American Alpine Club's Annual Award and Benefit Gala resumes in-person event in Denver after two-year hiatus

Posted on: March 7, 2022

American Alpine Club Awards logo

The American Alpine Club's Annual Award and Benefit Gala is returning to an in-person event in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, March 26. The party and award banquet has been on a two-year hiatus during the first years of the Covid-19 pandemic when the gathering was held virtually. People will still have the option to tune in online this year.

Tickets start at $175 for AAC members and $275 for the general public, and online attendance is free.


A Send 'N Social at the Movement RiNo climbing gym on Friday, March 25, will get the weekend started.

On Saturday, a panel discussion about the representation of women in climbing, a presentation by Jordan Cannon and Patrick Dunn, and a live recording of the Sharp End Podcast will precede the cocktail reception and silent auction in the evening before the benefit dinner starts at 7 p.m. And according to the usual tradition, an after-party with live music will continue from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Cannon and Mark Hudon are this year's keynote speakers. The pair have become more well known in recent years after the release of the movie Free As Can Be, which documented their shared efforts to free climb El Capitan. What makes their partnership particularly unique is that there is a 39-year age difference.

The people being recognized with awards this year are Pat Ament, Sean Bailey, Natalia Grossman, John Heilprin, John Kascenska, David Nyman, Rick Reese and Joe Terravecchia. Arlene Blum and Steve Roper are receiving honorary AAC memberships.

Joe Terravecchia. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubJoe Terravecchia. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

A press release from the club reads:

The American Alpine Club...has the honor of presenting the 2022 Annual Climbing Awards to eight outstanding climbers, conservationists, and volunteers....

Robert & Miriam Underhill Award: The Underhill Selection Committee has chosen Joe Terravecchia for the Robert & Miriam Underhill Award for establishing himself as one of the strongest and most varied technical rock and ice climbers in the country. Joe's climbing resume includes ascents up to 5.14a and WI6+. Notable ascents include the still unrepeated first ascent of Geezer Pleaser (5.13d R) at Stonehouse Pond, one of New England's hardest traditional rock climbs, and his prolific development of first ascents in Newfoundland.

Honorary Membership: Arlene Blum and Steve Roper will receive Honorary Membership awards for distinguishing themselves over many years through their leadership of challenging ascents and in mountain-related arts and science areas. Arlene led the first American—and [first] female—ascent of Annapurna I [8091m] and co-led the first all-female team to climb Denali. Steve is a notable climber with ascents that include the first free ascent of Kor-Ingalls (5.9) on Castleton Tower and the first ascent of West Buttress (VI 5.10 A3+) on El Capitan. He is also a prolific author who has written several books, including Climber's Guide to Yosemite Valley and The Climber's Guide to the High Sierra.

Arlene Blum. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubArlene Blum. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Robert Hicks Bates Award: Sean Bailey and Natalia Grossman will receive the Robert Hicks Bates Award because of their outstanding promise for future accomplishment in climbing. Last year, Sean won the IFSC World Cup lead climbing competitions in Villars and Chamonix and a bouldering World Cup in Salt Lake City. In 2021, Natalia won the IFSC Climbing World Championships in Moscow and two IFSC World Cup events in Salt Lake City.

Natalia Grossman. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubNatalia Grossman. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

David R. Brower Award: Rick Reese will receive the David Brower Conservation Award. Rick has been one of the essential western conservationists of our generation [as well as] a bold, tenacious and accomplished climber, and former climbing ranger. Rick co-founded the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, [which is] now the leading conservation group fighting to protect the over 4.5 million acre iconic ecosystem comprising nearly a dozen mountain ranges.

Rick Reese. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubRick Reese. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

H. Adams Carter Literary Award: The AAC Literary Committee will award Pat Ament the H. Adams Carter Literary Award. Pat is a prolific writer, with 30 books published, nearly 200 magazine articles, and 25 pieces selected for various international anthologies of best climbing writings—more than any other person. Jim McCarthy, President emeritus of the AAC, has called Pat "the poet laureate of American climbing writing."

Pat Ament. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubPat Ament. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Angelo Heilprin Citation: John Kascenska and John Heilprin will be awarded the Angelo Heilprin Citation for their "exemplary service to the Club." Kascenska joined the American Alpine Club in 1996 and has volunteered for the Club in several capacities over many years. Heilprin served as a volunteer on the AAC Board of Directors from 2012 to 2018.

John Kascenska. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubJohn Kascenska. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

John Heilprin. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubJohn Heilprin. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

David A. Sowles Memorial Award: David Nyman will be awarded the David A. Sowles Memorial Award for the eight-day ordeal to rescue and evacuate Jim Sweeney from the base of the Elevator Shaft on Mt. Johnson in 1989. The award is conferred from time to time on 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.

David Nyman. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine ClubDavid Nyman. [Photo] Courtesy of the American Alpine Club

Please join us at the Annual Benefit Gala on March 26 in Denver, Colorado, or tune in online for free to hear from the awardees.

For more information, visit:

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, 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

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