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Definition: mountain climbing from The Macquarie Dictionary

the sport of climbing mountains, usually involving a range of skills, such as rock climbing, skiing, camping, etc.

mountain climber noun

Summary Article: Mountaineering
From The Encyclopedia of Sustainable Tourism

The activity of climbing, hiking or skiing in mountains. Mountaineering was born in the Alps in the late 18th century with the first ascent of Mount Blanc. Mountaineers require a range of technical skills dependent on their goal. Skills might include: route finding, navigation, rock and ice climbing, and the ability to negotiate hazards such as crevasses.

Mountaineering can be classified as soft tourism or hard tourism (Hill, 1995). Soft mountaineering activities entail low levels of risk, minimum commitment and beginner-level skills. Examples include: undertaking less challenging mountain routes independently; taking part in activities led by experienced guides, e.g. trekking abroad; or participating in a mountaineering course to develop technical skills and enable progression to greater goals. Hard mountaineering activities include rock climbing, mountaineering expeditions and strenuous treks (Millington et al., 2001). Risk, challenge and exploration are the appeal. While competent mountaineers may undertake these activities unaided for example in the UK mountains, logistical support and guiding is often required for bigger goals such as peaks in the Greater Ranges (Fig. M9). Mountaineering provides plenty of scope for participation at different levels and is growing in popularity.

One quarter of the earth is covered by mountains and 12% of the human population live in them. Mountain-based tourism can bring economic benefits to areas with few other economic opportunities and can have a significant impact on the host community. Mountaineering can provide opportunities for local people including: guiding and logistical support, retailing equipment and hospitality. It can also result in development benefits. An example of this is from the Khumbu area of Nepal, a major trekking and mountaineering destination. In 1953, when Hillary first passed through the area on his way to summit Everest, he reported high levels of poverty amongst the indigenous mountain Sherpa. Today, however, in Namche Bazaar, the main settlement of the region, there are not only many shops and lodges but also schools, sewerage, healthcare, electricity and street lighting.

While mountaineering can be a low-impact activity, in areas such as the Khumbu, which attracts large numbers of mountaineers on multi-day commercial expeditions, it can have a negative impact on the mountain environment. The main problems on the mountain include littering and human waste. In recent years, action has been taken to address these problems and the situation has somewhat improved. For example, there are organized clean-ups on major peaks retrieving rubbish from past expeditions; expeditions are now fined if they do not carry out their rubbish; and local environmental non-governmental organizations are campaigning for the installation of toilets at Everest base-camp.

In recognition of the impacts that mountain-based tourism can have on mountain environments and communities there are global campaigns for improved management of mountain areas. One example is The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation's (UIAA) ‘Mountain Protection Award’. The award recognizes best practice in mountain tourism in ways that offer long-term benefits to the global mountain tourism industry as well as to the local mountain people and their environment particularly in less-developed countries.

Fig. M9. Qomolangma/Mount Everest base camp, Tibet (Tiffany Low).

Amanda Talbot
Ming Feng Huang
© CAB International 2015

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