In 1953, history was made when Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. For Norgay, these momentous steps were taken in boots made by Swiss brand Bally, which has been specialising in functional outdoor footwear since 1851. More than half a century since the record-breaking climb, mankind has made great leaps in discovering and understanding our natural world, but our greatest undertaking lies ahead of us – to save it. This year the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation was established as part of the brand’s commitment to help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Its mission is to safeguard the world’s fragile mountains through multi-faceted initiatives, from clean-up expeditions to the base camps of eight 8,000m mountains in the Himalayas, including Mount Everest, to building new sustainable trails to access the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Bally’s clean-up expeditions
Global warming has had a devastating impact on our environment (not to mention the pollution caused by the increasing popularity of outdoor tourism), and with mountains covering 25 per cent of the world’s surface and providing 12 per cent of humans’ drinking water, there has never been a more critical time to act. In 2019, Bally CEO Nicolas Girotto collaborated with Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, author of best-selling book Touching My Father’s Soul and owner of Tenzing Norgay Adventures, along with Dawa Steven Sherpa, leader of Eco Everest Expeditions and CEO of Asian Trekking, to organise several ambitious expeditions and conservation initiatives across the world. By June 2019, the Bally Peak Outlook initiative’s inaugural clean-up had removed more than two tonnes of waste between the base camp and peak of Mount Everest – a milestone moment in mountain conservation.
Closer to home on Switzerland’s Rhône Glacier, where the Bally Peak Outlook capsule collection was recently shot by environmental activist Michel Comte, Bally has been working with local experts and glaciologists to investigate both sustainable alternatives and scalable solutions to the UV blankets that currently wrap the glacier to protect it from melting.
The Bally Peak Outlook capsule collection
In addition to the organised clean-ups, Bally launched a capsule collection of 37 sustainably made activewear pieces. This includes boots made with Vibram’s Arctic Grip technology – engineered rubber soles and a five-layer protective material – wool blankets printed with archival Bally posters, as well as BPA-free aluminum water bottles made in Switzerland by heritage brand Sigg – with all proceeds benefiting future initiatives and preservation projects organised by the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation.
We speak to the three pioneers – Nicolas Girotto, Dawa Steven Sherpa and Jamling Tenzing Norgay – ahead of the capsule launch:
How did you become involved with mountain conservation?
Nicolas Girotto: ‘For Bally, founded in the Swiss Alps, the mountain lifestyle is the essence of the brand, and the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation is deeply committed to channelling this unique heritage to drive positive change through education and awareness. We have a duty to amplify the message through our global network and safeguard these majestic landscapes and their inhabitants for generations to come.’
Dawa Steven Sherpa: ‘It was on my first climbing expedition to Mount Everest in 2007 that I saw first-hand the impact we humans have had on our mountains. I was shocked at the amount of garbage left behind by other climbers. Even more alarming was the rapid melting of the ice and glaciers, which is a direct threat to the lives of climbers like myself, and our surrounding Himalayan communities.’
Jamling Tenzing Norgay: ‘I have been trekking the Himalayas since I was eight years old, when I first followed the footsteps of my father. The mountains are a sacred place, and witnessing the gradual decline of its pristine environment and the sight of pollution continues to be a big shock to me. For the past 20 years or so I have actively been involved in cleaning the mountain trails and organising seminars for the local community through my trekking groups.’
Why are our mountains so important?
JTN: ‘For the Sherpa people and the communities that live here, the Himalayas are home to ancient power places and divine energy that confer blessings on those who visit them. In another sense, the Himalayas play a vital role in our ecosystem. The glaciers provide fresh water for drinking, irrigate our farm lands, and enrich the flora and fauna. Global warming has led to the rapid melting of the glaciers, causing the lakes to overflow and flood down the valley, wiping out villages and agricultural lands, along with the loss of human lives.’
DSS: ‘That’s the biggest change – the melting of the glaciers. We’re sort of the «canary in the mineshaft» here, because whatever else is happening in the world, due to climate change, it’s happening here first and it’s happening here faster. In 2008 I stood at the top of Everest and said, «The mountains are melting, the glaciers are melting”. We needed to do something about it.’
How did you become involved with the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation?
DSS: ‘I had been running a clean-up operation on Mount Everest each spring climbing season since 2008, but due to my limited resources I had struggled to clean the upper reaches of the mountain. I discovered how Bally was keen to reconnect with its Mount Everest history and give back to the mountains. When they heard about my work, they asked me what I needed, and I immediately said: “A special team to clean right up to the summit!” That’s what we ended up doing in 2019.’
JTN: ‘My family’s association with Bally started in 1952 when my father received the specially designed custom-made Bally high-altitude climbing boots, which he wore on his historic climb of Mount Everest in 1953. My own connection with Bally started with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of that climb, and we continue to work together in the Himalayas through the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation and my father’s namesake charity, the Tenzing Norgay Foundation, through which Bally sponsors community-led clean-ups and education programmes.’
What’s next for the project?
NG: ‘Expanding our vision beyond Everest, our expedition leader Dawa Steven Sherpa and his expert team of local climbers have just returned from a 45-day expedition – the first part of our two-year commitment to clean up the Himalayas.’
DSS: ‘Exactly, last year my team and I removed over two tonnes of waste from Mount Everest, and now we’re doing the same with each base camp of the eight 8,000m mountains in the Himalayas. We just returned from Mount Cho Oyu, Mount Makalu, Mount Lhotse, and Mount Everest.’
NG: ‘We will return next spring to complete this mission and we will also continue to sponsor the Tenzing Norgay Foundation to develop education programmes and local clean-ups on the ground.’
JTN: ‘I am pleased that Bally is honouring my father’s pioneering legacy, and is committed to preserving the region of the world that I proudly call home. I plan to continue working in partnership with the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation and focus on evolving our strategies within the local community to better safeguard the future.’
NG: ‘Extending our reach to sister mountains worldwide is also part of our future programming for the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation. Bally is the official partner for the 2021 clean-up of Mount Fuji, and at Mount Kilimanjaro we are clearing a new trekking path to protect wildlife and link surrounding areas to Kilimanjaro National Park with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism. This will be an important step in the direction of supporting the local community along with the environment. Dawa once told me, “The world will not change by a few people doing big things, but by normal people doing small things.”
Indeed, we should all feel empowered to do better, by being better.’
Want to join Bally’s mountain preservation efforts? Do so by shopping the collection below, with 100 per cent of proceeds going towards the Bally Peak Outlook Foundation’s future expeditions and initiatives worldwide.