Alpine Style Action: Cutting Edge Grants For 2024

Every spring for over a century, the American Alpine Club announces the American expeditions they will support with their Cutting-Edge Grants.

The program’s strict criteria guarantee that the five chosen climbs are in pure alpine style. Applicants must also be highly experienced, American citizens, and members of the AAC. However, that requirement only applies to the applicant. Climbing partners need not be American.

Each expedition must have a leave-no-trace approach and target an exceptional goal “in remote areas featuring unexplored mountain ranges, unclimbed peaks, difficult new routes, first free ascents, or similar world-class pursuits,” according to the requirements.

The 2024 recipients are:

Chantel Astorga for a second attempt on the Direct East Face of 6,543m Shivling in the Indian Himalaya. Astorga’s name is forever associated with Denali, where she did the first ski descent of the Seattle Ramp variation of the West Rib. She was also the first female to solo the peak’s Cassin Ridge.

Recently, she was part of the team that made the first ski descent of the Great Trango Tower in Pakistan’s Karakoram. The grant committee has not specified her climbing partners on Shivling.

Astorga takes a selfie on a snowy peak, with helmet and skis on her back

Chantel Astorga on Denali. Photo: Chantel Astorga


Yashkuk Sar

Dane Steadman will attempt a virgin Karakoram peak: Yashkuk Sar (6,667m). He, Cody Winckler, and August Franzen will try to find a line up the peak’s north face, which lies in the remote Chapursan Valley in northern Pakistan.

Last year, Steadman set a new route on Pik Alpinist in Kyrgyzstan, with partners Jared Vilhauer and Seth Timpano.

Steadman covered in frost and still tied up to a rope after climbing an ice route.

Dane Steadman. Photo: Fletch Peterson


Sam Hennessey is returning for the third time to the north face of Jannu East, in Nepal’s Kangchenjunga region. He will again attempt to open a new route up the formidable 2,400m-long wall. He previously tried with Seth Timpano in 2021 and last year with Michael Gardner.

Ethan Berman wants to try the Karakoram’s so-called Walker Spur: the southeast pillar of Ultar Sar (7,388m) in the Batura Muztagh range. The AAC’s report quoted U.S. climber Colin Haley (who attempted the Pillar in 2007) about the challenge: “With the route proper more than 3,100m tall, it makes the North Ridge of Latok 1 look small by comparison. While not as technical, it is still sustained real climbing — very little simple slogging.”

Ethan Berman in orange dawn jacket with a lake and a mountain behind

Ethan Berman. Photo: Mathilde Sjostedt


Berman was awarded a Piolet d’Or after a new route with Scotland’s Uisdea Hawthorn up the Emperor Face of Canada’s Mount Robson.

mount robson

Mount Robson, with the Emperor Face circled in red. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko

Chiling II

Chris Wright considers the north face of Chiling II in India’s Zanskar “one of the most handsome unclimbed north faces on the planet.” Now, he and partner Stian Bruvoll of Norway have the support to attempt it.

Portraits of Chris Wright and Stian Bruvoll

Chris Wright and Stian Bruvoll. Photo: Cutting Edge Grants


Wright bagged a Piolet d’Or for the first ascent of the Karakoram’s Link Sar with Graham Zimmerman, Steve Swenson, and Mark Richey in 2019.

Each team will receive between $3,000 and $4,500 of the grant’s $20,000 total budget.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.