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The American Alpine Club, From the 2009 Annual Report

In the face of a tough economy, our club was able to achieve its overall goals. With substantial effort, we met our fund-raising targets and exceeded our membership goals. We also moved forward on many fronts.

I his year’s Craggin’ Classic was held in Utah’s Wasatch Range. After two years of operating the Craggin’ Classic, it is clear that smaller, more frequent events, operated in cooperation with our sections and local climbing organizations, will be the model for the future.

Our rekindled involvement in the international climbing community continued with another International Climbers’ Meet in Indian Creek. The brainchild of past president Jim Donini, the ICM will make its way to Yosemite Valley this fall. The international theme continued when Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, spoke at our Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner. The AAC helped Greg during his early days of trying to build schools in Pakistan, and he received our David Brower Conservation Award in 1998. In turn, he drew a wonderful crowd to the dinner, and, from a fund-raising perspective, it was our most successful ever—grossing over $75,000, plus an additional $15,000 raised for conservation.

Last spring, John Clegg came on as the new manager of the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch. With help from Ranch Committee chairman Bill Fetterhoff, this was a great year for the Ranch. Fund-raising was up in general, and then was multiplied by a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.

Our trail building and conservation work in Patagonia continued for a second year under the dedicated leadership of Rolando Garibotti. His efforts have inspired a way for the AAC to support conservation work at local climbing areas in the United States. Modeling our effort after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, we plan to put the muscles of climbers to work restoring and improving trails, staging areas, and signage. If you have needs at your local crag, work with your section chair to bring the new CCC—the Climber Conservation Corps—to your area.

We continued to focus our advocacy efforts on issues of national prominence or ones that bode to set a national precedent. Last year, we worked successfully on preventing fee increases for climbers in Denali National Park—an issue that I fear we will have to address again. Moving into 2010, our attention has been focused on the Merced River Plan in Yosemite and the Minnewaska State Park management plan in New York.

While my forecast that 2009 would be a challenging year held true, it also was a successful one. The budgeted net operating loss for the club was slightly less than expected. Kudos are due to the marketing team for membership growth that exceeded our plan. I am proud of the marketing and messaging coming out of the club these days; we are telling our story better than ever. Underneath that success, however, are indications that substantial changes for the club’s programs and operations are in order. Ultimately, the best measure of success for the AAC is the degree to which committed climbers vote for our relevance with their dues dollars. If there are 500,000 committed climbers in the U.S., or even only 250,000, our membership of 8,000-plus is a tiny share. Our programs must be improved to fully deliver on our mission to “provide knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community.”

We are well positioned to make substantial changes. Our board has been reformed into a more nimble committee structure, our financial position is sound, and we are led by a president, Steve Swenson, who cares deeply that change is made in a process that’s thoughtful and appropriate.

This effort began in an ad hoc fashion in 2009 when the board launched three, independent processes:

• With the IT Project, the board established funding for a substantial overhaul of our electronic delivery systems for information.

• A research project on how to improve our Grants Program is under way.

• Our Knowledge Committee is building a plan to restructure our publications in 2011 and beyond.

Steve Swenson has asked that we use our three ad hoc planning processes as input into a five-year plan due to the board in draft form in October. Initial meetings with the board indicate that this process will, for the first time in many years, call for significant changes to the AAC’s core programs. Current programs like our rescue benefit and the AAJ must be evaluated and improved. Programs and membership benefits that are no longer as relevant will be reduced or eliminated. New programs will be added. The board populated a task force of active climbers chaired by board member Paul Gagner to help with this work. Once the draft strategic plan is delivered to the board of directors in October, there will be a comment period followed by revisions before a final plan is presented to the board in February 2011. Your input is essential.

This year bodes to be at least as challenging as last year was, but I am grateful that the club leadership recognizes that these times also present opportunities for real change. I hope you take a serious look at how our club can evolve into a community that includes all climbers. Suggestions of any kind can be sent to the Planning Task Force at: planning@americanalpineclub.org

Lastly, please vote with your dollars for a better, stronger American Alpine Club. As climbers and club members, we know the importance of partnership—of watching out for one another and banding together to do something great. If we can pool contributions, and go in on this together, then the kind of substantial change our club is seeking is within reach.

Phil Powers

Executive Director