The danger of rockfalls, followed by the danger of falls into crevasses has been increasing the most. Simultaneously mountain guides are confronted with these two hazards most frequently. The decrease of hazards in the region of the survey is, according to a general inquiry, insignificant compared to the increase.
For about half of the mountain guides it was not clear, whether extreme wheather conditions which affect the demand for mountain guides negatively, have been occuring more often in the last few years.
They attribute this decrease in the first place to the recession and the high exchange rate of the Swiss franc in relation to the German mark. In the second place they mention changes of the natural environment.
Among the changes of the natural environment bad route and weather conditions are generally refered to most often. Also particularly mentioned are the increasing danger of rockfalls and the increasing with blank ice.
From this can be concluded that the requirements regarding the alpine-technical qualifications of the guests and the mountain guides have increased.
The majority of the guests today climbs between the III and IV difficulty level, which coincides with the difficulty range of the most frequented routes in the Bernina region. Should the difficulty of the routes increase in the future, then the potential of the guests which will meet the requirements for certain climbs will decrease. For the mountain guides this means a decline in the demand. Within the scope of this paper, a case study was done in order to try to quantify the decline based on an increase of the difficulty. The route from the Tschierva cabin across the Bianco ridge up to the Piz Bernina was selected. It became evident that the demand for mountain guide services for the Bianco ridge will decrease by 18%. How strongly the changes of the natural environment influence the demand for mountain guide services altogether could not be quantified exactly, since a detailed clarification would be necessary for each specific route.
The results show that the majority of the guests can be satisfied with combined mountain climbs in the II and III difficulty level of six to nine hours duration in the high mountain region of the Alpes. What is feared most by the guests is the danger of rockfalls.
In this context the criteria of selection of a particular tour are also of importance. In the first place good tour and weather conditions are mentioned and also levels of difficulty which correspond to one's abilities.
Other important criteria for visiting a mountainous region are a beautiful, interesting landscape with a good range of tours available and not too many people.
An additional clue for the preferences of the guests are adaptive measures that have become necessary during the last few summers which have been very hot: preventive measures which the guests can take themselves are not considered impediments by the majority. But the guests react very sensitively to crushes, increasing risks and increasing alpine-technical difficulties.
After safety considerations the need for instruction is the second most important reason for engaging a mountain guide and presents an alternative to problematic activites.
Additonally the season was adjusted to the new situation, especially for activities such as ice face climbing, combined mountain climbs, ski, and high mountain ski tours respectively.
Some reacted with more flexibility and short-term planning to the new situation, which became necessary because of routes that had to be changed more frequently as a result of increased hazards. It was stressed that the responsibility and the difficulties of finding an optimal solution had increased.
The observations of the mountain guides in the Bernina massif clearly indicate increasingly negative conditions for tours in the area of the survey. They can be related to changes of the natural environment affecting rock, permafrost and glaciers.
In how far the changes observed indicate a global change of climate can only be guessed and will show in the future.
For the mountain guide these questions are less important compared to the fact that a trend towards increased risks and difficulties can be detected and that changes in this direction are taking place. On the basis of the climate scenarios of the IPCC one has to at least expect a progression of these changes, since the CO2 emissions will increase in the future with great probability.
The best option in such a situation therefore is to adjust to this trend optimally with suitable measures. Optimizing is the motto of the moment , and waiting in the hope that the former conditions will be re-established is the worst possible strategy and, considering todays knowledge about climatic change, contains more risks than does adaption.
Especially mountain guides should have recognized that nothing lasts and everything flows on the glaciers in the high mountain regions....This should not make us sad, but encourage us to accept new challenges and to meet them with new innovations. The way is the end!