caring for our alpine environment

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.
— Aldo Leopold, American Conservationist

Many of our climbing destinations are delicate places. Often, they contain unique ecosystems susceptible to upset by disturbance. As the popularity of climbing increases, so does the traffic in these valuable locations.

Without preventive measures, overuse can quickly lead to degradation of ecosystems, increased erosion, pollution, human-waste problems and other complications. In some cases, even issues regarding access can arise.

As climbers, we have the responsibility to be the stewards of our climbing areas.

Here at the American Alpine Club, our goal is to both actively participate in conservation, as well as provide support for individuals/organizations doing conservation work. Further, we think that knowledge of an environment is an essential underpinning for its effective conservation. Thus, we strive to support research projects in mountainous areas.

To achieve our conservation goals we engage in three different programs, each with a distinct purpose:

1. The AAC Cornerstone Conservation Grants: Creating healthy landscapes at popular climbing areas.
2. The AAC Research Grants: Stimulating research to better understand our alpine environments.
3. Sustainable Summits Initiative: An international collaboration to clean-up Earth's most trafficked peaks.

Read more about our programs below.

aAC cornerstone conservation grants

Powered by REI, the Cornerstone Conservation Grant supports projects that improve climbing areas around the country. Funding is distributed to local organizations that demonstrate they have a viable stewardship project, a plan and the drive to see a project through.

The Goal
Create healthy climbing landscapes, promote respect for our outdoor playgrounds and empower climbers around the country to become involved in stewardship projects.

Each year, we award $25,000+ to local climbing organizations. Projects run the gambit from spray paint clean-ups on the Southeast's famous sandstone to developing the Clean Mountain Can program on Denali, AK.

For more information, check out our main Cornerstone Conservation Grant page.


Map of Previous Cornerstone Conservation Grant Projects


aAC Research grants

A pre-requisite for conservation is understanding.
Without knowledge on the nature of environments and ecosystems as they are now, any attempts at conservation efforts will be inefficient and misguided. The Research Grants program is our way of supporting and developing that knowledge base. In doing so, we hope to magnify the impacts of future conservation efforts.


The Goal
Develop our understanding of natural phenomena in mountain environments by supporting scientific research studies focused on those locations.

Since 2012, $45,000+ has been awarded to researchers at universities around the country. Funding has supported projects spanning multiple disciplines including ecology, glaciology, social science, geology and climate science. Read about our previous Research Grant recipients here.

To learn more about our Research Grant Program and how to apply, check out the main page.

Alpine environments are beginning to experience the consequences of a warming climate. We sat down with four of our Researchers to get take on the topic. Check out our "Climber and Climate Change" interview series below.


Sustainable Summits Initiative

Human impacts, both direct and indirect, are having tangible negative consequences on popular mountain peaks around the world. Direct impacts include overuse, pollution and social problems. Indirect impacts are concentrated in the climate change sector, and include increased rock fall, heavily disturbed ecosystems and receding glaciers.

The Sustainable Summits Initiative is a venue for the international climbing community to convene, discuss these issues and develop solutions.

The AAC hosted the 1st and 2nd Sustainable Summits Conferences in 2010 and 2014, respectively. The focus of these meetings was on energy, capacity management and human waste solutions in high-traffic expedition areas.

The 3rd Sustainable Summits Conference, hosted by the New Zealand Alpine Club, focused on the environmental impacts, social/cultural impacts and natural hazards inherent to popular mountain routes.

The 4th Sustainable Summits Conference is scheduled for 2018 and will be hosted by the French Alpine Club.

The Sustainable Summits Website can be found here.
More information on AAC involvement is located here.

The AAC is working to preserve our alpine environments

help us guard them