Italy 5 -10 October

INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

The MCSA is an active and respected member of the UIAA (Union International Alpine Associations) and tries to send its President each year to attend the General Assembly. Although a relatively small fish in an organization of close to 80 member federations, some of whom have memberships in the 100 000’s, the MCSA makes an important contribution. It is currently the only regular representative from Africa and for this reason it has become normal for our representatives to be elected onto its Management Committee which is the main policy making body for the UIAA.

Membership to the UIAA is payable in Swiss Francs, because that is where the head-office is, and most meetings are held in the northern hemisphere so membership is relatively costly for the MCSA. This is a good reason to make sure we get good value from our affiliation and networking opportunities provided by attendance at the General Assembly are important part of this. Also important is active participation by our representatives on various Commissions (working committees) of the UIAA. Fortunately, most of the day-to-day business of the UIAA is conducted by email which greatly reduces costs.

MEETINGS AND SEMINARS LINKED TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

The actual General Assembly always takes place in October and is a very formal, all-day meeting to receive reports, to ratify decisions of its Board and of the Management Committee, to approve its finances, to elect new member federations and to pass resolutions. However, in the week running up to the G.A. there is a busy programme of useful seminars on mountaineering and of business meetings for both the Board and the Management Committee. Some delegates attend only the G.A. but most federations take an active part in both the seminars and the preliminary meetings with much valuable networking.

The host federation usually arranges a programme of outings and climbs as well as activities for the wives of delegates who may be busy with meetings. Sponsorship is normal and this greatly reduces the cost of accommodation and meals for delegates.

THE 2010 G.A. IN BORMIO (Italian Alps)

Host for the 2010 G.A. was the Italian Alpine Club (CAI – Club Alpino Italiano) which with over 300 000 members was able to harness all of its impressive resources and to put on a very successful meeting. The main organizing committee were from its Milan Section and they chose as the venue a Spa and Resort town on the Swiss border called Bormio. Bormio is well known summer Alpine hiking resort and winter ski centre, but normally shuts down for October and November. By organizing the G.A. in October, substantial discounts were negotiated with otherwise very, very pricey hotels. Some of the preliminary meetings and seminars were held in a ski lodge on the nearby Stelvio Pass which is the second highest mountain pass in the Alps highest in Italy. This smart ski lodge is a summer ski resort and was also about to close up for the winter so good rates were again obtained.

PRELIMINARY SEMINARS

  1. Mountain Huts were the focus of an interesting first seminar held at Stelvio Pass with various federations describing how their individual hut systems worked and with considerable emphasis on eco-friendly ways of doing things. Mountain Huts it transpired can be pretty smart in Europe and are always manned when open providing such niceties as meals, heating and even a bar in some. Most club huts are open to all although members usually pay half-price. (A CAI hut we visited charges 20 Euros for visitors and 10 Euros per night for members.) A working group was set up to facilitate reciprocity and sharing of huts by member federations which could make UIAA membership very useful for MCSA members wishing to hike or climb in other parts of the world in the future. (The MCSA already has a formal agreement with New Zealand.)

  2. Mountaineering Libraries and Museums came under discussion in a second seminar in Bormio and it revealed that some federations have small museums and most have excellent libraries. A contact group for club librarians has been set up. Any federation can join by contacting the CAI.

  3. Expeditions were the topic for the third and final seminar in Bormio. More specifically whether or not to revive the previous UIAA Expeditions Commission which had fallen away when commercial operators came into the game. Strong support was forthcoming because of short-comings in professional expedition management. This Commission will now be revived and all member federations will be asked to nominate a Corresponding Member.

MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE MEETING

The UIAA Management Committee meets twice a year. In May and on the Friday immediately prior to the annual G.A. The MCSA representative normally has to offer apologies for the May meeting but can play an important role in the October meting as a lone voice for Africa.

Commission Presidents report very fully to this meeting and their reports are fully discussed. The MCSA can feel very proud indeed of the significant contributions being made by both our full time and our corresponding members of these important working groups.

Jeremy Colenso on the Access Commission was singled out for particular praise because of his valuable contributions and for those of a South African researcher in the field, Anthony Hall, whom he had brought to the Commission’s attention.

Alan Jarvis’ work on corrosion of climbing equipment in hot, humid climates came in for special mention in the President of the Safety Commision’s report.

Jenny Paterson’s organization of the Youth Summit in the Drakensberg in 2009 was praised and her plans for a repeat in 2011 was given support.

Items of particular interest from the Medical Commission’s report and that of the Mountain Protection Commision is a wealth of layman’s advice on high altitude medical problems now made available on the UIAA web and of the imminent launching of a Mountain Protection label similar to that issued by the Safety Commission for climbing equipment. A Mountain Protection Label can in future be issued to a Trekking or Expedition Company if they exercise a Best Practice Approach in their organizations.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY MEETING

The main excitements of the GA were three controversial applications for membership. The rules of the UIAA allow only on full representative per country or region but associate membership is allowed of new federations as long as they are not rebel break-aways from standing members.

Turkey submitted an application for associate membership from a lively group of young mountaineers that was that was vigorously opposed by the existing federation but was still accepted. Azerbaijan submitted two simultaneous applications, both supported by their Tourist Ministry, which required some clever diplomatic footwork to persuade them to apply together as one. Iran had a clear rebel group applying in opposition to the government supported federation already a member. This application failed because the applicants did not manage to get to Bormio to support their claim and nobody could find out where/how they were detained, but some did wonder.

The main elements that could be identified as emerging from G.A. general discussion and debate were:

  1. Establishment of a Hut-Reciprocity Working Group.

  2. Re-establishment of an Expeditions Commission.

  3. Forming of a Working Group to promote Traditional Climbing.

  4. Election of six new member federations confirming the UIAA’s growing strength.

  5. Indications that the giant German and Austrian Federations might be re-joining the UIAA.

Dave Jones – MCSA President