Leading with Your Heart

Now, don’t grip. I’m not going to quote lyrics from Barbara Streisand’s song.

There’s something about the quality of leadership that, when the leader moves the journey from head to heart, we respond in a deeper, more soulful way. The legacy of a culture is remembered with more significance when compassion and altruism are motivating forces rather than sheer accomplishment. The way the world behaves sometimes you’d think it a hard thing to do when, in fact, we live with examples in and around our lives that prove its existence.

No surprise, then, that the first and upcoming Hall of Mountaineering Excellence Awards inductees took everything they did to heart. It may seem a little odd to be bringing matters of the ole pumper into the well-organized and sometimes ego-driven world of mountaineering but those unfamiliar with the philosophies, accomplishments, and sacrifices of these honorees will do well to sit up and take notice.

Charles Houston, Bob Bates, and Bob Craig came to terms with the Brotherhood of the Rope back in 1953 when, during an unsuccessful summit attempt on K2, they found themselves with a critically ill expedition member in need of a rescue descent. They might well simply have left him behind but the challenges of the ascent to that point heightened the team’s cohesiveness. During the down climb a misstep caused an almost catastrophic series of falls and entanglements – and on instinct led most certainly by the need to protect the lives of his friends, Pete Schoening jammed his ice axe behind a boulder and hung on for the dear life. All but one survived and the attention each paid to the others during the remaining descent confirms the depth of their friendship.

Houston went on to become the leading authority in altitude sickness, hypoxia, and acclimatization, and Craig founded both the Aspen Institute, a non-profit dedicated to fostering values-based leadership and open-minded dialogue, and the Keystone Group, another non-profit aimed at settling environmental issues among quarreling groups before landing in court.

Bob Bates, member of the Harvard 5 mountaineering group along with Houston and Bradford Washburn, found himself alongside Washburn after they’d been forcibly abandoned in the Yukon. A successful first ascent of Mount Lucania notched on their ice axes but thereafter they survived 32 days and 156 miles in an epic struggle for survival. I doubt there was ever any question that they’d work together to complete their journey to safety.

Bates followed up that expedition by working with the Army to develop improved clothing and equipment for US mountain divisions, and in turn benefitted our daily backcountry lives and well-being. His autobiography, The Love of Mountains is Best, says it all.

And then there’s Yosemite. What’s the first name that comes to mind? Well, besides John Muir.

I’ll give you a hint. It begins with Yvon and ends with Chouinard. In addition to reinventing climbing gear from aid to ice, he rattled the cage of the piton-hammerers, ostensibly destroying the very product that started his business, and advocated a new style – what he called clean climbing – to avoid scarring the rock. From that philosophy was born not only passive pro but a business model in both Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. that fosters ethics, environmentalism, and the opportunity to care for each other as well as the earth. Not a bad legacy to leave, eh?

Come walk with these giants, then, when they are honored April 10th at the American Mountaineering Museum. It’s a heartfelt chance to thank them with the same graciousness and altruism they so freely shared with us.


The Checklist Manifesto

In addition to being an exquisite book by Atul Gawande, it’s the to-do list for the next few events with the Museum and Library:

Thursday, February 18: Jake Norton: On Three Great Expeditions
Held at Vital Outdoors, 1224 Washington, Golden
5:30PM – 7:30PM.


Friday, February 19: American Mountaineering Museum 2nd Anniversary
Held at the Museum, 710 10th, Golden
5:30ish till 8:00ish
Beer and a little nosh.
Unveiling of the Donors Plaque.
Mingle with the Stars: George Mallory, Albert Ellingwood, Arlene Blum, and a Son of a Gun.


Saturday, February 20: AAC Library Book Sale
Held at the Inverness Hotel, 200 Inverness Drive West, Englewood (Tech Center)
Open to the public 2PM – 4PM
No beer.
Attendee events for the AAC's 3rd Annual Benefit and Awards dinner: (hint: Royal Robbins will be signing his book, To Be Brave, after 4PM)


Wednesday, March 3: sPEAKer series, Dr. Robert Roach, Senior Scientist at the Altitude Research Center in Denver
Held at the Museum, 710 10th, Golden
5:30ish refreshments, 7ish Program
No beer.


Thursday, March 4th, and Friday, March 5th: Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour
Held at the Paramount Theater, 1621 Glenarm, Denver
Screenings begin at 7ish PM
Beer if you mortgage your soul to pay for it.


Saturday, April 10: Hall of Mountaineering Excellence Gala
Held at the Museum, 710 10th, Golden
Time TBA
Fine dining (yes, and beer), entertainment, program honoring four outstanding mountaineers
Tickets on sale now.

Check, Mate!


A Woman's Place is on Top...

...or so quipped Arlene Blum in preparation for her all-women’s Annapurna expedition in 1978. And so they proved it true in spite of adversity and loss. That’s not all Arlene is known for, though, and a life as rich and fulfilling as that needs to be shared. So be it, at the 2nd Anniversary celebration of the American Mountaineering Museum. Would the real Arlene please stand up? Wellllll, how about a proxy, along with three other mountaineering history buffs portraying George Mallory, Albert Ellingwood, and one of our 10th Mountain Division soldiers. These are folks who continue to bring our museum alive through their dreams and dedication as do our myriad volunteers.

The celebration begins at 5:30 PM on Friday, February 19th. We’ll also celebrate the behind-the-scenes benefactors who helped bring the museum to life two years ago. The grand unveiling of a donor plaque will cap the evening of food, $2 fer brewski, music, and all-around ribaldry. Where else can you get this kind of entertainment nearly free?

Since the usual Thirsty 3rd Thursday date is open on February 18th, instead stop by Vital Outdoors in downtown Golden to hear our favorite mountaineer, Jake Norton, present photos and stories about his three favorite expeditions. Tickets are $3, all proceeds go to the Museum, and you’ll just have to be there to hear which of Jake’s myriad adventures he can whittle down to his favorites.

While we’re on the subject of expeditions, if you haven’t checked out the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race, tighten up your kayak skirts before you do. Fourteen four-person teams from around the world, including team Eddie Bauer (that’s my team!) have 8 days to complete a 600 km South American race that includes ocean kayaking, mountain biking, trekking, climbing, and backcountry navigation. They started the ocean kayaking off Tierra del Fuego in seas so rough supply ship drops were cancelled...I think in Spanish that’s referred to as cojones.


You Forgot to do What?

A little gentle elbow in the ribs, here…to those who missed a great presentation at last night’s sPEAKer series. Jeff Blumenfeld gave an enthusiastic and well-organized talk on how to get the trip you want sponsored and funded.

Not so fast, there, cowpoke. There are a few questions to ask and thoughts to ponder once the supreme question “You Want To Go Where?” has an answer.

So what? Seriously. What’s so great about That Dream Trip? Has it been done before? Are you adding a unique twist to it? Will anyone sit up and take notice? Who is it going to benefit?

The dream part is easy. Choose the destination. Make the process unique, a record-setter, a first-time crack at it. Be certain someone/something larger than you benefits, be it education opportunities in China, health and human rights for a native culture, or an environmental cause.

And then….well, you need to read the book for the rest of it. A few copies remain at the Base Camp Gift Shop. Give us a shout at 303-996-2755 and we'll get a copy in the mail. C’mon, you didn’t think we’d give away ALL the secrets?

March 3rd’s sPEAKer will be Dr. Robert Roach, senior scientist at the Altitude Research Center in Denver. We’d say “hold your breath in anticipation of a knock-out presentation,” but that’d just make you hypoxic. :-)