Like many others, I am drawn to the mountains to find solace, take on challenging objectives, and feel whole. A deep connection to these mountainous landscapes takes me climbing all over the world. It's a privilege to see high peaks at sunrise, glaciers shimmering in the moonlight, and the beauty of all that is wild. With these cherished experiences I have also witnessed dramatic shifts in these pristine landscapes over the years. Wild places are in peril due to a number of threats including extraction, development and overuse. Climate change is adding fuel to the fire.
Imagine life without our favorite ice climbs and with snow fields unfit for snow travel, ski areas with closed gates too early in the season and crags too hot for climbing. All of these things are happening in various places at an alarming rate, and we need to act quickly to stop the degradation of our planet.
Climate change feels overwhelming but there are a number of organizations working hard to address it and mitigate its effects. I’m a longtime member of the American Alpine Club and value its deep roots in supporting scientific exploration and conserving climbing landscapes. In response to the overwhelming concern that climbers have about our changing climate, the Club is again stepping up its efforts to educate and galvanize the climbing community. Read the Club’s Climate Policy Position Statement to learn more about how climate is impacting our community and what the Club is doing in response.
There are many steps that we as climbers can take together to help in this fight in order to create change. Rather than meeting your climbing partner at the crag, carpool from town. Bike or take public transit to the climbing gym. Consider taking trips to climbing areas that do not require air travel. If you do take that international climbing trip you’ve been dreaming up for years, consider participating in carbon offset programs. Shop locally, eat less meat. Buy less stuff. Fix the stuff you already have. In isolation these steps may not feel significant, but if we commit to being a little more intentional in our own lives, it can make a difference. Talk about climate issues with others and keep educating yourself about the issues. If you’re not already, become a member of the AAC and support their policy work.
It’s a shame that climate change is so controversial in Washington and in the media. The climbing community is unique in that it represents many political ideologies. But ultimately, as explorers and lovers of wild places, we have to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change. We confront the reality of it every time we go into the mountains. By telling our stories, talking about the issues, voting, and communicating with our lawmakers and representatives, we can help shift the national rhetoric.
We find endless joy in the mountains. They provide us with inspiration, challenge us to be our best selves, and give us a perspective that cannot be found outside of these wild places. We owe it not only to these landscapes, but more importantly to the next generation of climbers to put in our best effort to reduce our impact as a community and to advocate for action on climate change.