September 13, 2002 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Mountain perspectives from Rogers Pass 

Celebrating the 2002 International Year of Mountains at the birthplace of North American mountaineering

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Sandford stops writing for a minute and we chat about the International Year of the Mountains and his perspective on mountain places.

According to Sandford, the International Year of Mountains idea evolved out of the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it was realized that the health of the planet's mountain ecosystems was just as serious a concern as tropical deforestation, desertification and climate change.

In Rio, it was concluded that many of the world's mountain ranges were threatened by overuse and development. The International Year of Mountains was declared to focus on the nature of threats to these mountain ecosystems.

Sandford says Canadian mountains are as threatened as places elsewhere on the planet due to the increasing cumulative effects of human use and environmental impacts.

"There is no place in the mountain regions of Canada that has not felt the influence of human-induced change," he says. "It is now recognized that the only way we can sustain the long-term health of Canada's mountains is to actively manage natural processes and systems."

Glacier National Park is a good case in point. Logging, hydroelectric power generation and recreation - including heli-ski operations, snowmobile activity and ski resort developments - happen right outside park boundaries.

As these encroaching activities get closer and closer, the park increasingly becomes an isolated island in a sea of industrial use. Other mountain parks such as Banff, Yoho and Garibaldi are no different.

I leave Sandford to his writing and head up to the Rogers Pass Centre. The centre is home to a variety of interpretive displays that portray the natural and human history of Glacier National Park. I watch a couple of movies in the theatre, and it is here that I finally relax after my climb and meditate on the meanings of mountains.

I conclude that mountains are great places, not necessarily because of their inherent features but because of the people they attract. And despite such seemingly impenetrable barriers as avalanches, rockfall, devil's club and raging torrents, mountains cannot protect themselves. It is our duty to protect them.

At dinner, I meet up again with the Morrows and Sandford, and we continue to chat about our mountain adventures. Later, we are joined by mountain guide Craig Ellis and writer Lynn Martel. Ellis and Martel attempted to climb 2,927-metre Uto Peak earlier in the day but, despite being early August. were turned back because a thin coating of verglas made their objective impossible.

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