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How to explore with low impact - Interview with Arnaud Petit

An interview with professional climber Arnaud Petit discussing how to reduce your environmental impact as a climber and outdoor enthusiast.


Andrea Palazzi


February 5, 2021

Arnaud is well known for his little adventure on his backyard when he climbed the famous sport climbing route "Black Bean" on traditional gear in Ceüse. He recently took a step further...

Along with Christophe Dumarest he founded an NGO called ACTS (Act on Collective Transition for Summits).

With ACTS and a bunch of other alpinists and climbers, Arnaud committed himself to reduce from 1/3 his carbon footprint. If you ask him he will definitely not say he is perfect, and sure he has not been in the past, but it is never too late to improve. We can all contribute to reduce our impact on the environment, with traveling less or differently but not only.

The following is just part of the interview Arnaud was so kind to release to Mapo Tapo for The Climbing Travel Guide initiative. The full-length article will be featured in the Guidebook itself.

Here are few words with him.

Arnaud Petit in action on the lower section of Black Bean, 8b in Ceüse. In 2011 he choose to commit himself climbing this masterpiece exclusively on gear © Thomas Vialletet

Arnaud, could you tell us 3 things an average climbing enthusiast can do to fulfill his/her desire to climb and explore while keeping his/her impact on the environment low?

Yes we can reinvent our game sometimes! That's what some climbers do. I think of Lena Marie Müller: she lives in Austria and she manages to go climbing by train and bike 75% of her time!

I have in mind a great expedition of 3 young French people who went to Kyrgyzstan from France by train. The 2 weeks approach was an adventure in itself and had brought them memories as intense as their climbs.

When Nico Favresse and Seb Berthe did the alpine trilogy by bike, they managed to climb at their best level. They gave themselves a framework that pushed them to be creative to find the right tactics, the right plans to find friends... Giving yourself a framework is not necessarily limiting yourself, it's giving yourself the possibility to invent new things. If we think about it, we also like climbing because there are rules to the game (first one is not using the bolts to climb or rest). It is these conventions that give value to our climbs. We can very well extend these conventions to the way we access the places (with more train and more bike). It's something that we have to do for ourselves, without comparing or competing with others, because there are necessarily some people luckier than others because they live closer to the sites. In the end, the goal is to be proud of what we do. I realize that over time, the rating doesn't matter. That my actions are in line with my convictions and sharing it with my friends is what matters.

Nico Favresse and Séb Berthe during their recent mission, accomplished moving both by bike and train. Their goal? To climb the Alpine Trilogy© Damien Largeron

  Lena on Prinzip Hoffnung, rated E9/E10 

Lena Marie Müller is an accomplished climber. Meanwhile, she is doing a PhD on the effects of climate change at the University of Innsbruck. If you know her, it's probably thanks to one of her inspirational climbing achievements or for the fact she is committed to move around from a climbing spot to another mostly by bike or by train. Doing so, she can still climb hard while drastically reducing her climbing-related carbon footprint.

 Lena moving by train - seems like she's enjoying her time! Photos © Collection Lena Müller


If I have to give three varied elements to be more responsible :

1. Contribute to reducing carbon, by offsetting your travel or life footprint (by planting trees with Mossy earth for example). Even if this is not immediately effective and it is also urgent to reduce our impact by limiting travel and consumption, it must be done. You can have a look to the 10 bullet-points ACTS stands for.  If we aim to meet each of them we could improve ourselves: for example choosing a low-impact bank, as most of the popular ones  invest on dirty businesses such as intensive oil extraction.

 2. Try not to scream when you fail ! There are other people at the cliff who like silence and especially there are other people who can walk around as well as animals who also aspire to a peaceful life.

3. On the spot during a trip, wonder where to buy organic and local products. Every time you buy something you have to ask yourself if you really need it or not. What is fantastic about climbing is that it is an extremely minimalist activity - for me only the shoes are important, and the truth is that for more than ten years now there have been fabulous shoes for all styles of climbing and the resoils are of excellent quality.

You can read more about ACTS, its 10 bullet-points and Mission on the official website, available here.

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Words by Arnaud Petit

Cover photo © Marc Daviet