Canadian leads world’s climbers 

Former ACC president takes helm

By Lynn Martel

With 97 member associations from 68 different countries representing over 2.5 million individual members, the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) has its work cut out as it strives to represent the best interests of its members in matters of climbing and mountaineering.

And as the UIAA’s first non-Western European president, former Alpine Club of Canada president Mike Mortimer, who was elected to his new position at the UIAA general assembly in Banff in October, says his primary goal is to bring improved cohesiveness to the international organization.

“With such a large organization, reaching consensus can be as challenging at times as trying to reach consensus in the UN,” Mortimer said.

Founded in 1932 by representatives from 18 countries who gathered in Chamonix, France, the UIAA operates with an 11-member board and a council consisting of 19 members with voting privileges, hailing from such diverse homelands as Belgium, Greece, Romania, Korea, Ecuador, Russia and South Africa.

Marking its 75 th anniversary this year, the UIAA is the recognized international federation and acknowledged authority on all international climbing and mountaineering matters. Its nine active commissions oversee areas including access and conservation, expeditions, medicine, mountaineering, climbing safety and mountain protection.

As well, the UIAA is the governing body for ice climbing and ski mountaineering competitions, each with its own rules and regulations committed to fair play, drug free sport and protection of the environment. Each sport has its own calendar of international events with a World Cup, World Championship, continental championships and youth events.

Most recently, the Competition Climbing branch of the UIAA separated from the umbrella organization at the October general assembly, when it was decided that the International Council for Competition Climbing would administer the sport as an independent international federation, in accordance with Olympic Games requirements.

In the long term, Mortimer said, the UIAA would like to see not only competition climbing, which takes place on man-made indoor and outdoor structures, but also competitive ski mountaineering and ice climbing become Olympic sports, with a hoped-for target of 2018 for competitive ski mountaineering. While it’s been growing in popularity in Europe since the 1980s, competitive events have only been taking place in Canada for five years in Whistler, while Sunshine Village will host its second event in February. By working at a grass roots level to bring a higher profile to the sport through local activities, it is hoped it will grow to produce more international level competitions and competitors.

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