We live in an incredible world, with increasing access to mountain regions which have previously been remote apart from all but their indigenous inhabitants. During a time period of around 150 years, which has witnessed the birth of alpinism as both an extreme sport and adventurous scientific exploration, the mountain landscapes have had their own process of change, which appears to be accelerating, and from which there can be no return.
The glaciers I visited as a child 30 years ago are retreating and the permafrost which has held majestic summits in place is melting, leading to ugly scars and new unforeseen landscapes.
Mountain landscapes have long had a powerful ability to produce storytellers, adventurers and, I would contend, community. From John Muir to Ansel Adams, naturalist to photographer, mountains engender a passionate advocacy and magnetic attraction; and this was many years before the current noticeable deterioration that has provoked climate debates.
Glacial and summit prophets predicted the separation of the soul to materialism and destruction of sacred places which both remind us of our “smallness” and our own breath taking elevation as we lift our eyes. Which naturally leads me to ask how can the current community of mountaineers move forward as advocates?
Many who appreciate mountains would not even consider themselves as the latter. Some could be deemed purely as adventure consumers rather than conservationists. Even so, their shared experiences of climbs, tales of survival in risky situations and appreciation of natural beauty defines them at least as active participants.
Furthermore, this community is growing and also easy to participate in, through social media groups, alpine clubs, popular outdoor magazines and research organizations such as CRED and the National Geographic Society.
My hope is that new John Muirs and Ansel Adams will arise, who encourage aesthetic appreciation and conservation of these sacred places. We may not be able to reverse a climate catastrophe, but we can be aware of those documenting change and supportive of the indigenous communities with creative solutions and investment.
So, in closing, how do mountains make me feel as an alpinist and photographer? Safe. Small. Hopeful.
Fiona Bunn is a British and Swiss alpine photographer. The featured images were captured in the Pennine Alps, Valais, Switzerland. For more of Fiona Bunn’s work, visit her website at www.fiphotos.org.
Fiona will be exhibiting her work in January 2019 for one month in Hampshire, UK. Contact her via her sign up form at www.fiphotos.org for updates on her gallery events. She also now has a regular photographic column in the British edition of the Swiss Review magazine.