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2013 Live Your Dream Award Winners Announced

$18,000 makes 42 dreams come true for climbers of all ages and abilities

May 6, 2013, Golden, CO—The American Alpine Club (AAC) is proud to announce that 42 dreams will be funded in 2013 through the Live Your Dream grant program.

Founded in 2012, Live Your Dream is the first national grant to encourage motivated climbers with aspirations at every ability level. The program was born from the idea that the most important climbs are our own. In support of adventure and personal growth, the AAC provides seed money to individuals or small teams—of all disciplines, ages, and abilities—who have ambitions to build skills and confidence and expand their climbing horizons.

“Here at the AAC, we believe that venturing into the unknown creates valuable experiences and lifelong friendships,” said AAC Information & Marketing Director Erik Lambert. “We founded Live Your Dream last year to encourage every climber to dream up their own vision of the unknown—and then confront it. No dream is too big or too small.”

In total the AAC received a record-breaking 250+ Live Your Dream applications from across the country in 2013. Six regional committees awarded 42 grants, totaling $18,000. The awardees and their dreams are outlined below.

This year, funds for the Live Your Dream grant program are made possible in part by the Clifton Maloney Memorial Fund, local AAC event fundraisers, and the following local supporters: Mount Washington Valley Ice Festival and Touchstone Climbing & Fitness.

If you have a clear and strong desire to explore the outdoors and progress your development as a climber, the Live Your Dream application period will be open again from January 1 to March 1, 2014.

Northwest Live Your Dream Grant


Katy Pfannenstein ($400) will spend nine weeks in Peru honing her skills climbing at altitude and cold conditions as part of the AAC/Climber Science Peru Expedition. She’ll use her experience to forward her dream of becoming a Mountain Scientist and creating her own research project as a graduate student. She also looks forward to immersing herself in the Peruvian culture high in the Andes.

Christian Rathkopf ($400) was originally inspired by the pictures and stories his older brother shared climbing in the Alaska Range, and has spent the last decade as a guide and instructor passing along the same spirit of adventure to those new to the mountains. With his partner Trevor Kreznar, he sets of for his first Alaskan expedition to Mount Huntington’s Harvard Route.

Parker Webb ($400) will travel to Nepal before starting college and will spend his days strengthening his climbing skills on ice and at altitude. Objectives range from ice climbing on Losar to peaks such as Lobuche East. Parker will also be volunteering at the Khumbu Climbing Center and giving his good energy back to the local culture.

Ben Erdmann ($300) joins Jess Roskelley and Kris Szilas to explore his own backyard in Alaska and climb a new line on the east face of the Citadel located in the Kichatnas.

Patrick Fink and Ethan Linck ($300) are off on another Live Your Dream human-powered adventure by linking the “Cascade Trifecta” of Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier in a round-trip push from Portland using only bicycles and skis. Ethan writes, “The project also returns some of the lost romance of the long-form adventure: where car and air travel have dramatically shrunk our conception of the globe’s size, the slower pace of bike travel will give us a greater perception of the magnitude of the distances involved, of the undertaking itself, and allow us to more fully immerse ourselves in the landscape.”

Ben Kunz ($300) travels to Canada’s Waddington Range to explore new lines in this remote and beautiful area. Having been spoiled by the abundance of route information in the North Cascades, Ben writes this trip “will build on and expand many important less tangible alpine skills for me: judgment, confidence, and intuition, all of which ultimately lead to sound decision making.”

Christopher Bangs ($200) and his wife will jump on their bikes in Bozeman, Montana and pedal out to Wyoming’s Wind River Range, spend a month climbing, then ride home. Along the way they’ll support local organic farms and celebrate the “leave no trace” ethic in its purity.

Chelsea Heveran ($200) just finished her graduate program and will head to the desert southwest with her partner Alexey Dynkin to chase their dreams of standing on top of desert towers before starting her Ph.D. program.

Andrea Hoffman ($200) and her crew will be developing a new multi-pitch crag on The Three Wise Men on the west side of the Tetons. She and her crew were taught the “ground up” philosophy of route development, and will carry that on in Teton Canyon.

Thomas Kingsbury ($200) has dreamt of establishing a large new route on an unclimbed formation in the Lower 48. Hearing of an immense, remote wall through Montana’s “old guard” that has remained unclimbed, he walked back 22 miles a few years ago to check it out. This time he’s going back with a rope.

Ben Pontecorvo ($200) is a student relatively new to the world of climbing and has spent the last couple of years clipping bolts. He then listened to the words of Roberts, Logan, and Haley through the AAC Story Project and was inspired to find adventure in the big mountains. We wish him luck as he stuffs his hands in cracks in Canada’s Bugaboos this summer.

Matthew Sellick ($200) and his buddies Noah Wertheimer and Jack Lazar will bushwhack their way into the seldom-visited Owyhee Wilderness in eastern Oregon. Proving you don’t have to go far (in their case, a short five hour drive from their school in Walla Walla, WA), they’ve come across an area where the “climbing looks endless.” The cliffs are highly inaccessible, the area seldom visited, and information not easily found.

Debra Stansbery ($150) has dealt with chronic pain for the last eight years has been training hard to overcome to climb harder. Her journey to the remote Gunsight Range in the North Cascades will be a culmination of a summer full of training before striking out on her next stage in life: starting her own farm.

Lisa Verwys ($150) goes back to Granite Peak in Montana to finish a route she turned around on last year after the route conditions caught her without appropriate gear. The Sky Top drainage to the southwest couloir is one of the least-traveled routes to Montana’s high point and she hopes to contribute recent beta to the community in addition to adding some good climbing experience to her resume.

Western Live Your Dream Grant


Eric Deschamps ($1,000) along with Luis Cisneros and Joel Unema. This Northern Arizona-based team seeks the objective of establishing a new route on the south face of Kukenan Tepui, considered the “twin brother” mountain of the famous Mount Roraima, immortalized in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novel, “The Lost World.” These formations are located in the vast Gran Sabana region, Canaima National Park, in Southeast Venezuela and bordering with both Brazil and Guyana. The remote nature of the place, its natural significance, and their mountaineering ethos compel them to place the absolute minimum number of bolts on their ascent.

Christopher Marshall ($1,000) along with Jake Gaventa. This Prescott, Arizona-based team will embark on a ski-mountaineering expedition to the Neacola Mountains, a sub-range of the Aleutian Mountains in Alaska. While not the highest in the continent, they offer true alpine geography with extensive ice fields, glaciated terrain, and granite rock spires. Their goal in the range is to establish first ascents and descents of unclimbed peaks within the range of their base camp, with the specific aim to explore the “Slingshot Glacier” (they labeled it that for ease of communication) and the surrounding peaks with objectives that include both technical alpine routes (rock, snow, ice) and ski descents. Based on their research, this area has seen little or no climbing and skiing traffic, thus presenting an opportunity for first ascents and descents.

Ephrat Bitton ($500) along with Luca Baradel and Hubert Koepfer. Ephrat and her team seek to summit Denali via the West Buttress. This project has been the result of several years of training and gaining the necessary skills and experience to tackle this climb unguided. With ultimate goals of summiting Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, Mount St. Elias in Alaska, and Mount Cook in New Zealand, Denali is the logical stepping stone for her and her team—harder and higher than anything they have done before.

Maggie Crawford ($500) aims to set the female speed ascent record for climbing all 15 of the 14,000-foot peaks in California. If successful, she will become the first female and youngest person to ever climb all 15 of the peaks in a single push. Beginning with a solo ascent of the wildly exposed Palisade Traverse (Thunderbolt Peak, Starlight Peak, North Palisade, Polemonium Peak, Mount Sill), she will link in the Middle Palisade and Split Mountain, squeeze in a mountain bike ascent of White Mountain, then quickly tackle Mount Langley, Muir, Whitney, Russell, Tyndall and Williamson all within a day and a half. The adventure will finish with a blast up to Shasta. This record attempt will require the aerobic output of running 20 marathons combined with some free-soloing at 14,000’, and it will call for back-to-back days of 16 hours of effort or more.

Saylor Flett ($500) along with Bill Pilling and Brett Marty. Saylor and his team seek the objective of the Carpe Ridge on Mount Fairweather, one of the world’s highest coastal mountains on the border of Alaska and British Columbia. Having rarely climbed outside of the Sierra Nevada, Brett and Saylor seek to take their technical skills into the much larger Alaskan range for the first time under the apprenticeship, mentorship, and partnership of William “Bill” Pilling, a 20+ year veteran of Alaskan mountaineering.

Bob Porter ($500) Bob’s intended objective is a solo ascent of the Quad Direct on El Capitan. This route involves climbing the lower pitches of the Muir Wall to the lower pitches of Magic Mushroom to Mammoth Terraces, following the Muir Wall pitches to Grey Ledges and across the Triple Direct pitches to Camp IV of the Nose and, finally, finishing on the upper pitches of the Nose. Recently turned 60 and retiring after 32 years in public education, Bob wishes enrich a 42-year climbing career through a lifelong dream of soloing El Cap. Having climbed the Zodiac in 1999 and with notable ascents in Yosemite, Zion, the Cascades, the Tetons, and Squamish, Bob has the drive and experience to see his dream through.

Brian Quines ($500) along with Kevin Ruzics and David Ullrich. Brian, Kevin, and David seek to climb two big walls in Yosemite Valley, the Regular Northwest face on Half Dome and the Nose of El Capitan. Kevin, a longtime climber who has always dreamed of climbing a Yosemite big wall, has recently been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Now with a sense of urgency, he wants to live this dream with friends Brian and David. With several years of multi-pitch traditional climbing experience under their belts but no aiding gear and no aiding knowledge, their goals will push them to experience climbing in a whole new way.

Geri Ulrey ($500) along with Suzanne Dwyer. As a gym climber with very limited experience climbing outdoors, Geri’s climbing objective is to gain outdoor experience climbing in the Squamish area. Travelling to Squamish to climb in a classic setting in unknown, outdoor terrain will not only offer them a unique and challenging experience, it will also present itself as an opportunity to document their journey. Geri is an independent filmmaker and educator who will use this experience as an opportunity to document and share her journey and hopefully offer some insight into what climbing has meant to her as she has recovered and gained confidence in her body—and her mental strength—after a near-death experience in June 2010. Her hope is that this video will also inspire others, especially women of all ages, to climb.

Dierdre Wolownick ($500) started climbing at age 57. It has always been her dream to comfortably lead traditional climbs. As an older climber, she finds that it take her longer to conquer the hesitation that keeps her from that dream. She wishes to develop some successful, confidence-building experience in leading, and learn more about the different kinds of rock and necessary rope and aid skills, in order to progress into her goal. To this end, Dierdre proposes to climb a variety of moderate routes at the Gunks in New York and at Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire. She will be trained under the watch of more experienced climbers as well as two guides over the period of several weeks with the sole objective of learning to lead with confidence.

Luke Zachmann ($500) along with Tony Chang. The objective of this team is to climb California’s Big Four—The Red Dihedral on the Incredible Hulk, The Southwest Face of Mount Conness, Dark Star on Temple Crag, and the Harding Route on Keeler Needle—specifically to climb them in a style that is exciting and in line with the attitudes of the first ascensionists. They will attempt all four climbs car-to-car, onsight, and self-supported in under seven days with the goal of further developing climbing skills such as rope management, fast transfer of belays, route-finding, pacing, and efficiency. This trip serves as a test piece for future expeditions into the Bugaboos, Ruth Gorge, and Patagonia.

Rocky Mountain Live Your Dream Grant


Joe Sambataro ($900) will travel to Canada’s Waddington Range to attempt the second ascent of the McNerthney Pillar, the Bravo Glacier route, and to explore new route potential. Joe is the very committed Access Director at the Access Fund, and his passion to push his climbing to the next level will feed his desire to give back substantially to the climbing community.

Marshal Hoda ($800) will travel to the Daxue Shan range in China, a largely unexplored mountain range with great potential for route development. His team will concentrate on the area immediately south of Minya Konka (aka Gonga Shan) and hopes to make first ascents of one or more peaks in the range of 14,000–17,000’.

Jeff Golden ($400) will climb Liberty Ridge on Mount Rainer, fulfilling a longtime climbing dream as well as honoring the memory of a great friend and climbing partner.

Rob Dillon ($300) will travel to the Mount Chamberlin/Hitchcock Lake region near Mount Whitney to seek out new rock climbs and adventure “while he still has the knees for it”.

Central Live Your Dream Grant


Jon Jugenheimer ($500) and his climbing partner Eric Dacus are headed to Alaska to climb the Southwest Ridge of peak 11,300’ and two other climbs on the Mooses Tooth. The two aspiring alpinists want to use these climbs to develop the skills they will need to move up to bigger mountains in the range in 2014 and 2015.

Ross McKinney ($500) and his climbing partner, Stephanie Takamatsu, have never traveled outside of the Midwest to climb. They will head to the Buttermilks in California to tackle a wide variety of boulder problems and “develop the strength and techniques necessary to continue climbing well into the future.”

Andrew Edwards ($300) has long dreamed of being able to lead his own mountaineering trips. He, along with one climbing partner, will spend 2–3 weeks in Grand Teton National Park developing the needed skills on routes such as the Northwest Couloir of Middle Teton and the CMC route on Mount Moran.

Mara Johnson-Groh ($250) has dreamed of climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch ever since she saw descriptions of the area. She will continue her climbing development on the sport climbs and boulders of this area in Arkansas, and “escape her comfort zone and emerge into the world of ‘real climbing.’”

Ryan Gajewski ($250) has long been inspired by the stories of the early Yosemite big-wall pioneers, and is taking the next step, to follow in their footsteps. He, along with Jake Burgart, will travel to Yosemite to attempt their first big wall, the Northwest Face of Half Dome.

Kyle Goupil ($200) for climbing trip to the Red River Gorge in Slade, Kentucky. This group of four very close-knit friends “are on a journey of improvement together in which we can hold each other accountable.”

Northeast Live Your Dream Grant


Jeffrey Longcor ($1,000) to go alpine climbing in the Djangart Region of Kyrgyzstan with the New England-based climbing club Vertical Ice Climbing Enthusiasts (VICE). Jeff’s lifelong dream has been to attempt a first ascent in the wilderness of the world’s greater ranges. But with a desk job in the city, Jeff said that “high-speed weekend adventures” were all he could manage. The recent and sudden death of his friend and ski partner changed everything. Jeff realized that certain dreams shouldn’t be deferred. So this summer, along with the VICE crew and with the support of the American Alpine Club, Jeff will live his dream by embarking on his first international expedition. This trip is also an opportunity for Jeff and his friends to put their mixed-climbing skills, self taught and honed in the New England mountains, to the test.

Christa Whiteman ($600) for a two-women team alpine ascent of Mount Shuksan in the northern Cascades. Last summer, Christa climbed her first technical route in the mountains, the Disappointment Cleaver route on Mount Ranier, as part of the only all-women team on the mountain at the time. Christa’s experience opened her eyes to the world of alpine climbing and to the special experience of climbing in an all-women team. Christa will take the next step this summer with a technical climb on a more remote peak, giving her the chance to live her dream of developing her mountain skills in a small, self-supported team.

Peter Clark ($400) for his project to complete the first ascent of the 2,000-foot girdle traverse of Farley Ledge in Western Massachusetts and to document the climb in print and video. Over the past six years, Pete has dreamed of the ultimate southern New England big wall: a monumental girdle traverse of Farley Ledge. Girdle traverses, in fact, are rooted in the history of Northeast climbing, from the Gunks to the granite cliffs of New Hampshire. According to Pete, “This project is a lot like ‘a Northeast climber’s first trip to Yosemite to climb a big wall,’ except it’s not in Yosemite. And it goes sideways.” This project will allow Pete and his partners to create an authentic, homegrown big-wall experience in their own backyard. 

Southeast Live Your Dream Grant


Melissa Buehler ($400) has a dream to be the first woman to climb the Evolution Traverse in a day (tent-to-tent), solo. Melissa loves free-climbing, peak bagging, and ski-mountaineering, but considers alpine climbing as “icing on the cake.” With many tandem-solos under her belt, Melissa has taught herself how to navigate solo in the mountains. Evolution Traverse will challenge both her ability to route-find and push her limits physically and mentally.

Sara Casey ($400) and her climbing partner Jana Coulter are traveling to City of Rocks, Idaho for a weeklong climbing trip to climb the area’s classic multi-pitch moderate sport routes: Theatre of Shadows (5.7, 4 pitches), Sinocranium (5.8, 7 pitches), and Cruel Shoes (5.7, 3 pitches). Sara and Jana will spend a week climbing to improve and dial-in their multi-pitch skills on safe and moderate terrain while also getting a chance to push their physical limits on single-pitch climbs.

Jeff Mekolites ($400) and his climbing partner Scott Perkins plan to climb the ultra-classic, 25-pitch Northeast Buttress of Mount Sleese, located in Washington’s North Cascades. This remote and wild destination will challenge Jeff and Steve mentally and physically, testing their experience, efficiency, and ability to route-find.

Eric Rich ($400) and climbing partner Dirk Summer’s objective is an alpine-style ascent of the Southwest Face of San Valentín (13,314’), a mountain in Chilean Patagonia. This is not only a dream, but also a challenge, pushing Eric’s progression as a climber to the next level.

Nolan Wildfire ($400) and his climbing partner Benjy Darnell have locked in their objective to climb in traditional fashion the South Face of the Washington Column linked with the South Face of the North Dome as well as the Nutcracker route located in Yosemite National Park. Between his studies and dissertations as a Ph.D. candidate studying Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Nolan spends more time dreaming of climbing a big wall in Yosemite than he cares to anymore. With he and his partner’s experience mounting, they are ready for their Yosemite big-wall dream!

About The American Alpine Club
The American Alpine Club is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community. The AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events; publishes two of the world’s most sought-after climbing annuals, The American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering; cares for the world’s leading climbing library and country’s leading mountaineering museum; manages the Hueco Rock Ranch, New River Gorge Climbers’ Campground, and Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for climbers; and annually gives $80,000+ toward climbing, conservation, and research grants to adventurers who travel the world. Learn about additional programs and become a member at americanalpineclub.org.