#AkyatCon2016: Going beyond responsible mountaineering

Annika Herico, Renzo Acosta

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#AkyatCon2016: Going beyond responsible mountaineering
AkyatCon2016 is the first-ever mountaineering conference that aims to raise awareness on responsible mountaineering and environmental protection
MANILA, Philippines – As mountaineering becomes more and more a trend, both experts and enthusiasts alike reminded the public of the impact of the increasingly-beloved activity, and the responsibility of every mountaineer to the outdoors. On Friday to Saturday, July 29-30, the University of the Philippines Mountaineers (UPM) held the first-ever mountaineering conference in the country. Dubbed as “#AkyatCon2016,” the event aimed to raise awareness on responsible mountaineering and environmental protection. Yay Ortega, president of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines Inc (MFPI), said that the interest in the sport increased starting in the late 90s. This was marked by the increasing number of local outdoor shops, available package tours, and relatively more organized registration processes at entry points of mountains. At present, social media plays a huge role in the increasing awareness of the sport. Photos posted online attract curiosity from others. She added that nowadays, anyone can be a mountaineer. “You just join a Facebook group, and you can already call yourself a mountaineer,” she said.

PROS. Veterans and newbies, some members of mountaineering organizations in the country alike attended the event. According to listings by Pinoy Mountaineer, there are over 300 hiking and mountaineering clubs in the Philippines.

Still, Ortega reminded participants of the ill effects of this sudden increase. She acknowledged that due to more people trying out mountaineering, there is more appreciation for nature and the awareness of the need for environmental protection.  ‘Responsible mountaineering’ JP Alipio of the Cordillera Conservation Trust shared the same sentiment. “It’s amazing. The growth of the outdoor community the last 10 years is one of the best things that has happened to the Philippines,” he said. “But we also have to move towards acknowledging that all of these areas are not empty; they have villages and these villages have needs.”  Another positive effect is the additional income for both the locals and local government units. More and more people are also gaining interest in doing outreach programs in mountainous areas, and in other outdoor activities such as birdwatching. However, Ortega also brought up concerns regarding the current state of Philippine mountaineering. For one, since more people are climbing mountains, there is also an increase on the impact left on the outdoors. Expanded campsites, trail deterioration, and unregulated entry/exit points are just some examples.  With this, she encouraged mountaineers, both veterans and amateurs, to be good examples. She emphasized the importance of learning basic mountaineering courses, which she said some are ditching due to the availability of trekking guides on the Internet.  “We should learn from and cooperate with each other,” she said. “The goal is to go beyond responsible mountaineering.” Leave no trace Lito De Veterbo talked to the audience about the “leave no trace” principles. Most mountaineers are already familiar with these principles but De Veterbo reiterated the importance of always keeping in mind the said guidelines, not only in mountaineering but in everyday life. The 7 principles are:
  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimize campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate to other visitors.
The goal of the leave no trace principle is to leave little to no impact to the environment. It aims to protect the outdoors by inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. To achieve this, discipline and mindfulness of one’s actions are required.  “The environment is not just utilitarian but something that also needs to be preserved,” echoed Alipio.

 NO TRACE. Lito De Veterbo discusses the seven leave no trace principles and the importance of following them to participants of the first AkyatCon, July 30.

De Veterbo also gave instances where one could apply the principles. He showed photos posted on social media – such as writing on leaves and tree trunks, and rearranging stones – and asked the audience to identify whether they align with the principles or not. As he put it, “To adhere to the leave no trace is always a personal choice. These are not laws; they’re just guidelines.” But for the mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts who attended the event, the preservation of the environment is not just a choice but a responsibility of everyone. – Rappler.com  Renzo Acosta and Annika Herico are Rappler interns. Renzo is from the University of Santo Tomas, while Annika is from the Ateneo de Manila University.

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