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The American Alpine Club 94th Annual Meeting, December 6-7, 1996

The American Alpine Club 94th Annual Meeting, December 6-7, 1996

New York? What the hell are they having it in New York for, anyway?”

“The Club was based here for years, you know. This is the first time an event has been held here since they moved everything out to Colorado.”

“So where is this place?”

“The French Institute on 59th Street. Peter Habeler is supposed to begin at 7:30 p.m.”

“Habeler .... Hmm. Didn’t he climb with Messner?”

“Yes, but that’s hardly his only claim to fame. His vision of climbing held true to the partnership of the rope even while he was revolutionizing Himalayan climbing by going alpine-style.”

“Hey look—isn’t that Nick Clinch? Leader of the only American team to make a first ascent of an 8000meter peak—Gasherbrum I, 1958. There’s Brad and Barbara Washburn! They’re awesome. First time I met Barbara I was completely smitten—had to tell myself she was 80 years old to keep from falling in love with her. And Tom Frost! Carlos Buhler! Kitty Calhoun! It’s Fred Beckey! Now that face has seen some weather. Look at those lines. Each one its own history book.”

“Get inside, dummy. If you stand here noticing who’s standing around you you’ll never have time for the speakers.”

“I had no idea Peter Habeler had climbed so much, or thought so deeply about the why of his climbing. Climbing Ama Dablam and Pumori this year in a day each, when he’s 53—it’s so great to see that you can look forward to a relationship with the mountains for the rest of your


“I agree completely. Have another glass of bubbly. Hey, isn’t that Stephen Venables? It’s so cool to bump up against legends in this kind of setting. Where else would so many climbers be caught wearing clean clothes?”

“They’re not going to stay clean if you keep spilling champagne on their suits.”

“Well, what do they expect, having a reception with free booze in a room full of climbers?”

Today’s the big day: Kitty Calhoun on her autumn attempt of Thalay Sagar, Russ Clune on the Shawangunks, Gardner Heaton on the first winter ascent of Mt. St. Elias, Warren Hollinger talking about his ascent of the north face of Polar Sun Spire, John Bouchard on Shivling, Geoff Tabin on ascents in the just-opened Dolpo region of Nepal, panel discussions on climbing 8000ers and competition climbing, Jack Tackle on the first ascent of the north face of Mt. Kennedy, a gala dinner, the awards, then Venables finishing it off with a retrospective of his Himalayan climbs . . . these things read like the table of contents for the lead stories in the next American Alpine Journal. How will we ever find the time?”

“And how can we figure out which ones to see? I’m glad it’s storming so hard outside—I don’t feel guilty about standing around in this plush amphitheater of a hotel. And what a crazy, kooked- out city! It costs you fifty bucks to take a breath, and you feel like you’d gladly spend a hundred.

Hurry up, and get into one ballroom or the other. We don’t want to miss a minute.”

“Ughh. What time is it, anyway?”

“Four a.m. Time to go to sleep.”

“Yeah, right. I’m too worked up to ever go to sleep. That Gardner Heaton just seemed like too nice a guy to climb so damned hard. And Bouchard’s talk on Shivling blew me away. I’m stripping my rope of its sheath as soon as I wake up to cut down on weight. His talk drove home how important weight is to climbing hard in the mountains more than anything else I’ve ever seen.”

“I know—he made me feel guilty about taking a change of underwear on road trips. And wasn’t Tabin’s talk on the three Sheyshikars they climbed cool? ‘Find your own Sheyshikar,’ he said. Where the hell’s our map?”

“Right next to my underwear. Jack Tackle—now that’s my definition of a climbing god. He just keeps at these objectives of his until he gets them. That wall, all sewn up in ice, getting bombarded by spindrift, just the two of them in the coldest pocket of Canada—it just makes me want so much more from my climbing.”

“That’s the way I felt the whole day. Those awards at the end were perfect. Who won again?”

“Let’s see: The new Robert Hicks Bates Youth Award, won by Katie Brown and Chris Sharma.”

“The two rippingest kids in climbing. They should have got another award for the brevity of their acceptance speeches.”

“Both 15 years old. I have a feeling they’ll be polishing their podium talk in future years.”

“It was cool that the Club gave the award to them, don’t you think?”

“Get ‘em in the folds now, and they’ll probably be around for a long time. They seemed sort of lost by it all, but I bet in 10 or 20 years they’ll remember tonight.”

“It was sort of neat to have the other awards go to the established heavies in the climbing world: The Robert and Miriam Underhill Award for outstanding mountaineering achievement to Greg Child and Robyn Erbesfield, The AAC Literary Award for excellence in alpine literature to Jon Waterman.”

“Didn’t he look good in a tie? I had no idea that someone who has climbed so hard all his life could actually wear a jacket.”

“Maybe there’s hope for you yet. Who did the David Brower Conservation Award go to?”

“Mark Hesse.”

“What about the Angelo Heilprin Citation? What’s that one for?”

“Exemplary service to the Club, to Edward Vaill, who has certainly paid his dues for the Club.”

“And the new honorary lifetime members, Allen Steck and Lynn Hill.”

“I was stunned to be in the same room with Steck. He’s 70 and still leads 5.10. Having him and Lynn as Honorary Members brings home just how deep and diverse the Club’s membership is.”

“Who ever came up with that Blues Bar to end the night, anyway?”

“Beats me. You know we’re going to be in debt for six months after this weekend, don’t you?”

“Yeah. It’s a good thing they moved the Club out of New York, but one of these every ten years or so is worth it.”

“Sweet dreams, my love. I know what I’ll be dreaming about.”

“Your own Sheyshikar?”

“No, dummy—four cups of coffee in the morning.”

“Ah, New Yorker’s water. Might share in that with you.”

Christian Beckwith