Alpinism: Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO


Alpinism is a traditional practice characterized by a shared culture. An art made up of knowledge and values. But also of skills. Such as the mastery of climbing techniques or the use of specific equipment. It necessarily requires the acquisition of diversified knowledge on the place where it is exercised. On changing climatic conditions and on the evaluation of unpredictable events. The culture of alpinism is based on an aesthetic linked to the beauty of the itineraries during the ascent. And expresses ethical principles: everyone’s commitment, economy of means, calculated risks and mutual duty of help and rescue.

Image from gsibergerin on Pixabay 

In fact, the practice of alpinism is an expression of knowledge and techniques. Values of solidarity and mutual help. As well as specific skills. And is of fundamental importance for spreading knowledge of the environment and the ecosystem, contributing to its protection.

A complex relationship between man and nature is thus affirmed through mountaineering. The territorial and cultural dimension of the mountain also affirms the profound interdependence between cultural heritage and natural heritage. Beyond being a very complete and healthy sport, alpinism is in fact the natural expression of knowledge, techniques and specific skills that are part of the innate heritage and local cultures of mountain areas and their communities.


Image from donations welcome on Pixabay 

In addition to the necessary technical and intellectual skills, the mountaineering tradition also highlights the ethical and aesthetic aspects of this practice that developed in the Alps. This includes the principle of the bond among climbing partners. As a symbol of team spirit, as well as mutual help and personal responsibility. But also the duty not to leave traces on the mountain.

Alpinism: why a Cultural Heritage?

UNESCO, in 2019 listed Alpinism as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Italy, France and Switzerland presented the candidacy for inclusion in the prestigious UNESCO list in 2018, highlighting the social and cultural aspects of mountaineering. As well as the international spirit that has always distinguished it. An important recognition, therefore, for the art of climbing mountains in a way that respects the environment. Inspired by the principles of solidarity and freedom.

Its visibility, as an intangible cultural heritage, helps to deepen and disseminate knowledge of the environment and ecosystems. Also in compliance with the local cultural specificities of the territories. Combining the importance of safeguarding, in an integrated and sustainable way, aspects of the natural heritage traditionally transmitted by communities. In addition, it presupposes the promotion of very noble values such as solidarity and mutual aid.


Benh LIEU SONGCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While this international recognition therefore contributes to giving visibility to alpinism as such, on the other hand it involves the obligation to adopt specific safeguard measures. And it is in this that the proposing Alpine Clubs, Italian, French and Swiss, as well as the Alpine Guides. And also the cross-border Municipalities, work to raise awareness of possible new members. Starting from the assumption that, without prejudice to the freedom of access to mountains, approaching them requires learning and accompaniment phases. For this reason, constant prevention activities have been envisaged with respect to the risks related to the trivialization of the alpinist activity and places where it takes place. And also the strengthening of preventive surveillance for respect for the environment.


Alpinism, or the art of climbing mountains and rock faces, thanks to physical, technical and intellectual skills, is a practice that has respect for the environment, cooperation and solidarity as essential references. UNESCO inscribed, in 2019, Alpinism on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. With the candidacy of France, Switzerland and Italy. This recognition highlighted the cultural and social aspects of this practice. Recognizing this sport as a form of art. A practice that respects the environment inspired by principles of solidarity and freedom. The UNESCO’s definition of alpinism in fact emphasizes the values of sharing and a responsible approach to nature.