News 2015

Title: 2015 Youth Alpine Initiative Overview
Type: 
Date: 
System Date: 30/07/2015

Mountaineering Ireland
Youth Alpine Initiative 2015
Saas Grund, Switzerland

Mountaineering Ireland is responsible for a number of initiatives that facilitate target groups to participate in Mountaineering activities. One such initiative is the Youth Alpine Initiative, fondly known as “YAI”.
Late in 2014 applications were sort from active mountaineers and climbers aged 16 to 19 years old. The application process involved submitting a log of experience to date and an essay describing their interest and level of current participation. From this process 24 applicants secured places on the initiative, which comprised of four training weekends in Ireland, followed by a nine day trip to the Saas Grund valley in the Swiss Alps. The primary aim of the initiative is to engage the participants in further skills training and preparation and thus facilitate future development of their current mountaineering adventures. This was not a beginner’s programme!
During the selection process we also secured the help of a number of volunteer staff to deliver on the training weekends and attend the meet in the Alps. The staff team include full and part time professional instructors, volunteer leaders and personal practitioners, each bringing a different skills set and unique qualities to add to the success of this volunteer led initiative. We also greatly benefited from generous sponsorship from Berghaus, who provided participants and volunteers with alpine weight waterproof jackets, fleece hats & gloves.
From the start participants were encouraged to be self-driven and directed by organising fundraising, transport, food and personal equipment. The participants rose to the challenge and got themselves to each weekend and to the Alps, under their own steam. This ethos continued in Switzerland, where participants were fit for the mountain every day during the 6 day programme led by Full and Aspirant International Mountain Guides. The Irish training weekends prepped participants in some of the alpine skills they would then get to apply in the alpine setting. In addition to the role models provided by the Guides, they also mentored three aspirant guides, who must work alongside full guides during their pathway to full qualification.  There was a fair amount discussion around making a career out of mountaineering.
Included in the programme were; ascents of 3000m & 4000m peaks such as the Allalinhorn, Weissmies and Fletschorn, long multi-pitch routes on the Jegihorn, sport climbing in the valleys, glacier travel and crevasse rescue.  The participants went on to complete their own adventures and thus gather more experience and confidence.  
The next steps for this initiative involves providing access to skills courses such as the Mountain Skills, leadership training such as the Single Pitch Award and networking with existing Mountaineering Ireland clubs and outdoor centres which have expertise in climbing & mountaineering and a desire to rejuvenate their club age profile, with youth members. The role of clubs and volunteers is vital by way of an apprenticeship and support for youth mountaineers. The importance of a pathway for these participants must be stressed.  The potential of these mountaineers is limitless and their future development and lifelong participation is at the core of this initiative.

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