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AAC, New York Section

AAC, New York Section. As the millennium approached, the New York Section could look back on 25 years of continued growth and a strong tradition of volunteerism and financial support on behalf of Club causes. Now numbering more than 600 members—a 50 percent increase in just the last five years—the Section busies itself with a series of climbing and social events designed to bring together its varied and diversified membership.

Perhaps best known to the outside world is the Annual Section Dinner, a gala black-tie fundraiser which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Special guests Brad and Barbara Washburn, pioneer Alaskan climbers and extraordinary storytellers, kept the capacity audience of 160 members and guests, some from as far away as Oregon and Washington, in thrall as they told of their various adventures spanning back over 60 years. Another octogenarian, Gerry Bloch, recounted his recent 11-day ascent of El Capitan’s formidable Aquarian Wall, thereby decisively breaking his own age record, one that will undoubtedly stand for a long time to come. Youth was served as well. Among the record 20 new members initiated into the Section that night were the first father-and-son pair, Irving Oppenheim and his son, Dan, a precocious 17-year-old who has an El Capitan solo as part of his climbing resume. The Dinner benefited The American Alpine Journal and the AAC Library Acquisition Fund.

Earlier in April, the Section had the honor and pleasure of welcoming Fosco Maraini, the Italian author, scholar, photographer and pioneer climber. At a Section-hosted dinner, Fosco told of his travels to Tibet both before and immediately after World War II as well as his climbs in the 1950s in the Hindu Kush and Karakoram. There he met and became good friends with former AAC President Nick Clinch, and Clinch journeyed from California to meet with Fosco once again. The dinner was part of a three-day, non-stop series of events that included a slide show and gallery opening in Manhattan. Fosco and his wife Meiko will be long remembered here for their grace and charm.

In May, the Club once again co-sponsored Alpinfilm, the New York International Mountain Film Festival, which celebrated its tenth anniversary. The Festival is a juried competition with cash prizes to winning filmmakers. The Rolex Award for the Best Film of the Festival went to AAC member and one-time New Yorker Ken Bailey for his powerful Ode to Avalanche, set to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Other winners were Escoba de Dios (“The Broom of God”) and War and Poetry, a John Wilcox film starring Todd Skinner and friends in Greenland. The film premiered that night at the Festival. Before the screenings, Section members, filmmakers and guests mingled at a pre-theater reception and dinner at a nearby restaurant. Finally, on the following day, well-known author David Roberts presented a fascinating slide show on the Telem people of Mali, who may have been pre-history’s first and finest climbers. June saw the Section convene once again at its historic haunts, the Ausable Club in Keene Valley, New York, for a weekend of climbing, hiking and canoeing in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks. Earlier in January, members had climbed many of the same routes but with ice axes and crampons. These Adirondack Outings, both winter and summer, always attract capacity throngs and, in a pristine setting, are a welcome change of pace from the oft-crowded local routes.

Because the Gunks still remain the primary venue for local climbers, the Section helped the Mohonk Preserve fund a series of important initiatives at the local cliffs, including creating some badly needed new rappel stations and rebuilding some eroded access trails. These were funded in part by grants from the Club’s Lyman Spitzer Fund.

Finally, tribute should be paid to Vaclav (Vic) Benes, our webmaster, for creating a lively, entertaining, and newsworthy Section web site, enhanced with superb pictorials and graphics. Among the new features introduced this year is an interactive slide show. So to keep abreast of what’s going on in the Big Apple, do log on to http://nys.alpineclub.org.

Philip Erard, Chair