Saving Our Planet… One Expedition at a Time


On a mission to combat global warming, Alison Gannett’s Global Cooling Tour is using adventure as a form of education. Through events, expeditions, media, and speaking engagements, Alison aims to promote her program of “convenient solutions” to save our snow and our planet for future generations.

As part of her tour, Alison and friend Zoe Hart became the first females to descend Pakistan’s 19,450-foot Mount Bullock Workman on July 1, 2007. Although that was a feat in itself, the real impetus for the trip was to explore the impact of global warming on the Biafo Glacier, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of Pakistani people.
credit: Corrynn Cochran
I guess I’m on a mission to save the world, save the planet. My goal is to educate people as much as possible through an adventure format and reach an audience that might otherwise not be informed about global cooling. A lot of people’s level of awareness has really been raised about the problem, but what I feel is missing is a comprehensive, easy-to-understand solution method—and what better way to tell it than through an exciting adventure in Pakistan?

Part of my presentation is showing my ski expeditions from around the world and using them as illustrations of glacial recession. I feel that somehow my personal experience and the emotional connection people have when they see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of all of the countries I’ve been to has a lot more impact—like, ‘Hey, we could possibly lose our snow in my lifetime.’ And I think it helps get people motivated to work on solutions if they realize that it’s going to affect their lives here and now. So, the whole mission right now with the Global Cooling Tour is how do we get the word out fast enough, which is tough. That’s what my focus is, for sure: How do we reach as many people as possible, spread the word, take it national, take it international, have it affect legislation, have it affect businesses? Pakistan was one of those trips to prove that point. I was inspired by photos of Fanny Bullock Workman’s first ascent of Mount Bullock Workman 100 years ago. I wondered, What do the surrounding glaciers look like today? Glaciers around the world are retreating rapidly, but I heard that glaciers might be advancing due to global warming in Pakistan. Warmer air results in more precipitation; but for most of the world’s glaciers, that precipitation has fallen as rain and not snow, making glaciers retreat.

Was this pattern continuing in Pakistan, or were the peaks so high that the rain was falling as snow? Was extreme weather due to “global weirding” (droughts, floods, heat waves, hurricanes, and the like) happening in Pakistan as well, and how was it affecting its residents’ ability to survive? Pakistan is a really big place; I was worried we wouldn’t find the exact spot. But it was very cool; we found many, many of the same places and in fact camped in many of the same sites. I could tell once we were there, looked around, and looked at Franny’s pictures.

So that’s really powerful. It’s really cool to illustrate that women have been doing crazy things for hundreds of years—and hopefully motivate people to say, ‘If she could do it 100 years ago, I can do it, too.’ The Biafo Glacier was probably the biggest glacier I’ve ever been to; it was up to 2 miles wide in certain spots.

In the lower part of the glacier, there were boulders the size of a Subaru that we walked over; and then as you get to the upper part of the glacier, it looks like that classic river of ice, and the upper part of the glacier is where we climbed the 19,450-foot peak, Mount Workman. It’s incredibly crevassed and superscary in that part.

One of the consequences of global warming in that area is that they’ve had very little snowfall, so the crevasses aren’t filled with snow and the snow bridges are very thin. So, every 20 feet we had to cross a crevasse, and we were afraid we were going to fall in. We climbed it, though, and did the first female ski descent of the same peak that Fanny named 100 years ago.

Last modified: February 24, 2012

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