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A Code to Climb By

A Code to Climb By

Leading climbers gather in Tyrolia to shape the ethical foundation of their sport.

Eliza Moran

In September, 2002, more than 100 representatives of mountaineering federations and elite climbers from around the world arrived in Innsbruck, Austria, to craft the final version of “The Mountain Code,” a document that had grown out of a five-year initiative begun within the UIAA. (UIAA is the French-based acronym for the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation).

The opening festivities were entertainment on a grand scale, courtesy of hosts that included the Austrian government and the city of Innsbruck, in addition to the Austrian and German alpine clubs. The mayor of Innsbruck and other dignitaries addressed the gathering, followed by a concert by the European Philharmonic Orchestra to the slides of climbing photographer Heinz Zak. Sir Christian Bonington, Tom Frost, Alexander Huber, Reinhold Messner, and Doug Scott were among the speakers who set the inspirational tone at the podium for the heart of the weekend, which was two days of intense discussions within diverse working groups. Each of these groups consisted of 10 to 20 climbers, and was responsible for refining its own set of “Articles” that would become the “Tyrol Declaration.” The resulting text is presented verbatim on the following 10 pages of this Journal.

The goal was to define a set of principles that would stand as a foundation for generations of climbers, imparting a sense of personal responsibility to guide the freedom and risks in the sport. To close the gathering, a passionate Bonington distilled the message into "Stretch your limits, lift your spirits, and aim for the top," which became the motto for the final paper.

Eliza Moran is Vice President of the UIAA Mountaineering Commission