The AAC's Craggin' Classic – Recap

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Dave Turner receives the AAC Bates Award from Kelly Cordes. Photo by Cody Blair.
Jim McCarthy, Lynn Hill, Layton Kor, and Jim Donini catch up after the show. Photo by Cody Blair.

How a New International Climbing Festival Rocked Colorado’s Front Range

The American Alpine Club and its industry partners pulled out all the stops for the first annual Craggin’ Classic. On October 9th Layton Kor provided the perfect lead-in to the festival, with the AAC and Neptune Mountaineering hosting his first slideshow in many moons. A packed house of 1,200 climbers filled CU Boulder’s Macky Auditorium for the kick-off event, enjoying tales from Kor’s remarkable climbing career.

The next day, climbers converged on the American Mountaineering Center in Golden for the festival’s opening ceremonies. The editors of nearly every major climbing publication across the globe attended the event. The party really got started when the Club bused in 48 international climbers from 24 countries—fresh from the AAC’s International Climbers’ Meet in Indian Creek.

That evening, John Gill made an appearance to accept the AAC’s annual Underhill Award for outstanding mountaineering achievement, presented by Mark Wilford (who reasoned that mountaineering involves rock climbing and rock climbing involves bouldering). Gill cited the AAC as the country’s first major climbing organization to recognize the importance and legitimacy of bouldering, crediting Jim McCarthy for championing the movement.

Kelly Cordes, the American Alpine Journal’s Senior Editor, presented Dave Turner with the Club’s Bates Award for outstanding accomplishment by a young climber—his solo new route of Cerro Escudo’s east face is a 2008 AAJ feature story. The night also included a catered dinner by Sherpa’s and a Josh Wharton slideshow, both courtesy of Mammut, followed by a concert by the Carnie Bums.

The Gourds, Austin

Saturday started with The North Face and Jetboil supplying breakfast, and Prana hosting a yoga session. Ironically, the only thing missing from the Craggin’ Classic was outdoor climbing; cold and wet weather sent many climbers to The Spot, ROCK’n & JAM’n, and Boulder Rock Club for Colorado Mountain School-supported clinics by Lynn Hill, Jonny Copp, Josh Wharton, Mark Wilford, Heidi Wirtz, Katie Brown, Eric Decaria, Chuck Fryberger, Rob Pizem, Andres Marin, and Majka Burnhardt. Back at festival headquarters, Jeremy Collins was busy painting four of climbing’s most iconic landscapes, which he then donated to an AAC auction that evening. Saturday night featured a Black Diamond BBQ, Jonny Copp slideshow, and concert by Austin’s best band, The Gourds, presented by Patagonia.

The festival concluded Sunday night with an Asolo/Lowe Alpine dinner at the Buffalo Rose, followed by a screening of Perfecto, introduced by one of its stars, Katie Brown. Stay tuned to for more event coverage and updates on next year’s festival.

The AAC would like to thank President Jim Donini who conceived of the event, Dana Richardson and Brittany Griffith for planning it, the many volunteers who staffed it, and all the industry partners who pitched in to give climbers a festival they won’t soon forget. Beyond the partners previously listed, the AAC would like to thank Climbing Magazine, Urban Climber, Alpinist, Mountain Khakis, Avery Brewing, Golden City Brewery, Coors, Redwood Creek, and Nutritious Gourmet.

See a photo gallery from the event HERE.

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