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2013 Annual Report

We’re going places.


Led by our members and volunteers, we continued to make the American Alpine Club more relevant to more climbers in 2013. The result has been our most successful year on record—again. Both membership and fundraising revenues are up significantly over last year, 14% and 25% respectively.
It has been an exciting ride. In 2011 we cranked up the engine of an ambitious five-year plan. In 2012 we invested in our members locally, tested a variety of noteworthy programs such as the Live Your Dream grant, and improved our member benefits. This year we kept rolling, checked the compass, and continued to adjust. In a well-managed rewrite of our mission and vision, we were reminded of what we value most. We value each other.

The biggest change in our organization over the past three years was born out of a realization that one’s personal climbing experience is inherently local. We hired regional staff to support our growing network of volunteers across the country—and that’s working. So we’re shifting more decision-making to volunteers on the ground while also providing them with more resources at the national level. This ensures that we are working together to support the most critical needs in communities around the country. Conservation projects that need funding are determined locally and submitted for Cornerstone Grants, and the entire Live Your Dream grant program is operated regionally. It is my firm belief that local ownership and direct participation is a key ingredient to making a bigger impact in our climbing world.

Results come from doing meaningful work together with our aggregated time and money. During fiscal 2013 we awarded more than $100,000 in grants for the first time ever, benefitting 72 expeditions and 17 conservation projects. Nineteen of our members were pulled out of danger thanks to our Trailhead Rescue program; others had domestic rescue-related expenses covered by our new reimbursement program. We operated our first full seasons at the Hueco Rock Ranch and the New River Gorge Campground. When you add in the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch, we helped over 10,000 climbers get a good night’s sleep in 2013. And we broke ground—finally!—on the much-anticipated Shawangunk Gateway Campground. Every member has something to celebrate here: these are all examples of climbers supporting climbers by pooling our resources and volunteering our time.

Under the leadership of our new Information team, and with the participation of dozens of volunteers, the American Alpine Journal stepped into modern times with a design overhaul, broadened focus, and a powerful new online search function. Additionally our Explore website launched in January, giving about 10,000 visitors digital admission to one-of-a-kind climbing archives that used to be accessible only by visiting our library in Golden.
And we continued to work closely with other organizations—especially the Access Fund—to make sure the national and international policies affecting climbing are as good as they can be. We worked hard for years to get national guidance that states, once and for all, that climbing is a legitimate use of Wilderness and that we depend on the discreet use of fixed anchors for our safety. It finally came from the National Park Service Director in the form of Director’s Order 41 last spring. We also worked closely with Yosemite National Park on their most recent management plan, which was just released.
Many members do not realize that half of our expenditures for regional programs, grants, staffing, advocacy work, and member services are made possible through charitable contributions beyond member dues. In response to this generosity we created the Great Ranges Fellowship for members who give $1,000 or more annually. I am proud to announce this donor recognition society doubled its numbers from 74 in 2012 to 146 participants in 2013. Such growth allows us to be more efficient with your dollars.

Thanks in large part to the members of our Great Ranges Fellowship, we exceeded the $5 million mark in our Campaign for Climbers—the major source of funding for our new facilities, digitization projects, and growth of our local programs. Other major contributors include our Corporate Partners and planned gifts from our Piolet Society members.

As a united community of climbers we have accomplished much. The ambitious plan that we launched three years ago is coming to a fruitful close, and the future is promising. Climbing continues to evolve and so shall we, unified in anticipating the opportunities and challenges ahead. We’re on this bus together, and our journey is far from over.


Phil Powers
Executive Director