The Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) is the highest authority and world federation for climbing and mountaineering. Founded in 1932, UIAA currently has a presence in six continents representing members and federations in over sixty countries. The federation received official recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 1995. Some of the key disciplines UIAA specialise in are Mountain Safety, Mountain Medicine, Mountaineering, and Mountain Protection. Mountain safety is one of the most important areas the federation focusses on. UIAA’s Safety Label, including related safety standards, have been operational since 1960. The federation develops mountaineering equipment and the international standards for climbing, while overseeing accreditation of safety labels for over 70 manufacturers across the world. As the participation of mountain sport is increasing around the world, it is equally paramount that sound medical advice is provided through the network of medical doctors who are also experts in mountain medicine, protection, and rescue. There are three competitive world circuits that UIAA oversee and partner with. The federation manages the Ice Climbing World Tour, which includes World Cups, Continental Cups, and World Championships. The International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) is a partner of UIAA and manages the Vertical World Circuit and the Skyrunner World Series. The former takes places in tall skyscrapers around the world, while the latter involves technically difficult mountain trails at a high altitude. UIAA currently have their headquarters in Bern, Switzerland.
There are several documentations of mountaineering prior to when it first became a sport. Some of these stories can often be regarded as fictional, as the highest mountains were rarely visited early on. The high peaks were often associated with supernatural or religious concepts. The major turning point in the history of mountaineering came when Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard successfully conquered Mount Blanc in 1786, marking a symbolic birth of the sport. By the early 1900s many Alpine peaks were conquered, including Mount Blanc again by Marie Paradis in 1808 becoming the first woman to claim the honour. The Golden Age of Alpinism emerged by the mid 1900s especially after Sir Alfred Wills completed an ascent of the Wetterhorn, directly contributing to mountaineering becoming fashionable in the United Kingdom. While the Alpine peaks were the main interest in the beginning, by the turn of the 20th century, the sport had acquired a more international interest. The last frontier was the Himalayas in Central Asia. After many expeditions and climbs of several peaks within the mountain range over a period of fifty years, the tallest peak Mount Everest, was finally conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Previously the domain of the wealthy, today the sport has captured the hearts of a much wider audience making the work of UIAA even more vital in managing and maintaining safety and education of the sport worldwide.