A few years ago I traveled with a Sherpa climber who had summited on Mt Everest many times, set some speed records, and even helped carry a statue of the Buddha to the summit. I remember him talking about how the mountain was becoming more dangerous because of global warming, with more exposed rocky sections and risk of ice fall.
Every year, as I wait for the season forecast, like other skiers and riders I hope for the best. A good year – like the one we just had – seems like a blessing when you consider what we know about climate change and the likely impacts on mountain environments world-wide in coming years. Climate change is coming and ignoring the science will not make it go away.
I find it remarkable that ski resorts in Australia, who by definition rely on good winter snow falls, have generally ignored the issue of global warming. I find it strange, and sad, that we have so few famous Australian skiers and riders willing to speak out on the issue. I look to the example of people like boarder Jeremy Jones, the inspiration of Protect Our Winters, and initiatives like The Little Things, a snowboard movie project based on environmentally conscious riders who are inspirational through their riding, as well as their sustainable ways of living and thinking.
So, lacking local leadership from the snow sports community and industry, we still need to look overseas for some inspiration. I thought these recent comments from alpinist Kitty Calhoun (lifted from the Patagonia Australia) blog were worth sharing.
“I’m here to tell a story about a Last Ascent. A route that I climbed, that may not get a repeat because of climate change. It’s hard to admit that the mountains are changing but they are. We may or may not be able to affect climate change, but I think we should at least try and I have a new approach.
We many not agree on what is causing climate change, but all can agree on the fact that it is occurring. Alpinists are like canaries in a coal mine in that we see changes that have occurred on the glaciers in our lifetime. These changes are evident not only far away in the Himalayas, but in our own back yards. Routes that my son may have dreamed of climbing are falling apart and no longer safe. I will highlight a few climbing objectives that I have done, that may not get a repeat ascent due to unsafe conditions brought by climate change. Climbers generally celebrate a first ascent of a route. The concept of doing a last ascent never occurred to the generation before me. Some argue that it is self-aggrandizing to think we could affect climate change, but I think it is worth a try.
My lifestyle of minimalism has been the key to my success in the mountains and I think it can provide a framework for interaction with our environment. Minimalism is not simply “doing without”, but a constant reassessment and focus on what is important. Alpinism and the more general concept of minimalism is a fundamental choice about the way we live – it is an attempt at a more “mindful” way of life. This attitude is critical to our relationship with the mountains and the earth”.