What We Do - From Headquarters to Trailhead to Summit and back
At Alpine Ascents International, we understand the impacts that our industry has on the places we love. We take accountability for our global impacts, and have a long history of environmental leadership in the sport of mountaineering. Pioneering the use of Wag Bags© in the Cascades, officially partnering with Leave No Trace for over 25 years, and removing trash from Everest, Aconcagua, and Kilimanjaro are a few of the efforts that demonstrate our leadership and care. Environmental leadership is axiomatic, yesterday’s ideas are simply not good enough, and we constantly challenge ourselves by asking, “What’s next? What more can we do? Is this really helping?”
Leave No Trace principles are fundamental to our programs, and we encourage all who climb and trek with us to understand proper wilderness practices. We help facilitate this effort by passing on Leave No Trace training and literature to every Alpine Ascents climber, because every good policy we include in our protocols can be multiplied by 2,500, the approximate number of clients that will join us in one year. We continue to seek new ways to reduce our impact on the environment, from our headquarters to the summit and back.
At our Headquarters:
We believe that what we do in our office is just as important as the etiquette we follow on our climbs. At our headquarters, we make efforts to minimize our carbon emissions and waste. When possible we telecommute, bike, and bus to work. We repurpose and recycle the materials that pass through our office– from electronics to retired equipment to packing materials. When we ship out your equipment, it is in reused or compostable packaging. We understand the long term benefits of offering nearly all the equipment you may need as rental gear, and maintain this gear so it can support as many climbers to their objectives as possible. Our gear is meant to be used and meant to last. And, when equipping our climbers for their trips, we are cognizant of what goes in their packs.
- The provided meals you’ll eat on our climbs have been optimized to produce minimal packaging and food waste that could lead to debris left behind. We minimize the production of greywater on our climbs with conscious decisions to choose healthy foods that generate less waste.
- Our staff regularly receives and shares education on glacier recession, and we partner with environmentally focused nonprofits to give back.
On the Way:
From our office to the trailhead, we reduce our carbon emissions by offering shuttles and carpools to many domestic climbs and courses. This minimizes our impact not only in fuel and mileage per person, but also in congestion and wear on the roads leading to the trailhead. We limit the amount of flights our guides will need each year by consolidating our trip schedule.
- The shuttles we use in Washington are hybrid vehicles, and when we renew our fleet we are committed to fully electronic replacements.
To Summit and Back:
While climbing, we strive to be leaders in environmental stewardship. Beyond embracing the ethics of Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly principles, we protect the outdoors by reducing our personal impacts, as well as the impacts of mountaineering more broadly. We have removed trash and discarded oxygen bottles from the South Col of Mt. Everest for the past 30 years, encouraging other companies to make similar efforts. We were dissatisfied with human waste disposal in Washington state, and sought a safe and effective solution. We pioneered the use of the WAG bag in Washington, and we’re proud to say that the system is now considered a worldwide best practice in mountaineering. We continue to fund large scale waste removal on Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, and Everest. On our trips, we minimize the areas we impact by being mindful of designated areas to camp and travel, and the biodiversity that call these areas home. For the same reason, we are cognizant of noise pollution, especially when climbing at night and in glacial travel. We use clean burning fuels and pack out the waste we produce, plus any we encounter along the way.
- We use clean burning fuels on the mountain, and place an emphasis on preparing meals that generate minimal waste. Each season we reevaluate our menu to reduce packaging, food waste, and greywater.
- All our guides are trained in Leave No Trace, and for the past 25+ years each of our climbs and courses teach the LNT curriculum.
- Like with WAG Bags, we are constantly identifying areas to reduce our impact, and seeking solutions to make these necessary changes.
Our environmental footprint doesn’t stop back at the trailhead. After carrying out our waste, we compost, recycle, and repurpose what we can. We repair the majority of our gear in-house to maintain its quality and extend its life. For more complicated repairs, we send our equipment to local repair services. When we can no longer use gear in our fleet, we collaborate with a local gear exchange to resell our quality used gear to the public at discounted prices. When a tent is retired from the fleet, we share the materials with repair companies so that our used parts can repair other tents. We recycle our batteries and lightbulbs, and send electronics and used equipment to nonprofits who will repurpose our materials when we no longer have a use for them. We consolidate fuel and safely recycle used canisters without releasing harmful gas into the air.
- We use a flipfuel system that allows us to conserve fuel and safely empty used canisters.
- We send technical repairs to Rainy Pass Repair, and donate worn out equipment to Rainy Pass to be repurposed or used for parts.
- Our retired equipment is resold at Wonderland Gear Exchange at discounted prices, giving climbers the option to shop more sustainably when seeking quality equipment.
With the rise in popularity of backpacking and climbing, the mountains around the world are being visited by ever increasing numbers of people. We are drawn to the mountains for their beauty, purity, remoteness, ruggedness, and the unique challenges they present. The mountains are our home, and it can sometimes be challenging to Leave No Trace and maintain the natural beauty of the wilderness areas we explore. At Alpine Ascents we take Leave No Trace ethics and practices very seriously. The mountains are our home and we are unwilling to sacrifice their preservation for human objectives.
We believe that given the proper information most people will do all they can to help protect and maintain the environment. As guides, we spend time teaching the environmentally appropriate Leave No Trace principles and practices. There is nothing more beautiful than working hard to get high into the mountains, come upon a pristine campsite, witness incredible views and have the feeling that no one has been there before. And there is nothing more disheartening than working hard to climb a mountain, reaching a site and encountering trash, food waste and/or toilet paper. Please read the seven LNT principles below and feel free to call the office if you have any questions about what you can do to plan ahead and prepare.
Thanks for taking the time to read this information. We look forward to climbing with you.
Alpine Ascents International Guide Staff
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Define your trip itinerary and objectives by researching relevant information including: route conditions, avalanche danger, weather forecasts, and local permits and regulations.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, emergencies and self-rescue.
- Determine the strategy for your team’s food and fuel consumption, and for waste disposal.
- Choose an appropriate route that suits your team¹s size, ability and experience. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends.
- Repackage your food into reusable containers or bags.
- Carry and know how to use a map, compass, altimeter, route markers and, possibly, a global positioning system unit.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Focus your activities on durable surfaces, including: established trails, deep snow, rock or inorganic soil. Avoid vegetation, thin snow cover and organic soils.
- Establish an appropriate route up the mountain, taking into consideration the team’s safety and Leave No Trace principles. Plan your route with the idea that others will follow.
- Whenever possible and appropriate, remove route markers during your descent.
- In high-use areas, use established campsites. In pristine areas, minimize your impacts by breaking down constructed snow walls and wind breaks.
- Use man-made tent anchors (ice screws, axes, poles, etc.) whenever possible. Replace any rocks or other natural anchors where found.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack It In, Pack It Out. Pack out everything you carry with you including garbage, trash, and extra fuel. Trash left at altitude or in crevasses does not biodegrade. Whenever possible, remove others’ discarded waste from the mountain.
- In high use areas, use established restroom facilities. Otherwise, pack out solid human waste via “blue bags” or other techniques. If packing out all solid human waste is not possible due to trip duration, refer to local protocols on how to dispose of human waste.
- Designate a “clean snow” area (up slope from camp) to serve as your water source. Focus your activities and waste disposal sites away from this area.
- Consolidate liquid human waste in a designated urinal down slope from camp and away from the designated water (snow) source. Consider using a “pee bottle” in camp to facilitate disposal. When traveling, step off the trail to urinate, so others won’t have to hike through yellow snow.
- Dispose of gray water (dishwater) in a designated sump hole down slope from camp. Strain the dishwater and pack out all leftover solids.
Leave What You Find
- Leave all rocks, plants, animals and historical or cultural artifacts as you find them.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Always carry a lightweight camp stove. Adequate wood is generally unavailable on mountaineering expeditions, making fires infeasible and inappropriate.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed wildlife or leave food behind to be eaten.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely. Anticipate changing weather conditions by marking your cache.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Communicate and cooperate with other teams.
- Yield to uphill climbers by stepping off the route onto a durable surface.
- Avoid unnecessarily clustering campsites whenever possible.
- Take rest breaks off the route, away from other campsites, and on a durable surfaces.
- Let nature’s sounds prevail. Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum.
Whether on a climb with us or on your own, there are many opportunities for choosing more sustainable practices and materials. If you’re planning to join us on a climb, consider these planning suggestions.
Renting Gear: When shopping for your upcoming climb, consider “gearing up” with us. Mountaineering can be pretty gear intensive, and in many cases you’ll find your needs change depending on where you go and what you’re climbing. Collecting all the equipment can be extremely costly, and in some cases you won’t be using it on more than a few climbs. Gear is meant to be used, and we strive to offer nearly everything you’ll need as high quality rental gear. We’re dedicated to choosing the best equipment, and maintaining it so that it lasts summit after summit.
Travel Responsibly: Consider ways to reduce the impacts of travel to and from our climbs. For many of our Washington based climbs, we’ll cover transport from our headquarters to the trailhead. If you’re meeting us in Seattle, consider carpooling or taking public transit to get to us. Our Seattle location has many transit options nearby, including to and from the Seatac International Airport! If you are traveling by air, consider purchasing carbon offsets associated with the emissions from your flight.
Investing in Gear: When you do purchase equipment for your upcoming climb, keep sustainability in mind. Many companies can provide eco-cognizant gear and equipment for your climbing expeditions– from reducing harmful methods of production, to using recycled materials, to emphasizing bio based fabrics that generate less waste. If you are providing your own food for your climb or course, be mindful of packaging– not only what you throw away before the climb, but what you’re bringing outdoors as well.
Tread Lightly: On the mountain, be aware of your impact on the environment around you. Travel on durable surfaces, and stay on marked trails whether you’re climbing with us or not. Be careful of the spaces you choose to recreate in, and be respectful of the environment, and the biodiversity, around you. Learn the principles of LNT (Leave No Trace), or take a LNT Trainer course so that you can spread best practices.
Absolutely enjoyed it! Rachel was patient, kind, very knowledgeable about all things Bolivia, and an excellent climber. It was obvious she put a lot of thought into planning this trip and giving clients the best experience possible. Her passion for both climbing and Bolivia were easy to see.