A Mountain Geek’s Treasure Chest: AAC Archives

As you know, I am much more of an armchair mountaineer these days with my career and family in Peaklessburg.  But even when I climbed and hiked with more regularity, I enjoyed coming across old maps in yard sales and climbing narratives from the 1930s in antique stores. 

I still do and I have to tip my Major League Baseball cap to the Henry S. Hall, Jr. American Alpine Club Library in Golden Colorado for maintaining and continuing to build upon the “collective memory” (their words) of the mountaineering community.  The library has a circulating collection available to American Alpine Club (AAC) members and Friends of the American Alpine Club Library, rare and non-circulating books in the AAC Archives, and photographs which can be considered documentary or art, depending on who is appreciating it. 

Mountaineers are also encouraged to donate their letters, diaries, photos and scrapbooks, expedition reports, films, and even gear to the library in the hopes of maintaining a continuous thread of history.  The library indicates that not everything may be accepted however based on its “appropriateness” — perhaps they mean historical value.  Their website, at least, does not elaborate on that point.  Regardless, this invitation helps ensure the collection will remain the current today as we look back tomorrow.

The libary’s archivists just began reviewing and catalogueing the Bradford Washburn archives with the climbing community’s financial support.  Washburn is one of the greatest Alaskan mountaineers in history, with multiple ascents of Denali, an epic first ascent of Mount Lucania and he was a talented mountain photographer.  He also lead the expedition to map the entire Wrangell-St. Elias Range when no one knew what was in that territory. 

The Washburn archives include 20 unopened file boxes, five flat unopened boxes and over 20 rolled maps.  Staff and resources are needed to properly go through these records of the great mountaineer and explorer.  Individuals may adopt the archives in $100 increments to help complete the work. 

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