Jake Norton Accepts Post as Bradford Washburn Museum Director


Western Hemisphere’s only major mountaineering museum now led by a notable climber

Golden, Colorado, November 20, 2008—
The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum (www.bwamm.org) announced today that climber, photographer and explorer Jake Norton has been named Director. The museum is owned and operated by the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) and the American Alpine Club (AAC).

Norton is a professional climber, guide and photographer who has taken thousands of people up peaks ranging from Mount Rainier (88 ascents) to Mt. McKinley and Himalayan giants like Cho Oyu and Gurla Mandhata in Tibet. He has been on 5 Everest expeditions including the 1999 Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, which discovered the 75 year-old remains of British pioneer climber George Leigh Mallory at 27,000 feet on Everest North Face. Artifacts from that expedition are now on display at the museum.

As a photographer Norton has worked for PBS/NOVA, BBC, Outdoor Life Network, and the Discovery Channel. His work has been published in countless books and magazines, including Vanity Fair, Outside, Forbes, and National Geographic Adventure. Jake’s photography is also featured in 2 books on the Mallory & Irvine Research Expeditions, Ghosts of Everest and Detectives on Everest.

Museum board member Tom Hornbein, who made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Everest in 1963, said, “In his energy, passion, charisma, and love of mountains, Jake brings to the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum the same sort of contagious enthusiasm and vision as Brad during his long tenure directing the Boston Museum of Science. We are blessed to have Jake at the helm.”

Jake makes his home in Golden, Colorado with his wife, Wende Valentine, and their daughter, Lila.

About the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum
Opened in 2008 at 710 10th Street in Golden, Colorado, the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum is devoted to the stories of mountains and mountaineers. The only museum of its type in the United States, the museum introduces visitors to the world of mountain and rock climbing and honors the achievements of mountaineers from America and around the world. Exhibits on climate change, science, mountain culture and the arts make the visitor experience exciting and interactive. www.bwamm.org

About The American Alpine Club
The American Alpine Club inspires and supports and the climbing community and protects its playgrounds around the world. The AAC is perhaps best know for publishing the world’s most sought after annual climbing publication, the American Alpine Journal, caring for the world’s leading mountaineering library and offering annual climbing, conservation and research grants to budding adventurers. Learn about additional programs and become a member at www.AmericanAlpineClub.org.

About the Colorado Mountain Club
The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) is the oldest outdoor education, recreation, and conservation organization in Colorado. Founded in 1912, CMC reaches an annual constituency of over 40,000 citizens, including 5,600 youth, providing a comprehensive and diverse range of programs and activities. Programs revolve around education, conservation, science, history, policy, recreation, arts and culture.

CMC offers a wide range of opportunities for the public to explore, observe, and learn about the Southern Rockies, while simultaneously leading efforts to protect the species, habitats, and wildness of our public lands. CMC publishes a quarterly magazine, Trail & Timberline, and operates a book press with more than 20 current titles. No other organization in the Intermountain West has such a strong or broad-based approach connecting people and our Colorado landscape. www.cmc.org


Tragedy on K2

Eleven people died this week on K2, the world’s second-tallest mountain. An ice fall swept some of the victims away, equipment problems left others stranded. Phil Powers, executive director of the American Alpine Club describes what makes K2 such difficult terrain, and talks about his own experience climbing the mountain here.


Museum Director Takes a Hike

It is a sad day at the museum. Nina Johnson, the museum's founding director, has taken a position at the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts.

It was less than a month ago that she was hiking with bears on Lumpy Ridge near Estes Park. It was just last week that she was tubing down Clear Creek in Golden. She took two runs down the river--the first being very unpleasant for her, as this photo would indicate.

With a deft understanding of the established practices of the museum world, yet with the ability to see the margins and their benefits, Nina was able to balance what was standard or expected, with a bit of the unexpected, and a bit of the dynamic and challenging. She took what was a lagging museum project and turned it into a world-class institution. We cannot say enough about the style, class, kindness, and friendship that Nina brought to her role as Museum Director. She is also world-class.

We wish her luck in the dessicated wasteland of New Mexico.


American Legends at the Top of the World

Jim Whittaker's clothes and gear will be the center of attention at this upcoming celebration in New York City. Of course, the real Jim will probably have something to say as well.


Undressing a Legend

It took three young men to get one "Big Jim" out of his glass home in the museum.

The headline says it all. On June 26, we undressed Jim Whittaker--right in front of museum visitors. Well, it was really just a mannequin, so we didn't learn much about Jim. But, his clothing and gear are being sent to New York City and The Explorers Club to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his historic first American ascent of Mt. Everest.

The clothes will return soon, and we'll be able to dress the legend once again.

Taking the pants off a legend. Our apologies, Jim.


All New Summer Exhibits

The summer is upon us, and we have all new exhibits at the museum! As previously mentioned, the Views of the Himalaya photography exhibit is up in the halls of the American Mountaineering Center. Many of the images from famed photographers like Galen Rowell and Beth Wald are for sale, with the proceeds benefiting the dZi Foundation, an organization that aids in the revitilization of small villages in Nepal.

Our Mountains Gifts exhibit has been hung, and the lithographs and engravings look exceptional. We have expanded the show to include such things as a traditional Nepali robe worn during the Mani Rimdu festival. Come check it out.

Finally, through the generosity of Jerry Gallwas, we are able to show artifacts and images from the first ascent of Half Dome in 1957, as well as climbing equipment from famed climber and blacksmith John Salathe. Come see these exhibits just outside the doors of the museum.


Upcoming Events - June

The summer brings great things to the museum. But first, we have to get through a snowy spring season.

Next week we will host Coleman Outdoors as they promote the 50 States in 50 Days Adventure of their sponsored athlete, Mike Haugen.

50 States in 50 Days Adventure

What: Adventure Launch. Mike Haugen -- in an effort to bring awareness to the problems of childhood obesity, and to encourage kids to get outdoors -- will attempt to reach the highest point in every state, in 50 days. He'll begin with Alaska's Mount McKinley (Denali) in June.

When: Tuesday, May 20, 10 a.m.

Where: At the Museum

We have partnered with The Alpine Rescue Team to present a series on backcountry safety. The first in the series begins next week.

Keep Your Good Days From Going Bad

What: The basics of outdoor survival in the mountains of Colorado

When: May 22, 7 p.m.

Where: At the American Mountaineering Center

Which brings us to June, when two new exhibits will be featured at the museum.

June 2 - August 2
Views of the Himalaya - A photography exhibit brought to us by Mountain to Mountain, and benefiting the dZi Foundation to revitalize villages in Nepal.

June 11 - December 27
Mountain Gifts - On display will be items from the deep and diverse collections of the American Alpine Club and Colorado Mountain Club. They include climbing equipment from the early-1900s, Sherpa cultural garments, and a selection of lithographs, maps, engravings, and wood block prints from Europe and Asia.

As always, see our website for more information.


Touched by Angels

In conjunction with its annual meeting, volunteer conservators from The American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (known as Angels) spent the day working with the collections at the American Alpine Club Library and American Mountaineering Museum.

The purpose of the project is to preserve rare books and archival documents, such as the Colorado Peak Registers. These collections are used by scholars and enthusiasts to explore and protect mountain environments. The project was organized by Beth Heller, Preservation Librarian for the American Alpine Club.

Says Heller, “This project allows conservators to join conservationists in a mission to protect fragile resources – whether they are in the library or on a mountain top. Conservators from across the United States will be volunteering their highly specialized skills, and the host sites are grateful for this opportunity.”


Jonathan Waterman: Arctic Warming

April 24, 2008

7 p.m.

Imagine the awe-inspiring Arctic National Wildlife Refuge turning balmy, losing wildlife, and bristling with oil derricks. In 2006, the National Geographic sent Jon Waterman north to investigate, along with several college students and the legendary field biologist, George Schaller (his 1956 study created the original wildlife range). Last summer, while conferring with Alaskan scientists studying climate change and oil development, the expedition discovered melting permafrost, unnatural predation of nesting birds, brushed-over tundra, disappearing glaciers, and dying forests.

Jon is a renowned adventurer and author of nine books: his Where Mountains Are Nameless: Passion and Politics in the Arctic Refuge, won the 2006 Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award.

The hour-long "Arctic Warming" story-presentation explains global warming with objectivity and scientific credibility, as well as sharing Jon's soul-stirring journey: trekking, rafting, and solo kayaking through the Arctic Refuge. He meets bears, Inupiat hunters, and cariboushown with artful photography and a preview of his film that premiered on national TV in September 2007.

Finally, with great hope for the region's salvation, he illuminates the ongoing political controversy and how interested audience members can take action to neutralize global warming and Arctic oil drilling.


Virtual Tour

Thanks to our friend Shawn Steigner and his company Photo Surveyor, we are now able to offer a virtual tour of the museum.

See the virtual tour here.


Best of the Best

Best Mountaineering Without the Bottled Oxygen? That's us, at least according to the Westword's annual "Denver - Best of the Best" issue.

In their words:
It might have taken a while to get it, but the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum, which opened in Golden in February, was worth the wait. This is no mere exhibition hall; the cutting-edge, 3,000-square-foot facility, a joint venture of the Colorado Mountain Club, the American Alpine Club and the National Geographic Society, is the Smithsonian of mountaineering and a Disneyland for adrenaline junkies all rolled into one. Massive scale model of Mount Everest? Check. Legendary artifacts like the Schoening ice ax, used on K2 in 1953 to save five climbers from tumbling to their deaths? Check. Uber-realistic prefabricated rock crevasse on which visitors can finesse their technique? Check. Everything's here but the vertigo.

See the other "Best of the Best" entries.


By the Numbers: Some statistics on your Museum

If you've received your copy of this season's Trail & Timberline, you've probably seen some of the statistics on the museum. And, you're probably waiting anxiously to hear just how many contour steps there are on the Mt. Everest model.

Well, there are so many, and it's making so many people cross-eyed trying to count them that the numbers aren't in yet. In the mean time, try to guess how many there are on our poll, found on the upper right hand side of the blog.

Are you as stumped as this guy? Try to guess the number of contour steps on Mt. Everest in our poll, on the upper right.

Here are some other interesting facts about the museum--by the numbers:

Number of tons of structures, interactives kiosks, and graphic panels in the museum (not including the rock formations)

Number of man-hours (over 5 weeks) to complete installation

Number of light bulbs, most of which are metal halide lamps, lowering electricity consumption by approximately 65%

Number of tractor trailer trucks it took to haul all of the materials and displays from Quatrefoil Associates headquarters in Laurel, Maryland

Number of dollars, in millions, budgeted for the design and build of the museum


Upcoming Events

Meet the Sherpas: The True Heroes of Everest:

A former trek leader to the Everest Base Camp and a founder of the first hut system in Nepal, Linda LeBlanc is the first to fictionalize the lives of the Sherpas. The story and characters are based on Sherpas she has known, actual events, and extensive research.

Linda will be presenting on her life’s passion, the Sherpa people and the Everest region. Artifacts from the culture will be on display. Linda will also be available after her presentation for a book signing.

Check out the museum website for more details and ticket information.

Keep Climbing - A fundraising event for the CancerClimber Association

Come to the new Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum to help support the CancerClimber Association. Hear speakers Sean Swarner, the first cancer survivor to summit Mt. Everest, an, member of the expedition that discovered the body of legendary Everest-pioneer George Mallory.

The CancerClimber Association is a not-for-profit dedicated to motivating those living with cancer. Funds from this event will be used to produce a “portable camp” that will make visits to children’s hospitals in twenty-four cities across the country. Each stop will offer a three-day camp for children impacted by cancer.

Hors d’oeuvres • Drinks • Silent Auction with some fantastic climbing and sports equipment!

Check out the museum website for more details and ticket information.


Promises Kept

I was in my first week at the museum, more than a year ago, when I first asked Nina to climb the climbing wall at the AMC.

"HA! Are ya kiddin' me?" she would say. If you haven't met Nina, it is hard to describe the look of disbelief with which she delivered this response. If you have, you know just what I'm talking about. Part incredulity, part absurdity, all humor.

Then again, she is a woman of her word. And her words were, one day -- perhaps in a fit of pre-opening confusion -- that if she made it through the Grand Opening weekend, alive and intact, then she would try climbing the wall.

I needn't say more. Below is the proof.

That nervous fellow belaying the museum director is the one and only Doug Skiba, Development Director for the CMC, and the only soul in whose hands Nina would trust her life.



As many of you know, we celebrated the Grand Opening of the museum this past weekend with two days of festivities, ceremonies, lecturers, traveling exhibits and art. The response from both the media and the public was almost overwhelming—a great problem to have for a new venue.

We have been covered from NPR to a newspaper in Honolulu. We expected the climbing community to be excited that the national museum for mountaineering and the mountains opened in Golden, but, it seems clear that we underestimated the appeal to children, teachers and others.

The following story and photos will appear in the upcoming issue of the Trail & Timberline, the magazine of the Colorado Mountain Club. We just couldn't wait to let everyone know how well things went this past weekend. Enjoy.

Before and after. Then and now. A result of vision.

When Glenn Porzak and Jerry Caplan walked into an abandoned high school on Dec. 22, 1992, their intention was to inspect the building as a possible home for their dream. They were greeted, however, with broken windows and a space in need of great repair.

“The walls were crumbling and they had graffiti on them. There was a smell of unoccupation and it was bitterly cold,” said Caplan, describing that first visit when flashlights illuminated the state of decline. “As the realtors would say, ‘It didn’t show well.’”

Friends for many years, Porzak and Caplan communicated on a different level.

“Somehow, when we stood outside the building, it was very easy. Not too many words had to be exchanged. We agreed that this….was it.”

Of course, the dream and the building have become what are known as the American Mountaineering Center, and the high school they had entered was the old Golden High School, built in 1924.

With the opening of the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum, the dream has run its course. The dream is now reality.

The Center—seen as a focal point for mountain-related educational, cultural, and training events—is a vital resource to those involved in the study and pursuit of the outdoor lifestyle. With the museum, that mission is greatly enhanced, furthering the role that our nation’s leading mountain and climbing organizations play in the education of our youth, the inspiration of our members, and the preservation of our mountains.

“The museum is truly the gem of this building,” says Chuck Baroch, the former mayor of the city of Golden.

From members’ receptions and major donor dinners, to spiritual blessings and the Grand Opening, from the vision that has taken us from a broken building to a landmark center for experience and education, the museum represents success.

Please come and enjoy what you have helped build.

Lhakpa Sherpa ties the final prayer flag to the chorten--the stone rock structure--in preparation for the puja, a Buddhist blessing performed at the Grand Opening. Pujas are often performed before Himalayan expeditions.

Lhoppƶn Rechungpa, president of the Mipham Shedra, performs the puja.

Kristy Judd, former Executive Director of the CMC, cuts the Grand Opening ribbon with Jim Donini, President of the American Alpine Club.


The Finishing Touches

The last details are being taken care of at the museum in anticipation of the Grand Opening this Saturday and Sunday. Last week, Jon Waterman's exhibit "Journey Across the Arctic Refuge" was installed, and over the past few days the exhibition of Inuit art has been hung.

The finishing touches are also being put on the exhibits themselves. Dana, our friend from Quatrefoil, climbed inside the vitrine with Jim Whittaker to install Tom Hornbein's oxygen mask from the 1963 American Everest expedition. Good thing she's small.

By now, most of you have probably discovered that our website (www.bwamm.org) is up and running. We've been getting great feedback from around the world on it's layout, design, and content. Of course, we've always enjoyed the same reviews of the blog. That being said, the blog will continue. Keep checking back for stories on the lighter side of the BWAMM world. Be sure to visit the website for information on changing exhibits, lectures, and films.



It's over. The wait. The construction. The dust. The welding. The installation. The anxiety.

The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum is finally ready to open its doors to the public. And so we would like to extend an invitation for everyone to join us for our weekend-long opening celebration.

What: Grand Opening Weekend
When: February 16, 10am-9pm / February 17, 10am-6pm
Where: At the BWAMM, of course, inside the American Mountaineering Center. 710 10th St., Golden, Colo.

Two temporary exhibits will accompany our grand opening. The first is a selection of Inuit Art entitled "Arctic Survival: Inuit People, Art and Culture," from the collection of Dr. Samuel Wagenfeld. The other exhibit first appeared at Explorer's Hall at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. Now, Jon Waterman is bringing his "Journey Across the Artic Refuge" to the Museum. Both exhibits are free with the price of admission to the museum.

The 16th (10am-9pm)
10am - Ribbon cutting
11am-1pm - Indoor rock climbing for all ages
2pm - Ed Bernbaum--world renowned specialist on mountain culture and sacred mountains--will speak on his subject of expertise
4pm - Jake Norton--photographer, guide, and member of the Mallory and Irvine Research Expeditions--will speak about "Culture and Change in Mountaineering"
7pm - Lynn Hill will speak about "Free Climbing the Nose"
Base Camp, our adventure gift shop, will be open all day.

The 17th (10am-6pm)
11am - Tonya Riggs, member of the Peace Climb 2006, will speak about her expeditions
2pm - Kelly Cordes, strict adherent to light weight alpinism, will speak about "Trying, Falling, and Sometimes Succeeding"

For more information in the coming weeks, visit our new website at www.bwamm.org.

See you soon.