Chamonix (France) (AFP)
What if UNESCO's cultural heritage classification sheds new light on mountaineering? This is all the hope of the mountain community in the Alps, already roped up to secure the future of their passion.
"This label will promote a practice that is too often associated with the accident and explain its good side," said Bernard Prud'homme, who was responsible for coordinating the file on the French side.
"Society needs mountaineering," even dares the guide. "Learning about risk management means that society is dynamic," he said.
Finding new followers is one of the "safeguarding measures" put forward in the candidacy brought by France, Italy and Switzerland and adopted during the organization's general assembly in Bogota on Thursday.
Because this distinction is not "a pin" to proudly display on a jacket but a distinction that obliges to "continue the adventure", recalls Eric Fournier, mayor of Chamonix.
Alpine clubs currently have 327,000 Italian members, 150,000 Swiss and 95,000 French.
"For a lively mountaineering, it is necessary to train the new generations", underlines Luc Thibal of the French Federation of Alpine and Mountain Clubs (FFCAM).
In Chamonix, the French capital of mountaineering, "150 high school students have been discovering mountaineering every year for the past five years for two days", he cites as an example.
The idea would be to move up a gear, by relaunching the green and snow classes, neglected because of administrative obstacles, according to Christian Jacquier, president of the National Union of Mountain Guides (SNGM). The Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer would have marked, according to him, his interest in the "educational values of the mountain".
On the Italian side, Renato Veronesi of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) also talks about "training teachers on respect for the mountains" and promoting its culture - its sobriety, its sense of responsibility - "through museums, festivals cinema, schools, publishing ... "
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Another big challenge of mountaineering is climate change.
The high mountains suffer the effects in accelerated: glacial retreat, melting of permafrost and destabilization of the grounds, rocky collapses.
"Adapting? This is the essence of our practice! We have been doing it since mountaineering started," says Pierre Mathey, secretary general of the Swiss Association of Mountain Guides (ASGM).
"Routes must be abandoned, bypassed; shelters displaced," he lists.
And above all, seasonality will have to change. "We are really the generation where there will be lots of + boxes + (accidents, note) if we do not adapt. We will have to forget July / August because the glaciers are no longer in condition", analyzes Lara Amoros, young guide 32 years old.
But the extension of the season in spring and autumn will also require that the huts, the services, the ski lifts keep pace.
For the young woman, it is also an opportunity to "promote the different facets of mountaineering: no longer just reaching a summit but making an edge race, and by changing altitude".
And the guides will have "an educational role on the environment with their customers", estimates Georges Unia, of the environment / climate commission of the SNGM. "This classification is a new possible trajectory for professionals".
But all this will only make sense if the three winning States respect their commitment to "preserve free access to the high mountains", a fundamental principle for mountaineers.
"The Alps are the only major massif that is free. Everywhere else, in Argentina, in the USA, in Canada, in Japan, in the Himalayas, there is an entry ticket," recalls Mr. Mathey.
"Epiphenomena of overcrowding such as the normal route to Mont-Blanc should not lead states to regulate everything", he warns.
Because "without the dreams of men, the mountains are just a heap of stones," recalls Fabrizia Derriard, ex-mayor of Courmayeur.
© 2019 AFP