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Climbers usually travel to climb. And great climbers like Will Gadd travel to do great climbs. But this time things were different, although it started as it always does.
A demanding route on a major mountain, an icy line climbed in 1978 by Messner and then forgotten. For someone who loves ice climbing, this is enough: The spark of curiosity is ignited. The machinery of logistics starts up and everything goes smoothly; there’s even a previous successful climb of Kilimanjaro’s simpler normal route by the Canadian climber and mountain guide. In 2014 Will Gadd reached the crater of the volcano and took some extraordinary photos of climbing on fin-like pinnacles, curious ice structures formed by the combination of altitude (almost 6,000 metres) and strong sunlight (we’re talking about the equator, after all).
Six years later, in February 2020, everything is ready for a return to Africa. But once on site, and after several days of trekking to gain height above the African savanna, Will realizes the mountain in front of him isn’t the same one he knew years ago. The ice conditions are unrecognizable, the route climbed by Messner has practically disappeared. The disappointment leads first to a desire to go and see the vast glacier at the summit, and then to a need to tell the world what’s happening up here on the roof of Africa.
Will Gadd, tell us who you are, because here in Europe we only get occasional news about your more extreme climbs.
“Mountains are my home, and have been my whole life. I grew up climbing with my parents, then I got into kayaking, potholing, paragliding and skiing. I’ve invested a lot of time and energy in each of these, year after year. I’ve been an instructor and a sponsored kayaker, and I’ve twice broken the distance record in paragliding. I’d say I’ve been completely immersed in these sports, and I’ve always given them 100%, as I’m totally passionate about them.
I’ve spent most of every winter climbing on ice, since it’s very cold here in Canada. I’ve also competed in sports climbing, winning some Canadian competitions and doing well in a few international events.
Apart from that I’m a mountain guide, a writer and father to two children who have inherited my love for the mountains. My partner’s an athlete and mountain guide too; so my life is definitely surrounded by mountains!”
Glaciers and climate change
You found the Kilimanjaro glacier unrecognizable compared to 2014. What’s happened?
“The glacier has dramatically reduced in size! That’s what you can see, but it’s not all. You could say the mountains are far less stable than they were. The ice on Kilimanjaro acted as a bond attaching the rocks to the mountain, and now it’s melting, there are many more rock falls of all sizes. The same thing’s happening in the Alps, in the Canadian Rockies, the Himalayas - everywhere, in fact. What I mean is that it’s not just the surface ice we can see, but also the underground ice, known as permafrost. As the glaciers melt, the permafrost melts too, causing landslides and rock falls. And it’s not only rocks: the glaciers themselves become unstable, since they often have a lot of meltwater running underneath.”
Do you think climate change is making most of the world’s ice routes more difficult?
“Unfortunately glaciers have always been the simplest routes to the world’s highest mountains. When there’s no more ice, it becomes much more difficult to move on the unstable rock, plus the fact that the small glacier that’s left becomes less stable, with more crevasses. Many of the classic routes in the Canadian Rockies are now too dangerous and they’re being abandoned, or climbed with variations. It’s a major problem that affects every mountain and every mountaineer. In fact, I’d say it even affects people who don’t spend time in the mountains and who think the fate of glaciers doesn’t matter.”
Going back to Messner’s 1978 route, what happened?
“If a glacier shrinks, like the one on Kilimanjaro, it also means there’s less meltwater. So downstream you don’t see the same ice features as when there was more water. So a massive, beautiful icefall quickly turns into an unstable structure and a grey slippage of unstable rock. Far less water and far more rocks falling: definitely a terrible combination.
And the glacier that leads to the base of the climb has almost entirely disappeared, and there are constant rock falls. For me the risks of the climb are too great, but maybe someone will try it…and I wish them all the best!”
Will, are there some routes that are becoming easier due to climate change?
“There are actually some routes that have always been considered extremely dangerous, because they pass under vertical or overhanging seracs which occasionally drop chunks of ice. Now the seracs have melted and it’s much safer. So there’s a small positive side; some new ice routes can be done with a good safety margin, when forty years ago they would have been certain death.”
Had you seen the impact of climate change on the world’s glaciers before you went to Kilimanjaro?
When I was a boy and my parents took me to Athabasca, the glacier near our home, you only had to walk for a few minutes before reaching the ice. As the years passed - even though I was walking faster - the walk to the ice got longer and longer… these days you can’t even see it from the car park! When I started traveling round with maps, I realized most of them put the start of glaciers in the wrong place - often by kilometres, not just a few metres. The change was obvious, but I thought it was a normal thing. We think of mountains and glaciers as certainties, perennial things, but they’re not.”
Are you planning to visit other fragile glaciers to take photos and raise awareness of the issue?
“I’m taking part in a project that aims to recreate images of how the Canadian mountains used to be. Helping people to see how the glaciers have changed is an important part of my current work and my life. I want to be ready when my kids ask me: “Daddy, what did you do to stop climate change?”
Do you think there’s more attention to these issues than when you started climbing?
“These days we’re more aware of our impact on the planet, since there’s increasing evidence that the situation is serious. Personally, I’ve had this idea in my head for ten years, although I didn’t think too much about it. But now most of my decisions take account of the environmental consequences of my actions. Flying or not flying, which car to use; there are plenty of personal choices that make a difference. In my view the biggest change we can make is to vote for people who take environmental issues seriously, and also take action individually. I don’t have the perfect solution for everyone, but as a mountain sports athlete I think it’s important to do something concrete. I started by not eating meat during the week (which was actually easier than I thought!), I’ve chosen a vehicle that uses less fuel, I use renewable energy to heat the house, I try and make things last as long as possible instead of throwing them away, and in general I try and reduce what’s known as the carbon footprint. It’s basically not so difficult; I’ve done the calculations and I’m hoping to get my carbon impact to zero by 2022. Air travel is definitely the most difficult thing for me, but I can offset this by investing in specific certified projects that reduce carbon emissions. I’d say this change of lifestyle is very simple in some ways and very complicated in others!”
Mountain activities are increasingly popular. Given the fragility of rocks and glaciers, do you think this could become a problem? What should we do to protect the mountains?
“Outdoor sports are becoming more popular all over the world. Every year the mountains are more crowded and mountain rescue services are busier, as are forest rangers and the staff of natural parks.
Obviously, most of the new visitors don’t have much mountain experience; at least that’s the case here in Canada. We need to invest heavily in education and training. There are many people who see the sign “car park” and think they’re going to find rubbish bins, toilets and services. But it’s not always like that; on the contrary. The result is rubbish thrown on the ground, people walking off the tracks and no understanding of the consequences of their behavior. You can’t blame people, you just need to explain how to behave and why. As a man and a climber, and also a mountain guide, helping people to behave responsibly and respectfully in the mountains gives me a lot of satisfaction. Behind every problem there’s an opportunity: we just need to find it, together.”
Last updated 12 October 2018. Effective immediately.
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12. Product Descriptions & Availability. While SCARPA tries to accurately describe its products and their availability, SCARPA does not represent or warrant that its product descriptions, availability, and/or any other Content are free of error, complete, up to date, or reliable. Please note that colors of SCARPA products may appear differently on your computer monitor than they are in reality. Most SCARPA products are available to view at SCARPA retailers throughout the world. If a product offered by SCARPA itself is not as described, your sole remedy is to return it in unused condition.
13. SCARPA's Liability. SCARPA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the Content or about the results to be obtained from using the Websites and the Content. Any and all use of the Websites and the Content is at your own risk. Changes are periodically made to the Websites and may be made at any time by SCARPA in its sole discretion. Some Content on the Websites may be provided by third parties and SCARPA explicitly disclaims all responsibility for any such Content provided by third parties.
14. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY: WEBSITES. Your use of the SCARPA Websites is at your own risk. If you are dissatisfied with any of the Content or other contents of the SCARPA Websites or with these Terms, your sole remedy is to discontinue use of the SCARPA Websites. THE WEBSITES AND ALL INFORMATION, CONTENT, MATERIALS, SOFTWARE, AND SERVICES INCLUDED ON OR OTHERWISE MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU THROUGH THE WEBSITES ARE PROVIDED BY SCARPA ON AN "AS IS" AND "AS AVAILABLE" BASIS, UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED IN WRITING. SCARPA MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, AS TO THE OPERATION OF THE WEBSITES OR THE INFORMATION, CONTENT, MATERIALS, SOFTWARE, OR SERVICES INCLUDED ON OR OTHERWISE MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU THROUGH THE WEBSITES, UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED IN WRITING SIGNED BY AN AUTHORIZED SCARPA REPRESENTATIVE. YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE THAT YOUR USE OF THE WEBSITES IS AT YOUR SOLE RISK. TO THE FULL EXTENT PERMISSIBLE BY APPLICABLE LAW, SCARPA DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. ALTHOUGH SCARPA TAKES COMMERCIALLY REASONABLE MEASURES TO PROTECT ITS CUSTOMERS PERSONAL INFORMATION, SCARPA DOES NOT WARRANT THAT (1) THE WEBSITES, (2) INFORMATION, CONTENT, MATERIALS, SOFTWARE, OR SERVICES INCLUDED ON OR OTHERWISE MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU THROUGH THE WEBSITES, (3) THE WEBSITES’ SERVERS, OR (4) E-MAIL ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS. EXCLUDING SCARPA’S INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT, SCARPA EXPLICITLY DISCLAIMS AND WILL NOT BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES OF ANY KIND, ARISING FROM OR RELATED TO YOUR USE OF THE WEBSITES OR FROM ANY INFORMATION, CONTENT, MATERIALS, SOFTWARE, OR SERVICES INCLUDED ON OR OTHERWISE MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU THROUGH THE WEBSITES, UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED IN WRITING SIGNED BY AN AUTHORIZED SCARPA REPRESENTATIVE. This provision may be unenforceable or inapplicable within the State of New Jersey.
15. LIMITED WARRANTY: PRODUCTS. SCARPA products are warranted to the original retail purchaser to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for one year from the original date of purchase. Warranties for non-SCARPA products, that is products sold by SCARPA but manufactured by other manufacturers (by way of example, products manufactured by Koflach or Rottefella), may be different. Check the materials that come with the non-SCARPA products and that manufacturer’s website for information about their warranties. If you purchase a SCARPA product from any SCARPA Websites that you believe is defective, return the product to us pursuant to the SCARPA Return Policy and include your receipt and proof of purchase showing the purchase date. SCARPA will repair or replace the product at our sole discretion. If SCARPA determines that there is no warranty issue with the returned product, the product will be returned to you with a note of explanation. SCARPA’S LIABILITY UNDER THIS LIMITED WARRANTY IS EXPLICITLY LIMITED SOLELY TO SUCH REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT. UPON EXPIRATION OF THE WARRANTY PERIOD, SCARPA SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY UNDER THIS LIMITED WARRANTY OR OTHERWISE. THE FOLLOWING ARE EXPLICITLY EXCLUDED AND NOT COVERED BY THIS LIMITED WARRANTY: (1) DAMAGES DUE TO NORMAL USE AND WEAR; (2) DAMAGES DUE TO ABUSE OR ACCIDENTS; (3) SCARPA PRODUCTS THAT HAVE BEEN RESOLED OR IN ANY WAY MODIFIED; AND (4) THE FIT OF ANY SCARPA PRODUCT. THIS LIMITED WARRANTY IS IN LIEU OF ALL OTHER WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, and except as otherwise specified above, SCARPA MAKES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION ANY WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, OR ANY WARRANTY AS TO THE DESIGN, CONDITION OR QUALITY OF MATERIALS AND WORKMANSHIP TO THE PURCHASER OF THE GOODS AND/OR ANY OTHER PERSON WHATSOEVER. NOTHING CONTAINED IN THE FOREGOING SENTENCE IS INTENDED TO RELEASE THE SELLER FROM LIABILITY FOR ORDINARY DAMAGES FOR PROVEN PRODUCT LIABILITY CLAIMS.
Please note that certain state laws do not allow limitations on implied warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain damages. If you are a resident of such a state and these laws apply to you, some or all of the above disclaimers, exclusions, or limitations may not apply to you, and you may have additional rights.
16. Reserved Rights. SCARPA reserves the right to do any of the following, for any reason, at any time, without notice: (1) to modify, suspend or terminate operation of or access to the Websites, or any portion of the Websites; (2) to modify or change the Websites, or any portion of the Websites, and any applicable policies or terms; (3) to interrupt the operation of the Websites, or any portion of the Websites, as necessary to perform routine or non-routine maintenance, error correction, or other changes; and (4) discontinue or restrict your use of the Websites.
17. WARNING: SKIING, CLIMBING, MOUNTAINEERING, TRAIL RUNNING, HIKING, WALKING, AND RELATED ACTIVITIES, ARE POTENTIALLY LIFE THREATENING, HAZARDOUS, AND DANGEROUS. By purchasing or using any SCARPA equipment in any manner, you agree that you are: (1) personally and solely responsible for: (a) learning and knowing the limits and capabilities of the equipment and yourself, (b) the proper use of and techniques for such equipment, (c) making responsible, sound decisions in changing situations, and (2) assuming all risks and accepting full and complete responsibility for any and all damages and injury of any kind to yourself or others, including death, paralysis, and serious injury, which may result from or is related to your use of any equipment manufactured by or purchased through SCARPA, its partners, Websites, or retailers. In addition, YOU AGREE TO ASSUME ALL RISKS AND ACCEPT FULL AND COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY AND ALL DAMAGES AND INJURY OF ANY KIND, INCLUDING DEATH, PARALYSIS, AND SERIOUS INJURY, WHICH MAY RESULT FROM OR IS RELATED TO YOUR USE OF OR RELIANCE UPON ANY MATERIALS OR INFORMATION PRODUCED BY SCARPA, ITS PARTNERS, AND/OR THAT IS CONTAINED IN ANY SCARPA WEBSITES, CATALOGS, PUBLICATIONS, OR OTHER SCARPA MATERIALS. Resources like the SCARPA Websites and publications can provide useful information and tips, but they are no substitute for good decision making, safe and appropriate use of equipment, or professional instruction for the numerous hazardous situations in which you may choose to use SCARPA products.
18. Disclosure of Your Information. You agree and SCARPA reserves the right at all times and without further notice to disclose any information that SCARPA deems necessary to comply with any applicable law, regulation, administrative or legal process or governmental request. SCARPA also may disclose your information when SCARPA determines that applicable law requires or permits such disclosure, including exchanging information with other companies and organizations for fraud protection purposes. You agree that SCARPA may disclose any information we have about you (including your identity) if SCARPA determines that such disclosure is necessary in connection with any investigation or complaint regarding your use of the Websites, or to identify, contact or bring legal action against someone who may be causing injury to or interference with, either intentionally or unintentionally, the Websites, SCARPA’s rights or property, or the rights or property of the Websites’ users, including SCARPA’s customers. You acknowledge and agree that SCARPA may preserve any transmittal or communication by you, including emails, through the Websites or any service offered on or through the Websites, and may also disclose such data if required to do so by law or SCARPA determines that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to (1) comply with legal process, (2) enforce these Terms, (3) respond to claims that any such data violates the rights of others, and/or (4) protect the rights, property or personal safety of SCARPA, its employees, users of or visitors to the Websites, and the public.
19. Indemnity. YOU AGREE TO DEFEND, INDEMNIFY AND HOLD SCARPA, ITS SUCCESSORS, AND ASSIGNS, AND ITS AND THEIR DIRECTORS, OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, CO-BRANDERS OR OTHER PARTNERS, HARMLESS FROM ANY DEMANDS, DAMAGES, LOSS, LIABILITY, CLAIMS OR EXPENSES (INCLUDING ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND JUDGMENTS OF ANY KIND OR NATURE), MADE AGAINST OR INCURRED BY SCARPA BY YOU, ANY PERSON OR ENTITY ACTING ON YOUR BEHALF, AND/OR ANY THIRD PARTY RELATED TO, ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR IMPROPER USE OF THE WEBSITES, YOUR BREACH OF ANY OF THESE TERMS, AND/OR ANY OTHER VIOLATION BY YOU THAT CREATES LIABILITY FOR SCARPA. This provision may be unenforceable or inapplicable within the State of New Jersey.
20. Applicable Law; Dispute Resolution; Arbitration; Class Action Waiver; Miscellaneous Provisions. By visiting or using any SCARPA Websites, you agree that:
(1) All matters relating to these Terms, and/or your access to or use of the Websites, including all disputes, will be governed by the laws of the United States and by the laws of the State of Colorado without regard to its conflicts of laws provisions.
(2) In the event of any controversy or dispute between SCARPA and you arising out of or in connection with these Terms and/or your use of the Websites, SCARPA and you shall attempt, promptly and in good faith, to resolve any such dispute. If we are unable to resolve any such dispute within thirty (30) days, then either party may request that such controversy or dispute be mediated. The mediation may be conducted in person, through the submission of documents, by phone or online. If conducted in person, the mediation shall take place in Boulder, Colorado. If the dispute is not resolved through mediation within a reasonable time (not to exceed sixty (60) days from the mediation request), then the parties shall be free to pursue any right or remedy available to them under applicable law through binding arbitration as described below.
(3) BINDING ARBITRATION: In the event of any dispute arising under or relating to these Terms your access to or use of the Websites (including products or services sold or distributed by SCARPA through SCARPA Websites), such dispute will be finally and exclusively resolved by binding arbitration. NEITHER YOU NOR WE SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO LITIGATE ANY CLAIM IN COURT OR TO HAVE THE CLAIM DECIDED BY A JUDGE OR JURY. DISCOVERY RIGHTS, SUCH AS EACH PARTY'S RIGHT TO THE EXCHANGE OF PREHEARING INFORMATION OR PREHEARING TAKING OF SWORN TESTIMONY, MAY ALSO BE LIMITED IN ARBITRATION. All disputes will be resolved before a neutral arbitrator, whose decision will be final except for a limited right of appeal under the Federal Arbitration Act. The arbitration shall be commenced and conducted under the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and, where appropriate, the AAA’s Consumer Arbitration Rules, both of which are available at the AAA website www.adr.org. The arbitration may be conducted in person, through the submission of documents, by phone or online. If conducted in person, the arbitration shall take place in Boulder, Colorado. The parties may litigate in court to compel arbitration, to stay proceeding pending arbitration, or to confirm, modify, vacate or enter judgment on the award entered by the arbitrator. The Federal Arbitration Act and federal arbitration law apply to these Terms.
(4) CLASS ACTION WAIVER: Any arbitration or proceeding shall be limited to the dispute between us and you individually. To the full extent permitted by law, (a) no arbitration or proceeding shall be joined with any other; (b) there shall be no right or authority for any dispute to be arbitrated or resolved on a class action-basis or to utilize class action procedures; and (c) there shall be no right or authority for any dispute to be brought in a purported representative capacity on behalf of the general public or any other persons. YOU AGREE THAT YOU MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST US ONLY IN YOUR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING.
(5) You hereby irrevocably waive, to the fullest extent permitted by law, (a) any objection that you may now or hereafter have to such jurisdiction and venue and (b) any claim that any such arbitration proceeding has been brought in an inconvenient forum. Note that the preceding provision regarding venue may not apply if you are a consumer based in the European Union, however, in all cases, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods shall not apply in any dispute arising out of or related to these Terms;
(6) Any and all claims arising out of or related to these Terms must be brought by you within one (1) year after the cause of action arises, or such claim or cause of action is forever and irrevocably barred. Claims made under the separate terms and conditions of purchase for goods and services are not subject to this limitation.
(7) No recovery may be sought or received by you against SCARPA for damages other than your out-of-pocket expenses, excluding attorney fees.
(8) A printed version of these Terms and of any notice given in electronic form shall be admissible in any mediation or arbitration proceeding based upon or relating to these Terms to the same extent and subject to the same conditions as other business documents and records originally generated and maintained in printed form. All headings in these Terms are for convenience or reference only and shall be ignored in construing these Terms.
(9) SCARPA’s failure to enforce all or any part of these Terms or respond to a breach thereof by you or any other party shall not in any way be construed as a waiver or a relinquishment of any right granted SCARPA hereunder of the future performance of all or any part of these Terms, and your obligations set forth in these Terms shall continue in full force and effect.
(10) If any provision in these Terms is held invalid or unenforceable under applicable law, the invalid or unenforceable provision will be modified to the minimum extent necessary and deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that most closely matches the intent of the original provision and the remaining provisions of these Terms will continue in full force and effect.
(11) These Terms contain the entire and final agreement regarding SCARPA Websites and their Content, and supersede any prior or contemporaneous communications between you and SCARPA regarding the Websites.
(12) Any offer for any feature, product or service made on the Websites is void where prohibited. If you choose to access the Websites from outside the U.S., you are solely responsible for complying with applicable U.S. and local laws. Although the Websites may be accessible worldwide, not all products or features provided or offered through the Websites are available in all geographic locations, or available (legally or otherwise) for use outside of the U.S. SCARPA reserves the right to limit, in its sole discretion, the provision and quantity of any product or feature shown on the Websites to any person or geographic area.
(13) All rights not explicitly granted in these Terms are hereby reserved by SCARPA.
(14) By continuing to use the SCARPA Websites, you hereby agree and intend to be bound by these Terms.
SCARPA North America, Inc. (“SCARPA”) appreciates the difficulties that individuals with disabilities face and has supported disabled athletes and groups for many years. SCARPA strives to comply with all applicable laws and guidelines so that our website is accessible to individuals with disabilities, including W3C’s WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) accessibility standards up to Level AA.
SCARPA has taken and continues to take a variety of steps to ensure the accessibility of our website. The site is built to comply with WCAG 2.1 accessibility guidelines, including media content tagged with titles, alternative text, and descriptive information, and font sizing is supported and may be controlled through the browser.
If you experience any difficulty using or accessing any part of this website, please call us at 303.998.2895 or email us at [email protected] and we will work with you to ensure that you have full access to the information in which you are interested and which is available to the public on our site, and can purchase our products, if desired.
Please contact us at 303.998.2895 or [email protected] if you have any feedback to share about the accessibility of this website.