On December 11th 2009 the UIAA approved a code of conduct for mountaineering. The ‘UIAA Mountain Ethics Declaration’ lays out a set of values that covers things such as responsibility to help those in need, sportsmanship, environmental stewardship and respect for cultures. Since 2003, December 11th has been marked as ‘International Mountain Day’ by the United Nations.
British mountaineer Doug Scott was largely responsible for the document which will hopefully act as a guide for all alpinists. “The Mountain Ethics Declaration, the updated statement on best practices in mountaineering, is very timely, especially to help those climbers in areas where there is no strong consensus of opinion as to the best way forward”, said Scott.
The declaration includes twelve maxims which are listed below.
For more information visit the UIAA website Officially published – Mountain Ethics Declaration
1. Individual Responsibility
Mountaineers and climbers practice their sport in situations where there is a risk
of accidents and where outside help may not be available. With this in mind, they
engage in this activity at their own risk and are responsible for their own safety.
The actions of individuals should not endanger those around them nor damage the
environment. For example, the fixing of anchors on new or existing routes cannot
automatically be taken as acceptable.
2. Team Spirit
Members of a team should be prepared to make compromises in order to balance
the needs and abilities of all the group. The climb will invariably be most successful
where the members support and encourage one another.
3. Climbing & Mountaineering Community
Every person we meet in the mountains or on a rock face deserves an equal
measure of respect. Even in remote places and stressful situations, we should
always treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.
4. Visiting Foreign Countries
When we are guests in foreign countries, we should always conduct ourselves
politely and with restraint. We should show consideration to the local people and
their culture – they are our hosts. We should respect local climbing ethics and
style and never drill holes or place bolts where there is a traditional ethic against it
or where no locally established ethics exists. We will respect holy mountains and
other sacred places and always look for ways to benefit and assist local economies
and people. An understanding of foreign cultures is part of a complete climbing
5. Responsibilities of Mountain Guides and other Leaders
Professional mountain guides, other leaders and members of the groups they lead
should each understand their respective roles and respect the freedoms and rights
of other groups and individuals. In this declaration we recognise the high standards
of practice achieved by the mountain guides’ own professional body.
6. Emergencies, Dying and Death
We must be prepared for emergencies and situations which result in serious
accidents and death. All participants in mountain sports should clearly understand
the risks and hazards and the need to have appropriate skills, knowledge and
equipment. They need to be ready to help others in the event of an emergency or
accident and also be ready to face the consequences of a tragedy. It is hoped that
commercial operators in particular will warn their clients that their objectives may
have to be sacrificed to assist others in distress.
7. Access and Conservation
We believe that freedom of access to mountains and cliffs in a responsible
manner is a fundamental right. We should always practice our activities in an
environmentally sensitive way and be proactive in preserving nature and the
landscape. We should always respect access restrictions and regulations agreed
by climbers with nature conservation organizations and authorities.
The quality of the experience and how we solve a problem is more important than
whether we succeed. We should always strive to leave no trace on the rock face or
9. First Ascents
The first ascent of a route or a mountain is a creative act. It should be completed
in a manner at least as good as the style and traditions of the region. The way the
climb was achieved should be reported exactly.
10. Sponsorship, Advertising and Public Relations
The cooperation between sponsors and mountaineers or climbers must be a
professional relationship that serves the best interests of mountain sports. It is the
responsibility of the mountain sports’ community to educate and inform both media
and public in a proactive manner.
11. Use of supplementary oxygen in Mountaineering
The use of supplementary oxygen in high altitude mountaineering has been under
debate for several years. In this debate, different components related to the topic
can be distinguished, such as medical aspects and ethical considerations. The
medical aspects should be of paramount concern to all mountaineers. Ethical
considerations are best left to the individual climber, provided that, if a climber does
use oxygen, plans are made to remove used bottles from the mountain.
12. High altitude guided commercial expeditions
It is hoped that commercial operators, especially those without qualifications,
attempting 8000m or other comparable peaks which offer limited rescue facilities
will recognize the limitations of the clients in their care. All efforts should be made to
ensure the safety of such clients and also to warn their clients that plans may have
to be curtailed to help others on the mountain in distress.