The American Alpine Club (AAC) is a nonprofit based in Golden, Colorado that provides benefits and services to climbers – everything from a $10,000 reimbursement package for climbers that need to be rescued, to lodging operations throughout the world, to discounts to various brands. Phil Powers is the Executive Director of this national organization (that he describes as the “AAA for climbers”), but is also an accomplished climber himself. He sat down to answer a few questions about the organization, his family and his favorite Brooks-Range jacket.
How did you get involved in the American Alpine Club?
I’ve been a climber for my whole life and I’ve been a member of the AAC for a long time. I moved down to Colorado’s Front Range to get my kids into better schools, and I have a history in working in education. I felt like getting into the outdoor education world would be perfect.
What is the most important project you’ve worked on this year?
There are two major things that stand out to me. Three years ago, we launched something called the Cornerstone Conversation Grant, which funds essential infrastructure at climbing areas. This year, it has rolled into a big enough program that we can see the differences we’re making nationwide. It’s a huge success.
More recently, we launched the Live Your Dream Grant, which gives money to young climbers so they can take the next step in their climbing education. It can range from just giving them gas money so they can head to Yosemite, to getting them big wall training. It’s been fun to support young American climbers in their craft.
Where do you like to climb?
I climb mostly in Eldorado Canyon, just outside my home in Denver, Colorado. But, I used to guide in Rocky Mountain National Park, so I like to get on The Diamond of Longs Peak, as well. I also still own Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, so I head up there occasionally, as well.
K2 is somewhere people often know, and I climbed that in 1993. I also did a big route called the Washburn Face on Denali in 1992. Also in ’92, I did a traverse on the Cathedral Peaks in the Tetons. But now, my goal is to get back to climbing 5.12 again. I just want to get strong and climb hard.
When you’re not climbing, what do you like to do?
I have four kids and a mortgage, so I work a lot! But I love hanging out with my kids. Happily, they like to go to the rock gym! And my youngest son drags me skiing. He’s only 11 years old.
What’s one thing you’d like to change in the climbing world?
The most basic climbing education in America is inconsistent. People use different signal systems, different belay motions and have varying philosophies on the belay system. It’s not like the rest of the outdoor world, which has consistent classes and testing throughout the nation, such as Avalanche 1 or wilderness first responder courses. With climbing, you can take a mountaineering class at a climbing gym, get a merit badge in the Boy Scouts or complete a course at your local YMCA. And all of those mean something different. There is no common vernacular and there is a lot of inconsistency in what people learn. So, we’re working on coming up with a quality, consistent education for outdoor climbers.
Do you have a favorite Brooks-Range product?
I wear my Cirro Jacket everywhere. It’s lightweight and doesn’t have a hood. I think it’s stylish. The AAC also recently gave Brooks-Range jackets to 50 of our most important volunteers. As an organization, we thrive on those people and wanted to reward them for all of their hard work. It’s so great. They feel appreciated and warm!