Image courtesy of Alex Honnold
First, who is “Bates”? Robert Bates, a renowned explorer, alpinist, Peace Corps director, and educator, accomplished numerous first ascents in Alaska and was a member of the American expeditions to K2 in 1938 and 1953. His literary contributions describing the K2 expeditions and his life of adventure in the mountains have inspired countless young American climbers. He served the American Alpine Club in many capacities: member of the editorial board of the American Alpine Journal, board member, President, and Honorary President. Above all, he devoted his life to promoting the education and development of American youth through his years as a teacher at Phillips Exeter Academy, service with the Peace Corps, and other endeavors. He also was on that famous climb of Lucania and Steele with Washburn in 1937, when they crash-landed on the glacier and the pilot agreed to leave them there but would not return. Instead of bailing, they climbed the two peaks (making the first ascent of Lucania) and walked out the far side. They both were in their mid-20s. Now that’s spirit.
To recognize his many contributions to American climbing and education of our nation's youth, the American Alpine Club established the Robert Hicks Bates Award for outstanding accomplishment by a young climber. It recognizes a young climber who, in the judgment of the volunteer selection committee, has demonstrated exceptional skill and character in the climbing or mountaineering arts and has outstanding promise for future accomplishment.
Image courtesy of Alex Honnold
This year’s Bates Award goes to…Alex Honnold. Alex burst onto the climbing scene with a splash of headlines, first in Fall 2007 with his one-day free-solo link-up of the Rostrum and Astroman, and then again in spring 2008, with a first free-solo ascent of Moonlight Buttress, (5.12+) in Zion. These impressive feats were followed by equally impressive ones: an 8.5-hour free ascent of El Capitan’s Salathé Wall, the first free-solo ascent of the Regular Route on Half Dome, and many others. At 23, Alex is one of the most accomplished rock climbers today. Some of his other groundbreaking ascents include an onsight ascent of Masters Edge (E7 6b) at Millstone, UK, as well as an onsight free solo of London Wall (E5) in the same area; an onsight of Gaia (E8 6c); and repeats of some of the hardest desert routes, such as Concepción and Belly Full of Bad Berries. He lives in Sacramento, California.
The award will be formally announced at the 2009 Craggin’ Classic on October 9 (www.cragginclassic.com). Perhaps the biggest climbing party ever to hit the Salt Lake City area, the festival will include a day at the crags with renowned climbers like Lynn Hill, Steve House, Cedar Wright, Caroline George, Jasmin Caton, Kate Rutherford, Mikey Shaefer, Kitty Calhoun, Nancy Feagin, and Jim Donini. They’ll host a handful of eclectic sessions, including Sport Climbing for Boulderers, Trad Climbing for Sport Climbers, Bouldering for Weaklings, and Locals Only Tours led by an all-star cast of SLC underground climbers who know every nook, cranny, and crimp in the Wasatch. Alex will not be able to attend in person, but will accept the award via video.
About the American Alpine ClubThe AAC is a unique community of climbers who have banded together to support and inspire one another while protecting the pursuit they love. The AAC is perhaps best known for publishing the world’s most sought-after annual climbing publication, the American Alpine Journal. Learn about additional programs and become a member at www.AmericanAlpineClub.org.