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Canadian leads world’s climbers

Former ACC president takes helm

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“These things take a lot of work,” Mortimer said. “There’s a really big difference between a fun event, like the Canmore (ice climbing) festival, and international events, like the World Cup competitions in Europe.”

With its head office located in Bern, Switzerland, Mortimer said he doesn’t see any unusual challenges arising from his residing thousands of kilometres and numerous times zones away in Calgary, despite the fact 95 per cent of the UIAA’s membership is European.

“We meet every six weeks or so,” Mortimer said. “A lot of our work is done electronically, and by telephone. It is a worldwide organization, with 95 per cent of its members in Europe, and the rest in North America, South America, Africa and Asia. But if you want to be world wide, that’s part of the deal.”

In some ways, he said, being non-European has its pluses.

“In North America, we don’t have any built in prejudices like many of the European countries,” Mortimer said.

Member organizations, such as the German alpine club, with over 700,000 members, he explained, yield considerable political power, as does Italy’s alpine club, which has the ears of no less than five members of Parliament.

“They live in the mountains, they know how to recreate in the mountains and the tourism industry is very, very important to them,” Mortimer said.

One of his goals, Mortimer said, is to work toward giving a sense of direction to different individual federations, while working toward a common good.

Reaching consensus among such a large and diverse group as the UIAA can provide a formidable challenge, Mortimer said, explaining that sometimes the differences in opinion and sensibility are ingrained in local or regional attitudes.

“For the most part, Europeans believe access to the mountains for recreation is a fundamental right, while in North America we see it more as a privilege, one that can be jeopardized or lost without proper considerations,” Mortimer said. “It can be complicated to make sweeping international statements. The main challenge is to bring orderly debate to the process. There was a reluctance to see change, but change is necessary.”