Earlier this year, Danny Uhlmann and Peter Sandahl set out on a challenge of epic proportions in an effort to raise awareness of the growing issue of climate change, something close to us here at Faction: to climb all 82 4000m+ summits of the European Alps in just 100 days. Danny wrote a piece about the Climb For Climate as a whole, describing where the idea for the challenge came from, the adventure itself and the change the project has inspired.
Written by Danny Uhlmann
Between early May and mid August of this year Peter Sandahl and I attempted a long dreamt-of skiing and alpine climbing goal; the highest peaks in the European Alps.
82 summits over 4,000 meters exist in the European Alps, spread across Italy, Switzerland, and France. Peter has done trips with me around the Alps since 2013 and since I can remember he always had this idea to climb all the 82 summits. He is a dreamer. I watched his progress from beginner to alpine machine and I knew we would make a good team. As a former pro hockey player he has that killer instinct and hard-headed work-ethic needed to push on through significant physical and mental suffering. I’m a professional mountain guide but I have no experience organising a multi-national consortium of supporting organisations and drumming up agreements from large corporations. That was part of Peter’s expertise. Eventually we would become a well-oiled peak bagging machine.
As time has progressed and the idea became less of a fuzzy dream and started to focus into a reality, it became clear that we needed a higher purpose for such an adventure.
For one, this is a challenge that has been attempted and completed in good style and in quick time by elite alpinists in both summer and winter already. So the idea that we would do it in better style or quicker was not the point. The point then became; how can we use this goal as a vehicle to somehow improve this fantastic planet we live on.
Therefore it hit us. Climate Change. The Paris Climate accord. Disarray all over the world. We decided that our goal would be to unite the project behind a message of hope and empowerment concerning climate change. As it stands, the Alps, and high Alpine regions in general are where climate change is most visible to the untrained eye, and also where its effects are most severely felt.
"Our project inspired our primary partner to divest 700 million Euros into green investments"
We arranged a number of crucial partnerships both for material, monetary, and promotional sponsorship. All of these partners shared in our vision. For example our project inspired our primary partner, the largest bank in Scandinavia, to divest 700 million Euros of its holdings into green investments, which reduced actual carbon output into the atmosphere by the equivalent of 7,000 average households.
Our goal for the climbing portion was to climb all 82 summits within 100 days. This, in and of itself is an ambitious goal, and probably unrealistic for all but the most elite of professional alpinists who accept a large amount of risk and have also quite a bit of luck with weather and conditions. A number of the famous attempts have involved fatalities. This tempered our approach and safety was always the number one factor. That said, we did have to push pretty hard on quite a number of summits, and I think we benefitted from having an exceptional winter which filled in the mountains with record amounts of snow, and then a summer which contained almost entirely perfect weather.
"Skis are far and away the most exciting tool you can use to move through the mountains when they are covered in snow."
We set out in early May on our Faction Prime 1.0s up the Gran Paradiso, the highest summit entirely in Italy. We actually had a decent battle on that one; with storm and low visibility almost turning us back from the first summit. But we persisted, and it set the tone for about 6-weeks of ski-based activities which took us all the way down the Ecrins massif in France and then up to the Berner Oberland.
The thing about the ski mountaineering portion of our trip, is that we really got to see and feel first hand the transition that happens from winter, to spring, and then to summer in the high mountains. Skis are far and away the most exciting tool you can use to move through the mountains when they are covered in snow.
"We, as a species, are surely at a crossroads"
But as the summer progressed it was clear that climate change was taking its effect. The same gloriously clear days, endless really, that had allowed us to plow through so many peaks, were also bringing in record high temps and melting the glaciers more quickly than the previous winter snows had filled them up.
We, as a species, are surely at a crossroads. And if action isn't taken immediately, who knows what will happen. Skiing and climbing is a selfish activity. But that said, we don't have to do it in a destructive manner. Peter and I made it a point to use public transport where available and to try and show a better example of how this kind of activity can be undertaken. It's not about traveling far and wide for adventure, but rather finding adventure where you are.
In the end we finished with 72 summits under the belt. For us it was a massive success. Perhaps if we had used more time than the 100 days we could have done the last ten. But in the end the point was not the personal glory but the message itself and the change we hopefully set in motion among individual followers of our project, as well as the financial industry which were inspired by us to take their own actions.
There is no singular stand out summit. But for sure snapping the skis on near the summit of the Finsteraarhorn with no humans within sight, and in fact we hadn't seen any in days, was a highlight. It was amazing to see how much terrain we could cover on our skis.
Ultimately we are very humbled that we had this opportunity and I will never forget a single one of those fantastic summits. This is a lucky chance we all have, simply to be alive.
For more about the project, head over to www.climbforclimate.com