A letter from our CEO, Phil Powers—

Do you know someone who has been in a climbing accident? Perhaps that someone was you. I survived a major fall myself, and my family and I are grateful that I am back on my feet and enjoying a climbing life today.

We all know that we face risk when we enter the vertical world. But the vast majority of climbing accidents are preventable. Mine was. I know we all care about the details of our mistakes and try to learn from them. I’d like to see our community do more to prevent problems by sharing what we’ve learned.

Participation in climbing has risen 22% in the last five years. Today, some estimate that more than 7.7 million Americans are climbing. This is exciting—and it also presents a challenge.

When new climbers are under-educated and unprepared for the challenges they may face when they tie in, accidents happen.”

We have a plan to challenge these inconsistencies in climber education, and we need your help. Over the past three years, the American Alpine Club has confronted this problem. We’ve designed an education program that equips climbers with knowledge that can help reduce climbing accidents.

We’ve fostered and trained an internal network of educators and mentors. And we’ve built a coalition of regional clubs and climbing gyms to test the delivery of nationally and internationally recognized safety standards: certifications, credentials, and competency reviews.

My own accident was the result of poor communication—and one that could have been prevented by using the techniques we teach in Know the Ropes and the Universal Belay Program, which allows climbers to learn and prove their knowledge of safe belay techniques.

We’re already seeing the positive impacts of this educational programming. 

  • In the first two years of the program, more than 1,000 climbers have met the criteria for a universal belay card, and with your help we can reach our goal of 10,000 universal belay-certified climbers this year.

  • We’re also offering an Instructor Certification Program. This program allows volunteer leaders to reach internationally recognized certifications—similar to how lifeguards across the country are trained by the Red Cross. We’ve partnered with three regional mountain clubs to begin offering these certifications.

For these programs and beyond, our goal is to equip every AAC chapter across America to educate climbers. Regional education summits will allow us to train educators, who can then go back to their local communities and train more educators. Thanks to this ripple effect, we envision a climbing world where all new climbers have opportunities to learn from a standardized curriculum.

We’ve built the framework to educate climbers nationwide—so when you give, it goes directly to increasing capacity for universal belay education, volunteer leader certification, and educational materials that standardize best practices. Through these programs and outreach, we seek to significantly reduce the number of climbing fatalities in the U.S.

We know what we need to do, and we’re making it happen. But we cannot fully implement
these programs without financial support from you. Your contribution allows us to revolutionize climbing education in America and train a new generation, with every dollar going back into our climbing community.

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The AAC’s Education program is adding important skills into our local climbing community’s knowledge. We have a few local climbing gyms that are quite popular - and as their membership grows, so too grows the community’s desire to climb outside. Through AAC Education, our local AAC chapter has been able to send 6 volunteers to an AMGA SPI class, adding a professional level of risk management to a group of already experienced recreational climbers.

To return the favor, these volunteers have developed educational clinics, free to attendees, to build competency in basic outdoor climbing skills (e.g. cleaning a sport anchor). Our chapter’s climbing mentors are able to connect climbers in their networks to the resources they are seeking - the message and impact of our volunteers scales well beyond themselves.
— AAC member John White