The Oscars of Climbing

This year’s American Alpine Club’s awards contain a mix of mainstream figures and distinguished climbers known mainly to their colleagues.

Climbers and teams awarded by the AAC in 2019

The Award’s Row of climbers. Photo: AAC

Dennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor and Piotrek Tomala won the David A. Sowles Award, which acknowledges mountaineers who took risks or sacrificed a major objective to help others in danger. The superstar team abandoned their own goals on winter K2 and flew across Pakistan to rescue Tomasz Mackiewicz and Elisabeth Revol near the summit of Nanga Parbat.

Two women climbers, representing two generations, also earned honours: Kate Rutherford won the Robert and Miriam Underhill Award for her 20-year career as a free and alpine climber. She made the first female ascent of El Capitan’s Freerider and Moonlight Buttress (5.12d) in Zion, plus new routes on Fitz Roy (Patagonia) and Acopan Tepui (Venezuela).

Meanwhile, 26-year-old Brette Harrington earned the Bob Bates Award for ascents such as The Shadow (5.13a) in Squamish, and Grand Illusion (5.13c) in Sugarloaf, and the first free solo ascent of Chiaro di Luna on Aguja Saint Exupery in Patagonia. After the passing of her partner Marc-Andre Leclerc in 2018, Brette turned from sport  alpine climbing, “relying on it as a metaphorical compass to direct her life,” according to one of the judges.

The club also distinguishes environmental awareness with the David R. Brower Award. This year, it went to snowboarder and adventurer Jeremy Jones, founder of the non-profit Protect Our Winters (POW). Everest West Ridge pioneer Tom Hornbein got the Angelo Heilprin Citation for his long service to the alpine club.

The awards will be given at the AAC’s Annual Benefit Dinner Weekend in San Francisco, on March 8-10.

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