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 2019 Annual Benefit Dinner to hear more!

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The Robert and Miriam Underhill Award: Kate Rutherford

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.

" Kate Rutherford has been climbing for 20 years and has consistently been exploring remote free climbing and alpine objectives worldwide. In Patagonia's Fitzroy range alone her ascents include the FA of the Washington route on Fitzroy, all seven major summits of the Fitzroy Range, the West Face of Cerro Torre and an all female ascent of the North Pillar of Fitzroy with Madeleine Sorkin. Kate and Madeleine also climbed FreeRider on El Capitan, the first all female free ascent of Freerider (13a). Expeditions and first ascents in Greenland, Kenya, Namibia, Iran, Venezuela, and the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. Impressive free climbs on Mount Hooker in the Wind Rivers (Jaded Lady 12a), the West Face of Leaning Tower in Yosemite (13a) and the first all female free ascent of Moonlight Buttress in Zion (12d), show her versatility and scope of experience and highest standards in today's active climbing arena.

Congratulations Kate!" - Selection Committee Member, Jack Tackle

Kate's Accomplishments 

  • First ascent of the Washington Route (5.10), Fitz Roy, Patagonia

  • First ascent of 10 Pounds of Tequila (5.12+), Acopan Tepui, Venezula

  • First all female ascent of Freerider (5.13a), El Capitan, Yosemite

  • First all female ascent of Moonlight Buttress (5.12d), Zion

  • Accomplished artist and jewelry makers


Heilprin Citation: Thomas Hornbein, M.D.

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.

Tom's Accomplishments

  • First ascent of Mount Everest via the West Ridge, 1963

  • Member of expedition that got the first ascent of Masherburm, Karakorum, 1960

  • Served in the US Navy

  • Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, 1978 to 1993

  • Author of Everest: The West Ridge

Photo by Francois Lebeau

Photo by Francois Lebeau

The Robert Hicks Bates Award: Brette Harrington

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.

“Brette Harrington is a 26 year old climber and skier from Lake Tahoe, CA, who first became known for her trad-climbing and free-solo ascents. These include ascents of routes 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. She is a prolific first ascensionist, having put up a number of new routes across Canada, in the Costal Range, the Rockies, and Baffin Island, as well as new routes in southern Alaska.

It is her commitment to exploration and adventure that set her apart. After the passing of her partner Marc-Andre Leclerc in early 2018, Brette turned to the alpine, relying on it as a “metaphorical compass” to direct her life, spending as much time in the mountains as she could. This search yield more beautiful new lines. It is for her creativity, courage and resilience that the Bob Bates Award is awarded to her.” - Selection Committee Chair, Rolando Garibotti

Brette's Accomplishments

  • First free solo of 2,500 foot Chiaro di Luna (5.11a), Saint Exupery, Patagonia, 2015

  • First ascent of Northwest Turret (5.13a) on Great Sail Peak, Baffin Island, Canada, 2016

  • First ascent of Hidden Dragon (5.12b/c) on Chinese Puzzle Wall, BC, Canada, 2016

  • First ascent of of Auroraphobia (5.13b) Wiaparous River Valley, Alberta, 2017

  • First ascent of Life Compass on Mount Blane, Canada, 2018

  • Climbed Grand Illusion (5.13c) on Sugarloaf, Lake Tahoe, CA

  • Climbed The Free Muir (5.13c) on El Capitain, Yosemite, CA

  • Star of Reel Rock film Brette, 2016

  • Named one of the top women in sports to watch by Forbes Magazine, 2017

Photo of Jones in Nepal by Andrew Miller

Photo of Jones in Nepal by Andrew Miller

The David R. Brower Conservation Award: Jeremy Jones

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

“Jeremy Jones, founder of Protect Our Winters (POW), is a pioneer, innovator and explorer of the word's wildest mountain ranges. A legendary snowboarder, his experiences of receding glaciers and changing mountain landscapes inspires his fight against climate change. Through galvanizing new advocates, educating policy makers and pushing the outdoor industry to take action, Jones has contributed immensely to the preservation of the mountaineering and skiing landscapes that are critically important to the American Alpine Club and its membership. Jones was named a “champion of change” by President Obama and won the prestigious National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2013. On behalf of the AAC, we are proud to award him the 2018 David Brower Conservation Award.”  - Selection Committee Member, Maria Povec

Jeremy's Accomplishments

  • Founder of the Non-profit group, Protect Our Winters, 2007

    • POW leads a community of athletes, thought pioneers and forward-thinking business leaders to affect systemic political solutions to climate change.

  • Founder of snowboard company, Jones Snowboards, 2009

  • Selected by National Geographic Magazine as a nominee for Adventurer of the Year, 2012

  • Star of many ski and snowboard films

  • Released a three part documentary: Deeper (2010), Further (2012), and Higher (2014)

Photo by Piotrek Tomala

Photo by Piotrek Tomala

The David A. Sowles Award: Dennis Urubko, Adam Bielecki, Jaroslaw Botor, and Piotrek Tomala

The David A. Sowles Award, created in 1981, is conferred from time to time on mountaineers who have distinguished themselves, with unselfish devotion at personal risk or sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers imperiled in the mountains. 

The Rescue

When two climbers were stranded near the summit of Nanga Parbat last winter, they sent out a desperate call on their satellite device. A hundred miles away, a Polish team of extraordinary climbers answered the call, prompting one of the most daring rescues in mountaineering history. - Read the full story of this daring rescue on Outside Online

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Honorary Membership: Jim Donini

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.

“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.” - Louis Reichardt

Jim's Accomplishments

  • First ascent of Torre Egger, 1976

  • Part of original Latok I team

  • Attempt of North Ridge on Latok I, Karakoram Range, Pakistan, 1978

  • First ascent of Cobra Pillar on the east face of Mount Barrille, Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range, 1991

  • First ascent of Viper Ridge on Mount Foraker, Alaska Range, 1991

  • First ascent of Lightning Spur on Thunder Mountain, Alaska Range, 2000

  • President of the American Alpine Club, 2006-2009

  • Recipient of the AAC’s Robert and Miriam Underhill Award, 1999

Photo by Greg Childs

Photo by Greg Childs

Honorary Membership: Michael Kennedy

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.

Michael's Accomplishments

  • Climbed Infinite Spur and Lowe-Kennedy in Alaska Range, 1977

  • First ascent of Northeast Face of Ama Dablam, Nepal, 1985

  • First ascent of Wall of Shadows on Mount Hunter, Alaska Range, 1994

  • Part of original Latok I team

  • Attempt of North Ridge on Latok I, Karakoram Range, Pakistan, 1978

  • Accomplished writer, photographer, and editor

  • Alpinist Editor-in-Chief

To hear more from these awardees, join us at the 2019 Annual Benefit Dinner Weekend in San Francisco, CA on March 8-10.