Swiss Ski Guide & Family’s 17-Year Odyssey – Skiing, Climbing,Sailing: Exploring Climate Change

Robin Azer | ClimbingClimbing | Featured ArticleFeatured Article

17-year Global Odyssey: Dario Schwoerer, a Swiss climatologist and international ski-and-mountain guide (UIAGM), has dedicated his life to studying the effects of climate change. Together with his wife, Sabine, and their five children, they have been circumnavigating the globe on a 50-foot sailboat for the past 17 years. Their mission is to inspire students and communities to protect the environment and preserve the earth for generations to come.

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the family and learn more about their mission. Their Swiss-based nonprofit organization is Top to Top: Global Climate ExpeditionInitially they had planned to spend only four years sailing the seven seas, summiting the highest peaks on all seven continents. The goal was to bring awareness to the growing ramifications of global warming and climate change. To off-set their carbon footprint, they were determined to rely exclusively on mother nature (wind, solar) and human power (skis, bike, climb).

Now 17 years into their global climate odyssey, it has expanded to include their five children (Salina, Andri, Noe, Alegra, and Mia) and one more on the way. The children were all born on the boat, wherever they happened to be anchored: Argentina, Chile, Australia, Singapore, and Switzerland (with Greenland the likely birth place their next child). 

Of note, a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife was used to cut the umbilical cord each time. Upon hearing this the company became one of their chief sponsors. 

To date they’ve traveled over 100,000 nautical miles visiting more than 100 countries, sharing their message of conversation with well over 100,000 students and community members. 

Top to Top
The Schwoerer family at South Sawyer Glacier, Alaska, USA, aboard their boat and home, the Pachamama. (Courtesy Dario Schwoerer)

Sailing – Northwest Passage:

The video at the start captures a glimpse of life on board their vessel, the Pachmama (Inca for Mother Earth). It follows them through the record-setting 1st Northwest Passage from Nome to Nova Scotia. This route is historically fully icebound. A sailing expedition through these waters impossible. This expedition signifies the alarming rate of ice-melt in the region due to climate change.

Trip from 2016 – passage through the Arctic without an icebreaker. Photo Top to Top.org

Skiing: 

Skiing is a passion for this family. Dario grew up in the mountains of Switzerland, learning to ski and climb from his parents, who were both guides. To this day the Schwoerer family spends many months per year on their skis. While utilizing a chairlift here and there, the more prevalent version is attaching skins to their skis and hiking up.

Switzerland 2017 – skinning up to ski down
Switzerland 2017 – at the top at last, preparing to ski down

Climbing – Sea to Summit: 

The Schwoerer family is walking the talk, so to speak, as they traverse the globe. Every summit of every mountain begins at sea level. Sea level. Even Mt. Everest. No planes, trains or automobiles. From their sailboat they’ll hike, bike, and climb to base camp before continuing on to the summit. Leaving places better than they found them is part of their commitment. For example extending their stay in Kolkata while climbing Mount Everest, spending four months removing  debris and gear left behind by other’s who came before them.

TOP’s of the Seven Continents:

  1. Mt. Blanc 4807m/15771ft, Europe – climbed
  2. Aconcagua 6959m/22831ft, South-America – climbed
  3. Denali (Mt. McKinley) 6198m/20335ft, North-America – climbed
  4. Mt. Kosciuszko 2230m/7316ft, Australia – climbed
  5. Mt. Everest 8846m/29022ft, Asia – climbed
  6. Kilimanjaro 5895m/19222ft, Africa – climbed
  7. Mt. Vinson 5140m/16864ft, Antarctica – in the works

Environmental Action Steps: 

Interspersed throughout all of their adventures are stops to give talks and share examples of innovative ways to protect the planet. They regularly perform field-based research in the far reaches of the globe, Top to Top, for universities and research organizations. Speaking at schools, community centers, conferences, etc. they have shared their findings with well over 100,000 people.

Educating students the world over on environmental conservation – Tonga
Alaska
School speech – Langkawi

The Future? 

“It’s been 17 years. We learned we have to go with the rhythm of nature to make our journey safe. I don’t believe when you talk a lot it helps much. Action is key. That’s why we are sailing, cycling, climbing. That’s why we organize the cleanups. This is why we talk to the children. We became every year more optimistic about the future of our planet. We have had the privilege of seeing all the wonderful projects of people who act. That’s inspiring. That is the message we try to bring.”

Dario Schwoerer

I wanted to know what the children thought about all of this. Wise beyond her years, their oldest daughter, Salina, responded: 

“Sometimes it’s exciting … sometimes boring. It’s a beautiful life.”

Salina Schwoerer, age 12

Photo Tour –  provided by Top to Top

Skiing to Denali, AK

 

Roped- in at all times aboard the Pachamama – sometimes at sea for 60+ days – solar panels collecting energy
Shopping for 7 months worth of food at a time. Finding storage inside the boat is a big task
Honing their climbing skills in the mountains of Switzerland

 

Sydney Harbor, Australia – wind turbines visible on the back
Better than a trip to the zoo
Top to Top – April 2017 in New York City

Top to Top –  Global Climate Expedition is the official name of their organization. Their motto is deceptively simple, Explore – Inspire – Act. 

To lean more, to follow their travels or to volunteer on/off their boat:  Top to Top

 


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