Legends of American Mountaineering to be Honored

image from www.mountaineeringmuseum.org Our second annual Hall of Mountaineering Excellence gala and award ceremony for the American Mountaineering Museum is coming up fast, and this year is one you don't want to miss! Rub elbows with the likes of Tom Hornbein, Bob Craig, Nick Clinch, and more, and listen to climbing legend Royal Robbins speak of his historic climbs.

Tickets for the event – which is on April 9, 2011 – are available online here. (Read about last year's Gala here.)

The Hall of Mountaineering Excellence is awarded only to climbers whose careers included not simply great, pioneering climbs, but also a deep commitment to giving back to the greater community throughout their lives. (For a full description of the award criteria, scroll down this page.)

In 2010, we awarded Bob Craig, Bob Bates, Charlie Houston, and Yvon Chouinard. Like last year, honorees in 2011 are some of the greatest climbers (and more!) of American history:

image from kellylowenstein.files.wordpress.com Tom Hornbein (1930 – ) made mountaineering history when in 1963 he and his partner, Willi Unsoeld, were the first to summit Mt. Everest via the West Ridge and traverse down the other side. Combining his love for mountains with an interest in medicine, Hornbein has built a distinguished career as a researcher and anesthesiologist, studying the physiology of breathing and altitude adaption. It was a 1960 climb of Masherbrum peak that prompted Hornbein to devise a more effective, lower resistance oxygen mask, which was later used in the 1963 expedition. Following the Everest climb, Hornbein became a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington in Seattle. His medical career has led to publication of more than 100 journal articles and book chapters, as well as honors ranging from a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1982 to membership on the prestigious Institute of Medicine. Hornbein is also the author of the mountaineering classic, Everest: The West Ridge.

image from blogs.seattleweekly.com Fred Beckey (1923 -) has achieved lasting recognition and admiration for his imagination, persistence and dedication to the mountain lifestyle. Pioneering difficult routes since he was a teen, Beckey is unofficially recognized as holding the all-time world record for first ascents credited to one man, and is widely regarded as one of North America’s “most eccentric and colorful mountaineers.” In the summer of 1954 alone, he scaled Mounts McKinley, Hunter and Deborah in the Alaska Range, an accomplishment that became known as his Triple Crown of First Ascents. His own namesake, Mount Beckey, rises some 8,500 feet in Alaska's remote Cathedral Mountains, and was named after a 1996 ascent. Beckey has authored a number of exploratory, historical, personal and instructional works, including the Cascade Alpine Guide series, Mountains of North America, The Range of Glaciers: Exploration and Survey of the North Cascades, and Challenge of the North Cascades.

image from www.neptunemountaineering.com Royal Robbins' (1935 -) accomplishments as rock climber and adventurer are legendary. An early advocate of boltless, pitonless clean climbing, he did much to transform the climbing culture to minimize the human impact on the vertical wilderness and protect its natural features. As a rock-climbing pioneer, he broke through existing standards to create wholly new skill and difficulty levels. In the 50's, 60's and into the 70's, Robbins established one daring new climb after another, among them many revered classics on Yosemite's Half Dome and El Capitan. Robbins, a prolific author, has written two seminal books, Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft, which showcased his skill and climbing ethic and inspired a whole new generation of climbers. * Royal Robbins will be the keynote speaker for the Gala.

image from ngm.nationalgeographic.com Miriam O'Brien Underhill (1898 – 1976) was a leading advocate for the concept of "manless climbing,” organizing many challenging all-women ascents, primarily in the Alps. In her early career, Underhill made the first ascent of Toree Grand in the Dolomites by a route now known as the “Via Miriam” in her honor.  In 1932, she completed the first all-women’s ascent of the Matterhorn with climber Alice Damesme. Underhill and her husband, Robert, were charter members of the Four-Thousand-Footer Club, climbing all of New Hampshire’s peaks of 4000 feet and over. They were also the first to climb all 48 peaks in the winter, completing the quest with their ascent of Mt. Washington in 1960. Underhill authored the essay titled Manless Alpine Climbing: The First Woman to Scale the Grépon, the Matterhorn and Other Famous Peaks Without Masculine Support, which was published by the National Geographic Society in 1934.  Her autobiography, Give Me the Hills, was published in London in 1956 and republished in the United States in 1971.

image from wilderdom.com Willi Unsoeld (1926 – 1979) was an influential mountaineer, theologian and educator, who, along with Tom Hornbein, lead the legendary 1963 first ascent of Mt. Everest by way of the West Ridge. After a stint as Peace Corps Director in Nepal, Unsoeld joined Outward Bound and traveled about the country giving speeches and promoting the organization. As one of the founding faculty at Washington State’s Evergreen State College, Unsoeld became known as “The Father of Experiential Education,” influencing the growth of outdoor education and inspiring thousands of followers. Unsoeld died doing what he loved during a winter climb of Mt. Rainier in March of 1979.

So, mark your calendars for Saturday, April 9, 2011 5:30pm-9:30pm at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado. And, now go buy your tickets and get ready for a night of climbing history!

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.


  1. coco
    cocoJuly 20,11

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