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Add mountaineering gala to your bucket list

A fun evening at the Third Annual Hall of Mountaineering Excellence Gala.
A fun evening at the Third Annual Hall of Mountaineering Excellence Gala.
Jilly Salva

It’s time to add an event to your bucket list, namely the Hall of Mountaineering Excellence Gala. This year’s crowd had the American Mountaineering Center buzzing with colorful stories about the inductees’ unique explorations and significant accomplishments outside of mountaineering.

Dee Molenaar accepts award from Tom Hornbein, Background painting by Molenaar
Jilly Salva

At the pre-event reception, I admired Rob “Ice Axe Man” Rowley’s robust collection of autographed “old-school” wood shaft ice axes. Over the past eight years he’s amassed an impressive collection of signatures from notable mountaineers like Pat Ament, Conrad Anker, Dick Bass, Kurt Diemberger, and Maurice Herzog.

Adjacent to the ice axe display was a book table where one could buy a book and have it personally signed by Arlene Blum, Dee Molenaar or Bernadette McDonald.

The Mountaineering Museum was open and it was fun to tour the displays.

After the reception, the crowd efficiently moved into the ballroom where a formalized auction took place, raising funds for the one-of-a-kind Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum.

Next the evening flowed seamlessly into the introduction and induction of this year’s nominees:

1.) Arlene Blum, Biophysical Chemist and founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, author, mountaineer, leader of the first American and all-women’s ascent of Annapurna I.

2.) Henry W. Kendall (1926-1999), Known as a person who never did anything half way. Kendall was a highly skilled mountaineer and Yosemite Valley rock climber. His love of photography began in childhood and resulted in a 40,000-image collection that includes underwater diving scenes and mountainscapes. He was one of the organizers of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He also won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990 jointly with Jerome Isaac Friedman and Richard E. Taylor.

3.) Louis Reichardt, Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry/Biophysics at UCSF and the first American to summit both Mount Everest and K2. He joined the event via Skype where we learned about his passion for research of the human brain and his perspective on life and mountaineering. He told us that he experienced both highs and lows in science and in the mountains.

4.) Dee Molenaar, author of The Challenge of Rainier, artist, Mount Rainier ranger and climbing guide. Today, at age 92 he continues to make maps and illustrations. He claims much of his success has to do with meeting people in the right place and at the right time.

Rounding out the evening was the moving keynote presentation by award winning author Bernadette McDonald. Her most recent book, Freedom Climbers, paints a vivid portrait of Polish Himalayan climbers in the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Her book won the 2012 AAC Literary Award, the 2011 Boardman Tasker Prize and 2011 Banff Mountain Festival Book Grand Prize.

Have fun and be safe out there!

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