Responsible Climbing at RMI
We believe that the mountains challenge our bodies, our minds, and our souls. They are places where we are forced to turn our gaze inwards and search within ourselves for the grit and the humility to continue. From our years in the mountains we know that no person steps foot from a mountain unchanged in some small way.
We recognize that from the mountains we draw our vitality and we feel strongly that it is our responsibility to do our share in giving back to them. Our efforts take two forms: environmental stewardship and social outreach.
We know that as guides we serve as ambassadors to the wild and rugged landscapes through which we journey while we introduce fellow climbers to the mountains which we call home. Therefore, we keenly feel the responsibility to care for these places, preserving them for those that will follow in our footsteps. In this spirit, we value our role and work closely with the National Parks within which we operate (Mt. Rainier and Denali) in order to uphold their mission to preserve the parks for future generations. A portion of our revenues from our climbs in those Parks go directly back to the Parks to support them. We strongly champion the NPS Mission and firmly believe it extends to all the mountains regions we visit, not just our National Parks.
This begins at the very micro level, ensuring that each RMI climb leaves as little impact as possible behind. Our guides are Certified Leave No Trace Trainers and we work closely with our climbers to convey these techniques and spread the ethos to which we hold ourselves. As a result, we have witnessed how a team of 12 educated climbers will leave less of an impact than an unaware group of 2. Our climbs adhere to the strictest environmental standards possible for the region. An RMI climb in 2002, led by RMI Guide Dave Hahn was the first commercially guided expedition to carry all of their waste off of Denali. We have embraced new programs like Denali National Park’s Clean Mountain Can from the beginning and continue to collaborate with land managers to implement the best environmental practices for mountain regions.
At our home at the base of Mt. Rainier we make every effort to lessen the impact of our office operations as well. We transport our climbers to the mountain using group shuttles that run on biodiesel, avoiding the impact of climbers driving themselves to the mountain. We have a large recycling program that collects materials used in the office, on the mountain, and in our employee housing. The local housing we provide for all of our guides allows us to walk to work, share our living space, and keeps many cars off the road.
On our international climbs we promote the same environmental standards and ethics we hold ourselves to with the local guides we work with. The excitement and awareness is contagious – one action can snowball, with RMI groups having returned from the summit of Kilimanjaro with over 20lbs of trash collected after one of our guides began collecting discarded hand warmers!
Our strict attention to the immediate spaces we use extends to the global environment. We are partners with the non-profit Leave No Trace, dedicated to promoting and spreading outdoor ethics. Between 2001 – 2003 we hosted workshops with Leave No Trace, several National Parks, and other guide services and mountain rescue organizations where we collaborated to develop Mountaineering Curriculum for Leave No Trace Techniques that are crafted specifically for the mountain environments in which we work. We also work with Washington’s National Park Fund in helping raise money and awareness for Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Olympic National Parks.
RMI was proud to be a sponsor at the Sustainable Summits Conference. Hosted by American Alpine Club, the conference is a summit of land managers, climbers, planners and scientists representing the world’s mountainous areas, gathering to incorporate environmentally sustainable solutions in mountain areas along with developing global partnerships. RMI Guide Alex Van Steen will discuss RMI's environmental expedition practices and discuss his collaboration with community development on RMI's Carstensz Pyramid Expeditions. These gatherings further promote the discussion and dispersion of valuable environmental ethics and practical and effective expedition techniques among the global climbing community.
With climate change identified as the greatest threat facing both Mt. Rainier National Park and Denali National Park and Preserve, we are proud to say that all of RMI's programs within these parks are carbon neutral. We have partnered with Offsetters, Canada's leading carbon management solutions provider, to purchase offsets for our greenhouse gas emissions. Their projects are verified and validated by third parties to ensure that the emission reductions are real, additional, and permanent — so we know that our contribution is making a difference.
Our efforts directly benefit The Great Bear Rainforest Carbon Project. This project is an Improved Forest Management Initiative, which generates emission reductions by protecting forest areas that were previously designated, sanctioned, or approved for commercial logging. It is a landmark project for balancing human well-being and ecological integrity through carbon finance, and is the first carbon project in North America on traditional territory with unextinguished aboriginal rights and title.
By supporting this project, we prevent the equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions that were generated by our operations from being emitted somewhere else. Our future depends on us taking immediate action against climate change, and we are proud to be in the fight.
We understand that human decisions and actions have as equal consequences on mountainous environments as those places have on our spirits. Hence we divide our focus towards social initiatives and outreach efforts as well as environmental ones.
In addition to promoting education and involvement with the local guides we work with on our international climbs, we support local initiatives and endeavors in those areas. In Tanzania we have developed a relationship with the Peace Matunda Orphanage & School, a project started by one of our local guides. We are partners with the Kilimanjaro Porter's Assistance Project, which works to promote working conditions and wages for the local mountain staff. We also support the US based non-profit To Return, founded by a former RMI Guide, that organizes scholarships for the children of porters and guides.
In Mexico, at the base of Pico de Orizaba, is the MEX – AMbulance Project, conceived by our local outfitter there. We work closely with him to support the endeavor that brings medical services to both the mountain and remote communities in the area.
In Argentina we support the "El Fede" Campanini Foundation, an organization formed in honor of a RMI Guide Federico Campanini that promotes information, guidance, training, and financial assistance for the mountain rescue services on Aconcagua, South America’s highest peak.
In the Himalayas we partner with the Himalayan Rescue Association which provides medical services in the remote stretches of the Khumbu Valley to visitors and locals alike.
Many of these local mountain staff we work with on our international climbs have little access to proper climbing gear. To this extent, RMI sends gear and equipment with our climbs to distribute to our local mountain staff as well as encourages its climbers to do the same. In 2010 we shipped over an entire shipping container of hiking and climbing gear to the Kilimanjaro Porter’s Assistance Project to distribute to the porters and guides on Kilimanjaro.
Locally, we partner with domestic organizations to lead climbs of Mt. Rainier in support of their causes. RMI has worked closely with the American Lung Association since 1988 to raise over 4.4 million dollars for their education and research programs. The mentoring program Big City Mountaineers, a mentoring program for at-risk youth that promotes wilderness experience, is supported from the Summit For Someone Climbs of Mt. Rainier led by RMI. We also lead climbs for the Northwest Avalanche Center, To Return, and the Climb for Five, raising money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation which supports childhood cancer research. Watch the Climb for Five Video here.
RMI is also a proud supporter of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), working to promote the education, standards, and profession of mountain guiding in the United States. We recognize the value of well qualified, professional guides have on their clientele and the standards they bring to the mountains and as an AMGA accredited guide service we strive to push those standards.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
To become involved in any of these initiatives please visit their websites listed here. If you are interested in partnering with RMI to promote Environmental and Social Stewardship please contact our office. But most importantly, get outside. Venture into the mountains, cherish the joys, the challenges, and the experience and come home affected. Remember to give those mountainous environments and the cultures that call them home the respect and care they deserve.