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American Alpine Club announces 2019 award recipients

Posted on: December 19, 2018


American Alpine Club 2019 climbing awards

The American Alpine Club recently announced the award recipients who will be honored at the club's annual benefit dinner on March 9 in San Francisco, California.

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The honorees are Kelly Cordes, Jim Donini, Brette Harrington, Tom Hornbein, Jeremy Jones, Michael Kennedy and Kate Rutherford. Dennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala are also being recognized for their rescue of Elizabeth Revol on Nanga Parbat last January. Colin Haley is the keynote speaker for the dinner. He will address "the triumphs and tragedies of speed climbing," according to the AAC press release.

"The Annual Climbing Awards are unique in that they recognize both lifetime achievements and those who represent the future," said American Alpine Club CEO Phil Powers. "Look at the list; from climbers who are changing the climbing landscape right now to icons from our history, we will hear some amazing stories."

Michael Kennedy on the upper slopes of Alaska's Sultana (Mt. Foraker) during the 1977 first ascent of the Infinite Spur with George Lowe. [Photo] George Lowe, courtesy of the American Alpine ClubMichael Kennedy on the upper slopes of Alaska's Sultana (Mt. Foraker) during the 1977 first ascent of the Infinite Spur with George Lowe. [Photo] George Lowe, courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Jim Donini [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubJim Donini [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Jim Donini and Michael Kennedy being inducted as honorary American Alpine Club members for their "lasting and highly significant impact on the advancement of the climbing craft," reads the press release. Donini and Kennedy were both members of the famous American team that nearly summited the North Ridge of Latok I (7145m) in 1978, achieving a highpoint that was only surpassed this year (by Alexander Gukov and Sergey Glazunov) despite 40 years of attempts by elite climbers, and it appears the complete line of the ridge still remains unclimbed all the way to the summit of the peak. Donini and Kennedy have many historic first ascents to their credit. For Donini, that list includes the first ascent of Cobra Pillar on the east face of Mt. Barrille, Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range, 1991; the first ascent of Viper Ridge on Sultana (Mt. Foraker), Alaska Range, 1991; and the first ascent of Lightning Spur on Thunder Mountain, Alaska Range, 2000. Kennedy is the former editor-in-chief of Alpinist and Climbing, and his resume includes the first ascent of the Infinite Spur on Sultana, 1977; the first ascent of the Northeast Face of Ama Dablam, Nepal, 1985, and the first ascent of Wall of Shadows on Begguya (Mt. Hunter), Alaska Range, 1994.

Dennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala with Elizabeth Revol and the Askari Aviation pilots after the rescue on Nanga Parbat. [Photo] Piotrek Tomala, courtesy of the American Alpine ClubDennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala with Elizabeth Revol and the Askari Aviation pilots after the rescue on Nanga Parbat. [Photo] Piotrek Tomala, courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Dennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala are being presented with the David A. Sowles Award, which recognizes "unselfish devotion at personal risk or sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains." In January 2018, the four climbers took time away from their winter attempt of K2 to launch a daring rescue of Elizabeth Revol on Nanga Parbat after she completed that peak's second winter ascent with Tomek Mackiewicz, who became incapacitated and died during the descent. Since the first Sowles Award was bestowed in 1981, it has been conferred only occasionally to "mountaineers who have distinguished themselves, with unselfish devotion at personal risk or sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains," reads the AAC press release.

Kate Rutherford. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubKate Rutherford. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Kate Rutherford is receiving the Robert and Miriam Underhill Award, which recognizes "the highest level of climbing skill, courage, and perseverance, with outstanding success.... Rutherford was singled out by the AAC selection committee due to her impressive list of climbing accomplishments worldwide and a number of notable first all-female free ascents, including Freerider (5.13a) on El Capitan, the Moonlight Buttress (5.12d) in Zion, and the North Pillar of Fitz Roy."

Brette Harrington. [Photo] Francois Lebeau, courtesy of the American Alpine ClubBrette Harrington. [Photo] Francois Lebeau, courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Brette Harrington is receiving the Robert Hicks Bates Award, given to young climbers who show outstanding promise. Margo Hayes was last year's recipient. The press release reads, "Harrington, a 26-year-old climber, is perhaps best known for the first free solo of 2,500-foot Chiaro di Luna (5.11a) in Patagonia, but is also an accomplished trad climber with several 5.13+ routes to her name [as well as difficult alpine-style ascents]. Past Bates Award winners have included Alex Honnold, Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Steph Davis, Hayden Kennedy, Colin Haley (the 2019 Keynote speaker), Sasha DiGiulian." Harrington wrote a feature story for Alpinist 64, titled "Life Compass," about losing her life partner Marc-Andre Leclerc and finding her way through the emotional turmoil as she made the first ascent of a route by the same name on Mt. Blane in Alberta, Canada, last April.

Jeremy Jones in Nepal. [Photo] Andrew Miller, courtesy of the American Alpine ClubJeremy Jones in Nepal. [Photo] Andrew Miller, courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Jeremy Jones is receiving the David R. Brower Award, which recognizes "leadership and commitment to preserving mountain regions worldwide." Jones is a prolific big mountain snowboarder who founded Protect Our Winters (POW), a nonprofit dedicated to addressing climate change. "Jones has become an unrelenting champion to fight climate change and share his experiences of receding glaciers and changing mountain landscapes using his podium as an athlete. In 2013 Jones was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and has been called a 'Champion of Change' by President Obama," reads the AAC press release.

Tom Horbein. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubTom Horbein. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Thomas Hornbein, MD, is receiving the Heilprin Citation for his work that has maintained and strengthened the American Alpine Club. Hornbein's CV includes service in the US Navy; the first ascent of the West Ridge of Chomolungma (Mt. Everest) in 1963; an expedition to the Karakoram that resulted in the first ascent of Masherbrum in 1960; work as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, 1978 to 1993; and authorship of the classic book Everest: The West Ridge.

Kelly Cordes. [Photo] Sonja BjornsenKelly Cordes. [Photo] Sonja Bjornsen

Kelly Cordes has been selected for the H. Adams Carter Literary Award, which will be presented June 1 at the Excellence in Climbing event in Denver. Cordes edited the American Alpine Journal for 12 years and published his first book, The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre, in 2014. That book was selected as the winner of the Mountain and Wilderness Literature award at the 2015 Banff Mountain Book and Film Festival as well as a National Outdoor Book Award. Cordes also cowrote Tommy Caldwell's 2017 memoir, The Push. Cordes' writing has appeared in publications ranging from climbing magazines to the New York Times. (He reports that his "first-ever" long-form feature article, "Painted Blue," appeared in Alpinist 3, and he recently wrote a story for Alpinist.com about the first ascent of a new mixed route on Longs Peak.) Past recipients of the Carter Award include Alpinist Editor-in-Chief Katie Ives, David Roberts, John Long, Bernadette McDonald and Alison Osius. A complete list can be found here.

More information about the awards can be found here.

The Benefit Dinner

To buy tickets or to learn more about the American Alpine Club's special events and benefit dinner that will take place March 8-10 in San Francisco, visit the club's webpage here.

About the American Alpine Club

The American Alpine Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose vision is a united community of competent climbers and healthy climbing landscapes. Together with our members, the AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events; publishes two of the world's most sought-after climbing annuals, the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Climbing; cares for the world's leading climbing library and country's leading mountaineering museum; manages the Hueco Rock Ranch, New River Gorge Campground, Rumney Rattlesnake Campground, Samuel F. Pryor Shawangunk Gateway Campground, and Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for climbers; and annually gives $100,000+ toward climbing, conservation, and research grants that fund adventurers who travel the world. Learn about additional programs and become a member at www.americanalpineclub.org.

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