/ NEW ARTICLE: A New 'Style' of Climbing: the Eco-Mountaineer

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UKC Articles - on 19 Feb 2013
After the storm - near the Refuge du Gouter, Mt Blanc, 3 kbIn this article Ben Lewis, researcher at the University of Leeds, takes a look at climbing, consumption and the environment and gives us a few simple ideas on what we can do to help.

"For many, true mountaineering involves a physical and mental challenge in landscapes that seem wild and remote. 'Feeling the rock' during a hard climb and being on the hill as a storm rolls over are both intense experiences that embody this 'pure' and boundless pursuit..."


peas65 - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I would be very interested to know the footprint of an average climber/walker/mountaineer compared to the average person.

I know that personally i spend a lot of money in petrol, gear etc getting into the hills, the amount of plastic and other non-natural products that we own must exceed that of a citizen with no hobbies?

Consumption is almost an integral part of the mountaineering community- we all crave the newest kit, a shiny new light weight carabiner. We are no different from the rest of society in our consumption. There are many comments on here about people being under equipped to go into the hills, surely encouraging further consumption in many cases.
Simon Caldwell - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

Don't forget to apportion the production costs of a squillion soap operas and reality TV shows among the population of couch potatoes. They need something to do while the rest of us are out climbing.
Moondancer - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to peas65:

I use my car about twice a month to get to the hills, easily driving 250 miles in a weekend. However, that's also the only time the car gets used, and usually there are at least 2 of us in it. Compare that to someone commuting 20 miles to work every day, by themselves, and it's not that bad.

I agree with your view that the mountaineering community is no different from the rest of society in our consumption, but I think to say 'we all crave the newest kit' is a bit shortsighted. Some people consume lots and are easily enticed by shiny new stuff, others are happy enough to continue using what they have until it's falling apart. Within the mountaineering community people may be enticed to by the latest new light weight carabiner, but equally there will be plenty of people who are into fashion/video games/films/music and always want to have the latest release. However, I also see plenty of people out on the hills who are using kit that is at least a couple of decades old.

Guess it's partially the difference between consumption and consumerism. Some only spend money when they have to (i.e. to replace a worn out rope), others spend money because of the satisfaction they get from owning/buying stuff (i.e. buying a 9th jacket because it's been released in a new colour).
peas65 - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to Moondancer:

I think your right in suggesting that different people in the mountains are different as i agree that you do see some people out in older clothing though i would argue that it is generally the older generations, who didnt grow up in the decades of mass consumption and therefore may be less involved in it?

I would also suggest that you are unusual in only using your car to travel to the mountains, i would imagine most climbers etc use theirs for both commuting and climbing.

I just think its an interesting topic as i would say that we don't own a ridiculous amount of kit - though i do work in the outdoors- but i remember moving house a few years ago and compared to the amount of 'stuff' that other non mountain/outdoors/hobby people have i think we had significantly more despite not buying many other items that couch surfers may have such as video games, dvd collections ( i know i am being very generalising here).

I do think though that mountain sports are becoming more consumerised as i am sure if we examine the contents of our rucksacks there are many items in there that 30 years ago did not exist and people managed fine in the mountains without!
Taurig on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I don't personally feel that guilty about the kit I buy, because I tend towards the robust end of the scale rather than lightweight, and I'll use something until it isn't fit for purpose, rarely buying a new item when the old one is in working order. Compare this to, for example, a mate of mine, who has cupboards filled with all the novelty junk you find in the gadget shop etc.; gifts for people who don't need anything. At least the stuff I buy has a real purpose.

However, I do feel a sense of guilt at the amount of petrol burnt when driving. Oddly, I don't feel it as bad when I'm going to a crag or a hill that ends up providing a really stonking day, as sometimes it would be hard to get that anywhere else. But, if it's a bimble up some lumpy Munro in thick clag, I do occasionally wonder if I'm getting anything more out of it than exercise, and do I really have to come this far to do that? Either way, I plan to do some camping this summer so I can stay up north for a night or two and pack more in for the amount of travelling done.
h8ema - on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to Taurig:
When you mentioned it unusual for people to just use their cars twice a month I think there are people out there who are like this. For example if i am planning on going to the mountains I will cycle everywhere during the week to make it acceptable to use my car at the weekend. Many students don't have much money and cram into cars when going away which is great!
Lion Bakes on 19 Feb 2013
In reply to h8ema:

I also use my car twice a month or so, and cycle the rest of the time. It's not unusual...
martinph78 on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles: Teaching us to suck eggs?

Most of the "mountaineers" I know have a jacket they wear for everything from the pub to the hills, are always patching stuff up, still using the same pack or tent they've had for years, and you'd be hard pushed to get them to buy a new pair of boots even when they are needed!

I don't know anyone who changes their jacket every season or buys the latest carabiner/rope/whatever when it comes out. We're too busy getting out and using the kit we have to be reading website reviews and magazines about new kit!

Brendan - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I'm pretty sure flying abroad for climbing trips has a far greater impact on the environment than buying a lot of kit.
Frank4short - on 20 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles: It's a bit of a nonsense of an idea. As despite how we the climbing/mountaineering/outdoorsy community likes to look at ourselves I can barely think of a single person who wouldn't happily drive 500+ miles in a weekend if time, conditions and money allowed them too. Let alone the many that happily go for a long weekend sport/winter climbing/skiing/etc using the services of Easyjet/Ryanair/Etc.

The idea that only using your car twice a month yet in the process driving 1,000+miles in the process of those 2 trips. Firstly you're just lying to yourself if you really think this is environmentally sound. Secondly it is the exception to the rule despite what else has been posted on this thread so far.

In simple terms I don't think it's possible to call yourself eco-friendly if in reality you spend a significant amount of time travelling by car or plane to partake in a hobby. So the term eco-mountaineer should only really be reserved for those that only travel to and around the wild places using public transport or by foot/bike. Anything else is just green wash.
Olli-C - on 21 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:

I don't think flying or driving around for your hobby is the worst thing you can do in terms of the environment. If you eat beef regularly that is far, far worse than driving around loads in terms of the impact caused by methane release compared to CO2.

In terms of buying lots of new stuff regularly, I often feel like its the people who climb least who are worst for this. Are they trying to compensate for their lack of ability by regularly buying better kit or just like new shiny kit more than they actually like climbing?
Wiley Coyote2 - on 21 Feb 2013
In reply to UKC Articles:
I think "Ben Lewis" may be my mum under an assumed name. Let's see: buy stuff that will last and look after it"? Yup, that's her all right. Hi Mum!

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