American Alpine Club Past President Nick Clinch Passes Away

June 15, 2016, Golden, CO—American Alpine Club past president Nicholas Bayard Clinch (b. 1930) passed away today, June 15, 2016 in Palo Alto, California.

Clinch is regarded as one of America's most successful expedition leaders. He is the only American to have led the first ascent of an 8,000 meter peak: Hidden Peak (Gasherbrum I, 26,470 feet) in 1958. He also led the first ascent of the notorious and beautiful Masherbrum (25,660 feet) in 1960 and Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, along with the other major summits of the Vinson Massif in 1966. Clinch Peak (15,883 ft) was named in his honor in 2006.

Clinch’s account of the 1958 Hidden Peak expedition was published as the book A Walk in the Sky in 1982. Nick also published Through a Land of Extremes: The Littledales of Central Asia with his wife Elizabeth Clinch in 2011.

His explorations have included numerous ascents in the United States, the British Columbia Coast Range, Peru and China. He also introduced the ice screw into North American climbing usage. For his extraordinary services to mountaineering Clinch was made a Fellow of the prestigious Explorers Club in 1969 and later elected to Honorary Membership in The Alpine Club [London]. In 2013 he was inducted into the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence for both his achievements on and off the mountain by the American Mountaineering Museum. He is an honorary member of the American Alpine Club and has received the Heilprin Award for service to the Club and the rarely granted President’s Gold Medal—twice.

Beyond Clinch's important role in the history of American mountaineering, his devotion to the AAC helped the Club thrive over the 62 years of his membership. Nick served as Club president from 1968 to 1970 and afterwards he served one term (1971-1973) as treasurer. He has been instrumental in the growth of the AAC Library, and a major contributor to the Central Asia collection. In 1971 Nick worked tirelessly with Leigh Ortenberg and NPS Director Horace Albright to establish the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch.

He was a student of climbing history and a prolific book collector with, as he often said, “the discrimination of a vacuum cleaner,” according to AAC CEO Phil Powers. His collection resides at the American Alpine Club Library in Golden, Colorado.

“Nick certainly contributed much to climbing in America. He was a brilliant expedition leader and a wonderful diplomat. But I think most of his contributions were behind the scenes,” said Powers. “He was always there with the counsel to get us through the hard decisions. I have benefitted from knowing a number of the great men on whose shoulders we stand as climbers today—but I’ll miss none more than Nick.”

Between expeditions and playing a strong and ongoing leadership role in support of AAC, Clinch was a long-time Executive Director of the Sierra Club Foundation and an early board member at REI.


About The American Alpine Club

The American Alpine Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose vision is a united community of competent climbers and healthy climbing landscapes. Together with our members, the AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events; publishes two of the world's most sought-after climbing annuals, the American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering; cares for the world's leading climbing library and country's leading mountaineering museum; manages the Hueco Rock Ranch, New River Gorge Campground, and Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for climbers; and annually gives $80,000+ toward climbing, conservation, and research grants that fund adventurers who travel the world. Learn about additional programs and become a member at