The first leg of Mountain Guide Station Zagreb (SPVZ) involvement in the „Walking the Via Dinarica“ is over and it was a great success! It was a success for our partners from UNDP Croatia in organising and supporting the walk and a success for Croatian mountain guides in presenting some of the country’s best and most beautiful nature on offer to potential outdoor visitors.
As a focal point for the field component of the project, the SPVZ deployed four of our top guides in the field with four more being involved in the research, planning and supporting of the „Walk“ before, during and after the event. We also need to mention colleagues from the Makarska, Split, Šibenik, Zadar, Lika and Rijeka Mountain Guide Stations. They are all part of a 12 association strong network, with some 900 leadership specialists of various classifications, of the Croatian Mountaineering Association (Hrvatski planinarski savez) and Mountain Guide Service (Vodička služba).
Established in 1961, the Service has evolved from a group of alpine and skiing experts offering support and guiding service to CMA members into a well organised, recognised and internationally standardised voluntary specialist network active in the field through the stations.
Mountain guides as specialists are a cohesive factor between many mountaineering disciplines including trekking, hiking, sports climbing, alpinism and tour skiing. But guides are also at the forefront of other service orientated disciplines. Search and Rescue is adamant for guide training, solid knowledge of rules and regulations in sports and tourism, nature protection, hospitality and mountain paths and lodges are a must have for anyone providing guiding services as well as constant improvement of personal skills and knowledge within the sport.
The Via Dinarica provides an awesome platform for three major possibilities in the foreseeable future. From a formal standpoint, connecting over something like the Dinaric arc is not just natural but also a simple fact of neighbourly life in the region. The sun, the wind, the snow and the rocks care little of man-made borders and have their own rules that obligate and engage anyone that visits the mountains. Protecting those using the highest possible standards is not only a possibility for joint actions in the region but a necessity.
People still do live and try to prosper in these mountains. Since “no man is an island”, some sort of communication channel and a fora for the resolution of the vital needs for those living the Dinaric Alps is very important. Gathering all those that mean well and try to sustainably prosper and give back to the mountains with targeted, nature friendly regional development is the second of the Via Dinarica possibilities.
The third is definitely the improvement of the existing mountaineering networks, being that formal and informal cooperation between specialist such as climbers, guides and rescuers or „mountain hardware“ improvement and standardisation. Mountain huts and lodges need repair and energy and eco-friendly technologies installed, paths need signalisation, providers of local goods and services need access to markets and sales, regulation and regionally standardised education needs to be put in place while the entire package must be properly advertised and brought to the doorsteps of those potential visitors and connoisseurs of nature and its products.
The Croatian leg of the Via Dinarica is envisaged to cover the green, white and the blue line and current plans still need thinking and tweaking here and there. It is quite clear Croatia is the gateway to the Dinaric Alps for visitors, not only due to geography but also due to tradition (CMA was established in 1874 and is the oldest mountaineering association in the region, 9th in the world), level of advancement in the field of mountaineering and recent EU accession experiences in nature protection and alignment with standards and best practices.
The SPVZ and its network of partners, friends and colleagues are ready to start on the long path. As mountaineers we are well used to long trails. We stand ready to further develop the Via Dinarica as a concept and as a reality and offer assistance and partnership to all those in the region who share this fantastic dream and the values behind it.
Head of the Mountain Guide Service of the Croatian Mountaineering Association