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climbing | special interest


A higher cAuse


From rookie ascents to challenging climbs, recreational mountaineering is growing in popularity, says Alex Coxon


WHEN KAZAKH MOUNTAINEER Anatoli Boukreev uttered the words: “Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practise my religion”, he encapsulated for many the very essence of mountaineering. It’s a hugely diverse pastime, ranging from basic hill-walking through scrambling and bouldering to technical rock and ice-climbing, with the common thread for those who engage in the pursuit their love of the great outdoors and the mountains that inhabit it. According to mountaineering school and


guide service American Alpine Institute (AAI), it’s a recreational activity growing in popularity. Between 6.8 and 9 million US citizens engage in mountaineering, but that figure is increasing at the rate of 3-4% a year, with rock-climbing specifically growing at a steady 5% annually.


“It’s a good indicator of the public’s attention


to health and wellbeing,” says AAI president Dunham Gooding. “It shows people are choosing leisure activities that not only have an impact on their happiness, but also on their physical and mental wellbeing.” Te flexibility mountaineering offers is also


key. “It can be the focus of a vacation, or it can be an add-on adventure,” says Gooding. “And it can be extremely easy to schedule — as short as a half-day or day.” Close to home, the AAI says popular


destinations have historically included the South Cascades of Washington State and the Rockies of Colorado. But others that have become increasingly fashionable in recent years include California’s Sierra Nevada, and Squamish and the Bugaboos in British Columbia.


Further afield, the Himalayas and Andes


remain ‘once in a lifetime’ destinations for most vacationers. But others are looking for exciting new locations, according to Joanne Ruddell, co-founder and USA office manager at South America specialist Turpial Travel & Adventure. “Our itinerary to Mount Roraima and Angel


Falls [in Venezuela] is selling well,” she says. “It’s popular for those who want a trekking experience without the technical training needed to climb [the Andean peaks of] Humbolt or Bolivar. “We’re


currently expanding our business


into Colombia, Brazil and Argentina,” she adds. “And we’re actively looking at including other mountain-climbing excursions as part of that.” Whether your client is focused on exploring


the peaks with ropes or feet alone, a huge number of options are available to them. u


summer 2014 | ASTAnetwork | 95


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