By Lynn Martel
With 97 member
associations from 68 different countries representing over 2.5 million
individual members, the
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 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
“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
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.