The American Alpine Club in MY Backyard

Oct 28, 2010
Outside Magazine


I was climbing my local favorite, Colorado's Longs Peak earlier this year and noticed a new sign beside the trail. This was near the Diamond, famous for world class big wall climbs from Casual Route, 5.10a to Ariana at 5.12a and more.

To be clear I was doing the passive Loft Route and felt happy to be there!

As I admired (and dreamed) looking at The Diamond, I almost stumbled into the simple wooden post that offered some bags in addition to a request:

NO Toilet facilities Ahead
Climbers Only
If needed, take a waste bag with you.
Use as directed and dispose of in a trash container.
Sponsored by the American Alpine Club

I stopped in my tracks. My simple smile acknowledged a simple fact. The AAC was making a difference I could see.

OK, I know they have been making huge differences for decades, actually since 1902. For decades they have been effective advocates for climbers, working with landowners and governments to maintain access and serving as a clearing house for best practices and representing climbers of all skill levels. And they do more.

Many climbers view the annual publication "Accidents in North American Mountaineering," an annual report on climbing accidents as worth the dues alone. But access to the incredible library at the American Mountaineering Center (free shipping for members), stewardship of the Climbers Ranch at the Grand Teton and more benefits cited on their website easily justify the value. They work with Canada as well. For a small upgrade, members share some some benefits of the Alpine Club of Canada including a discounted stay at the Canmore Clubhouse.

They are new and modern with a fresh website. They are using Facebook, Twitter plus publishing their own Blog in addition to the traditional approaches of reaching people.

Recently the AAC expanded their rescue insurance to cover at least $5000 regardless of where you are climbing - or how high. Read what Steve House said about his eighty foot fall where his injuries included: two pelvic fractures, seven fractured vertebrae, nine fractured ribs (3 were pulverized) and a collapsed lung! His rescue started with a 911 call.

"As my healing progressed, Global Rescue’s medic was already thinking ahead, working out the best way to get me home to Oregon. The simple solution would be for me to stay in Calgary until I was able to walk out of the hospital, but that would force me to make a very long, and very painful car-ride home. Recognizing this Global Rescue arranged a medically equipped lear jet staffed by a paramedic and a flight nurse. At noon on my seventh day in the hospital, Global Rescue had worked out the intra-hospital paperwork and I was wheeled out to the waiting jet. Two quick hours later I was in my home hospital in Oregon, where my parents, friends, and the rest of my family awaited me. After a comfortable four more days in the hospital I hobbled out with my walker, largely under my own power."

So why are there only 9000 members when we have ten times that many climbers just in Colorado and California? Perhaps it is the donation overload we are all subjected to these days. Or maybe we just don't understand what they do.

Or could be as individuals, we don't see the benefit in our backyard.

Well, I saw it in mine and renewed my membership, proudly. For $75, I get all the benefits plus the satisfaction of knowing that someone out there has my back as a climber, as an outdoor enthusiast, as a guest of the planet. I support my local clubs but also see the place for supporting the American Alpine Club.

What are you waiting for? Join today.

Climb On!


Arnette is a speaker, mountaineer and Alzheimer's Advocate. He is climbing the 7 Summits starting with Mt. Vinson in November 2010 to raise $1 million for Alzheimer's research. You can read more on his site.

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