Let the kids play their way in the mountains; the future of our mountains depends on it. That was the plea from Adventure Consultant’s Guy Cotter, at the recent Sustainable Summits Conference in Aoraki/Mt Cook.
The Everest expedition leader told the conference about a recent Tasman Glacier trip with his 22-year-old son, who he was taking ski touring in the high mountains for the first time.
“It was immediately clear to me that he wanted to use the terrain very differently from how I used it. His eyes were drawn to the steep seracs and before you know it he was building kickers and doing back flips, effectively using the area as a terrain park. It opened my eyes as to how the future generation wants to interact with the environment. We need to encourage that.”
Cotter recalled how his own interaction with the mountains was different from that of his father’s day. “They never went winter climbing, mainly due to avalanche hazard. The philosophy they operated by was along the lines of those spoken by the great New Zealand explorer Charlie Douglas, when he said: ‘Avalanches are like wild boars, if you stay out of their way you won’t get into trouble’.
“Watching my son reminded me of a section in the Mt Aspiring National Park Management Plan. It was probably well intentioned but the tone creates further barriers for younger generations becoming engaged in the mountains.
“(The plan states) ‘new commercial thrill-seeking activities should not be allowed in the park’. To me it’s sad. It’s like the authors of that plan said you can’t do anything new. You can only partake in activities that we enjoyed when we went into the mountains.
“I feel more than ever we have a responsibility to encourage our youth to develop a relationship with our mountains, because that generation will be responsible for the future stewardship of our wilderness. If we don’t enable them to develop that now our mountains will have lost that voice that will protect them into the future.”