Saturday, February 13, 2010

American Alpine Club New York Section 2009 Annual Report


The beginning of any new decade brings with it a moment of reflection and analysis. During the 2000’s the New York Section Alpine Club Community almost doubled in size. Perhaps more important than membership growth , however, was a heightened spirit of community and brotherhood, manifested in consistently sold out events and a high degree of volunteerism. We reached several milestones: Our January Adirondack winter outing, where good conditions seem to be the norm, is a year short of its 20th Anniversary while the June Ausable Club weekend is close to celebrating its 30th anniversary. Meanwhile an active program of slide shows, films and other indoor events continues as in the past.

Of note, our Annual Black Tie Dinner in November is now known throughout the climbing world, gathers members from the far reaches of the country, consistently sells out and makes a meaningful contribution to the Club’s financial well being. Since its start 30 years ago, the Dinner has raised over $250,000 for the Library and Journal. It is also a family reunion, with old faces celebrating their friendships and newcomers being welcomed to the Brotherhood of the Rope, to paraphrase Charley Houston.

Some of the highlights of 2009 were the launch of Olaf Soot’s new book, Alpine Americas, with page after page of the most beautiful and inspired photographs of peaks from Barrow to Cape Horn. Also Fritz Selby published a fine memoir of his postings and adventures in Nepal in the 1960’s in his “Postcards from Kathmandu”. Once again the Section furnished guides in June for the Rubin Museum’s annual “Peak Experience” simulated climb of Everest for 11-14 year olds.

As the first Section to have its own website, we took a major step forward took with the creation of a Section blog where members are invited to post trip reports, photos and videos. Our thanks go to Vic Benes for years of dedicated editorship and to Conor Moran for revamping the site and creating The main Section website is

At the Dinner our two Mikes, Michael Lederer and Mike Barker, returned the Section flag from a winter exploratory mountaineering expedition to the English mountains of Labrador. The main event, however, was our special guest speaker, Stephen Venables, who, in his droll, witty and Oxonian accent, took the audience back to the 1988 Kangshung Face Everest Expedition with a small, lightweight team, to Sarmiento with Roskelley and South Georgia with Messner and Anker.

Just a month before, however, the Section suffered a tragic loss. Clif Maloney, after summiting Cho Oyu and thus becoming, at age 71, the oldest American to climb an 8000 meter peak, perished on the descent. Present at the Dinner and accepting our tribute, were Clif’s widow Carolyn and their two daughters. Two weeks later about 30 of Clif’s close friends and family gathered for a memorial hike in the Hudson Highlands where he had spent so many hours training. Later that day we gathered for a sumptuous reception at the Galligan home in Garrison to reminisce and tell stories about our dear friend and brother.

In her memorable review of the Annual Dinner in Rock and Ice, Susan Schwartz penned the following response to the inevitable question of “why”, not only relative to Clif’s demise but also to Venables’ own loss when his young son died of cancer:
“Some of us climb, I believe, as a way to bring order and control to our personal universe. But climbing has a way of yanking hard on our chain to remind us that there is a limit to how much we can control. At some point, no matter how stubborn, talented or hard working we are, we step out of our world of personal control and one of cosmic caprice, whether it be Everest, Cho Oyu or cancer.”

Philip Erard
NY Section Chair

February, 2010

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