AAC Climbing Awards

Each year the AAC recognizes outstanding achievements in conservation, climbing, and service to the climbing community. This year is no exception. Five individuals will be recognized for displaying monumental drive, courage, and commitment in the mountains and in their lives.


Discover their incredible stories, then join us at the Annual Benefit Dinner to hear more!

 Photo: Keith Curry

Photo: Keith Curry

Honorary Membership: John Roskelley

Honorary Membership is the one of the highest awards the AAC offers. It is given to those individuals who have had a lasting and highly significant impact on the advancement of the climbing craft.

“As a result of multiple challenging first ascents over several decades in North America, the Himalaya, and Karakorum, John Roskelley is recognized internationally for the technical challenge and style of his mountaineering accomplishments, especially those on the world's highest peaks. Of special note, John was the primary driver and climbing leader on virtually all of these ascents.  John’s mountaineering accomplishments compare favorably to those of the most outstanding of the world’s mountaineers of his generation.  In addition to this outstanding record of bold and courageous mountaineering, John has made significant contributions to the mountaineering literature as author of many mountaineering books and has an exemplary record of public service, including leadership roles for the county of Spokane and State of Washington.

The American Alpine Club bestows Honorary Membership  only rarely and after extensive review to the very best among us, those climbers who have advanced the standards of world-wide climbing and mountaineering and have in addition made major commitments of service to the climbing and outdoors communities.  In both climbing and service, John has set standards that serve as an inspirational example to the entire world-wide climbing and mountaineering communities.”  - Louis Reichardt

John's Accomplishments

  • Ascent and new route of the Northwest Face of Nanda Devi in India, 1976
  • First ascent of Great Trango Tower, 1977
  • Ascent of K2 during first successful American expedition, 1978
  • First ascent of Gauri Sankar in Himalaya, Nepal, 1979
  • First ascent of Uli Biaho in Karakorum, Pakistan, 1979
  • First ascent of Cholatse in Himalaya, Nepal, 1982
  • First ascent of NE Face of Taboche in Nepal with Jeff Lowe, 1989
  • Second ascent of Makalu West Pillar, 1980
  • Served as Spokane County Commissioner, 1995-2004
  • Author of several books including Last Days, Stories off the Wall, and Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition
  • Recipient of the AAC's Robert and Miriam Underhill Award, 1983
  • Inducted into the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence, 2016

 Photo: Andrew Burr

Photo: Andrew Burr

The Robert and Miriam Underhill Award: Alex Honnold

The Robert and Miriam Underhill Award is given annually to that person who, in the opinion of the selection committee, has demonstrated the highest level of skill in the mountaineering arts and who, through the application of this skill, courage, and perseverance, has achieved outstanding success in various fields of mountaineering.

“Alex Honnold has redefined big wall soloing over the last 10 years through his ground breaking, visionary ascents including Moonlight Buttress in Zion, El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero Chico, Mexico and most recently his extraordinary, futuristic free-solo of the Free Rider on El Capitan.  The ascent of Free Rider places Alex firmly in a category by himself as the greatest free solo rock climber of all time.”  - Selection Committee Chair, Mark Richey
"[The award] represents a body of work over a long period of time and the language "significant mountaineering achievement" is one thing—but having vision and commitment to achieve new standards and significant climbs is another. Alex Honnold has shown for well over a decade how to redefine what's possible. The Fitzroy Traverse and soloing Freerider on El Cap are like bookends to the body of work in between all of what he has also accomplished."  - Selection Committee Member, Jack Tackle

Alex's Accomplishments 

  • Free solo of Moonlight Buttress in Zion, 2008
  • Golden Piton award, 2010
  • Former speed record on The Nose of El Capitan, 2012
  • Complete traverse of the Fitz Roy massif in Patagonia, 2014
  • Solo of Yosemite Triple Crown - Mt Watkins, El Capitain, Half Dome
  • First free solo ascent of El Capitan via Freerider, 2017
  • Author of Alone on the Wall


Heilprin Citation: Ellen Lapham

The Angelo Heilprin Citation is awarded annually to that person who has, in the opinion of the citation committee, shown exemplary service to the Club. The purpose of this citation is to recognize those who have worked to maintain and strengthen the organization and thus further its ability to serve its fundamental purposes.

"[Ellen] chaired the AAC’s Conservation Committee and was a key participant in developing the 5-year strategic plan that revolutionized AAC membership growth and started the Cornerstone Conservation Grant.  Ellen was an initial founder of the Cordillera Blanca Environmental Expeditions that soon evolved into the current American Climber Science Program."  - Selection Committee Member, John Kascenska
"Ellen has been on ice, rock and glaciers since her first climb in Colorado in the 70’s. She attempted to be the first American woman to climb Everest’s north side during two expeditions, skied across Ellesmere Island, and has done solo exploration of Alaska's Brooks Range. She describes herself as a high tech entrepreneur who was an early disrupter in the computer industry in Silicon Valley."  - AAC CEO, Phil Powers

Ellen's Accomplishments

  • Climbed on the Mount Everest north side expeditions, 1986 and 1989 
  • Skied across Ellesmere Island
  • Served as an AAC Board Member, 2006-2011
  • Received the David R. Brower Conservation Award, 2013
  • Co-founder of the American Climber Science Program
  • Oldest person to climb two classic waterfall ice routes: Telluride’s Bridal Veil Falls (2014) and Ames Ice Hose (2015)
  • Led a 3 year volunteer project in Peru's Cordillera Blanca
  • Chaired the Board of the Trust for Hidden Villa
  • Co-Founded the Sustainable Summits Initiative 


The Robert Hicks Bates Award: Margo Hayes

The Robert Hicks Bates Award's purpose is to recognize a young climber who—in the judgment of the selection committee—has demonstrated exceptional skill and character in the climbing or mountaineering arts and has outstanding promise for future accomplishment.

"This has been Margo Hayes’ year. She climbed two of the world’s hardest and most iconic sport routes, La Rambla in Siurana, Spain and Realization in Ceuse, France, the first and third 5.15a routes ever climbed by a woman. In about six months she made two career defining climbs. What is most unusual is not only her performance, but the fact that she stepped away from competitions and gym climbing to put her energy into two “quixotic” projects.
With her ascents, Margo redefined what is possible. For this contribution and for being, in the words of Dougald MacDonald, editor of the Alpine Journal, “a very personable and generous soul”, she is awarded this year’s Bates Award."  - Selection Committee Chair, Rolando Garibotti

Margo's Accomplishments

  • Won The North Face Young Gun Award, 2013
  • Sent two Rifle 5.14a's in the same day: Double Rainbow and Zulu, 2015
  • Won the Bouldering and Lead Climbing events at the World Youth Championships, 2016
  • The Crew a 5.14c in Rifle Mountain Park, CO, 2016
  • Won a Golden Piton for climbing 14 routes graded 5.14, 2016
  • First female to climb a consensus 5.15a with her send of La Rambla in Spain, 2017
  • First female ascent of Biographie a 5.15a in Ceuse, France, 2017

 Photo: Tami  Heilemann

Photo: Tami  Heilemann

The David R. Brower Conservation Award: Former Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell

The David R. Brower Award, created in 1991, is an annual award recognizing leadership and commitment to preserving mountain regions worldwide.

"The 2018 [Brower] awardee is former Secretary of Interior and accomplished climber, Sally Jewell. The American Alpine Club is honored to recognize Secretary Jewell’s unparalleled leadership in landscape conservation and her strong commitment to youth outdoor education, which have both been vital in helping to preserve and protect America’s most important public lands and mountain environments.”  - Selection Committee Member, Mark Butler

“I want to get people to connect to the outdoors.” - Sally Jewell


Sally's Accomplishments

  • 51st United States Secretary of the Interior, 2013-2016
  • Led the charge to expand access to National Parks for kids, with the Every Kid initiative
  • 18 new National Monuments were designated during her 3 year term
  • Improved relationships with Native Americans
  • Worked as REI's CEO
  • Named the Puget Sound Business Journal CEO of the Year, 2006
  • Received the National Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award, 2009
  • Served on the boards of Premera, the National Parks Conservation Association, Retail Industry Leaders Association
  • Awarded the Teton Science Schools awarded her the Murie Spirit of Conservation Award, 2017
  • Fellowship at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School

To hear more from these awardees, join us at the 2018 Annual Benefit Dinner in Boston, MA, February 23-24.