Alpinism gains UNESCO cultural heritage status


The art of climbing up summits and walls in high mountains, in all seasons, in rocky or icy terrain, known as alpinism, has achieved the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage recognition.

The cultural heritage status was awarded on 12 December 2019, at the annual meeting of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Bogota, Colombia.

The Mont-Blanc summit is the highest peak of the Alpes (4,810 m or 15,781 ft).
Alpinism officially began in Chamonix in 1786, when Balmat and Paccard conquered the Mont-Blanc summit. photo source
Alpinists attached together by a rope climb to the top of Mont Blanc in the Alps. Pascal Tournaire/UNESCO

The application delivered by mountaineering and guide communities in France, Italy and Switzerland was approved on 12 December 2019.

The three countries have joined forces to promote the high mountain sport, which takes its name from the Alps mountain range.

In the Colombian capital, Bogota, cultural heritage experts had to go through 24 proposals and alpinism was among the first ones to make to the list.

Thus, alpinism has now achieved the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage recognition. "Intangible cultural heritage" is defined as living forms of heritage that are central to the lives and identities of communities, groups and individuals.

UN defines alpinism as "a traditional, physical practice characterised by a shared culture made up of knowledge of the high-mountain environment, the history of the practice and associated values, and specific skills."

And while mountaineering has been around for a long time, the founding act of modern alpinism was Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard’s first ascent of Mont Blanc summit from Chamonix in 1786.

As for the cultural aspect, some might argue that alpinism is merely a sport, but the connoisseurs would beg to differ.

"Being attached signifies two or more people attached to the same rope," explains Perrine Torrent, vice-president of Club Alpin Français du Pays Thur Doller and continues "this is symbolically very strong in the sense of one person being attached to the other. For me this is also the spirit of alpinism, which is the spirit of solidarity." (RFI)

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