The Swiss luxury brand partnered with environmental activist and mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa on a series of high-risk conservation expeditions, from Everest to Kilimanjaro.

Mountains matter, and they matter to all of us. 

Maybe you actively advocate for a cleaner world, of which mountains are a crucial part. Or maybe you just really enjoy skiing their snow-capped peaks a handful of times each winter. Whomever you are and however deeply you appreciate mountains, there’s a very real likelihood that you’re not understanding how genuinely crucial they are to our survival on Earth.

Not only do mountains cover 27% of the globe’s land surface and supply more than half of humanity’s fresh water, according to non-profit organization Mountain Research Initiative, they’re also home to 25% of all terrestrial biodiversity, 23% of the world’s forests and almost 1 billion people. 

Mountains are also especially vulnerable to the effects of the planet’s climate crisis. In the mountains, changing conditions like melting glaciers and disappearing snow cover are warping entire ecosystems, impacting everything from how water flows to when plants flower. So if we want to preserve the world as we know it, we have to protect mountains and the resources they offer those beyond their immediate ecosystems.

Swiss luxury fashion house Bally, for one, is doing its part. The brand, which shows at Milan Fashion Week, has long been connected to the Alps, sponsoring climbing expeditions and alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics since the early 1900s. More famously, in 1953, Bally created the reindeer boots Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay wore during the first-ever successful ascent of Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary. 

Last year, Bally returned to the Himalayas to launch its Peak Outlook Foundation, which aims to “safeguard the world’s fragile mountain environments.” The group kicked off its efforts by leading a cleanup of the mountain, from base camp to peak. 

Environmental activist and mountaineer Dawa Steven Sherpa (who shares his surname with the Sherpa community, one of the Indigenous groups native to the Himalayan region) led the debut expedition, joined by his team of expert climbers and Norgay’s son, Jamling. 

Together, the group removed two tons of waste, half of which was collected within the mountain’s “Death Zone,” where the pressure of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life for an extended period of time. (This is not a hyperbole: People die on the world’s tallest mountain every year, be it from falls, storms, avalanches, lack of oxygen, freezing or other preexisting conditions.)

In 2019, an unprecedented 891 climbers reached Everest’s summit, with hundreds, even thousands more international mountaineers gathering at base camp. The blooming crowds on the mountain don’t just have serious safety implications — a record 11 climbers died during their summit last year — but also environmental ones. 

Each spring, Everest’s two principle base camps, one on the Nepal side of the mountain and the other on the opposite face in Tibet, transform into what National Geographic calls a “pop-up city”: The well-provisioned camps, pitched at 17,500 feet, offer heli-pads, walk-in clinics and, for those using certain guide services, cushy social tents that allow climbers to acclimatize to the altitude.

By Isaac

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