mountaineering community seeks to maintain independence and freedom).The Tyrol Declaration can be thought of as a set of best practices for mountain sports addressed to all lovers of the mountains worldwide whether they are hikers and trekkers, adventure or sport climbers, or mountaineers seeking to push their limits at high altitude.The Articles and Maxims of the TyrolArticle 1 – Individual ResponsibilityMAXIMMountaineers and climbers practice their sport in situations where there is risk of accidents and outside help may not be available. With this in mind, they pursue this activity at their own responsibility and are accountable for their own safety. The individual’s actions should not endanger those around them nor the environment.Article 2 – Team SpiritMAXIMMembers of the team should be prepared to make compromises in order to balance the interests and abilities of all the group.Article 3 – Climbing & Mountaineering CommunityMAXIMWe owe every person we meet in the mountains or on the rocks an equal measure of respect. Even in isolated conditions and stressful situations, we should not forget to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.Article 4 – Visiting Foreign CountriesMAXIMAs guests in foreign cultures, we should always conduct ourselves politely and with restraint towards the people there our hosts. We respect holy mountains and places and seek to benefit and assist the local economy and people. Understanding of foreign cultures is part of the complete climbing experienceArticle 5 – Responsibilities of groups and guided parties.MAXIMProfessional mountain guides other leaders and groups should understand their respective roles and respect the freedoms and rights of other groups and individuals. So they are prepared the leaders and groups should: Understand the hazards of the objective and have the necessary skills and experience. Have the correct equipment. Check the weather and conditions.Article 6 EmergenciesMAXIMTo be prepared for emergencies: Have you thought about the risks? Do you have the skills, knowledge and equipment to deal with an emergency situation? Can and will you help others in the event of an emergency? Are you ready to face the consequences of a tragedy?Article 7 – Access and ConservationMAXIMWe consider freedom of access to mountains a fundamental right. Nevertheless, we should always practice our activities in an environmentally sensitive way and be proactive in preserving nature. We respect access restrictions and regulations agreed by climbers and mountaineers with nature conservation organizations and authorities.Article 8 – StyleMAXIMThe quality of the experience and how we solve a problem is more important than whether we solve it. We strive to leave no trace.Article 9 – First AscentsMAXIMThe first ascent of a route or a mountain is a creative act, but it should be done in at least as good a style as the traditions of the region and show responsibility toward the needs of future climbers.Article 10 Sponsorship & AdvertisingMAXIMThe cooperation between sponsors and athletes must be a professional relationship that serves the best interests of mountain sports.Article 11 – Public Relations & Mountain SportsMAXIMIt is the responsibility of the mountain sports community in all its aspects to educate and inform both the media and pubic in a proactive manner.


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