American Alpine Club CEO, Phil Powers (Ep.11)

The American Alpine Club is one of the oldest climbing institutions in the US. Yet despite its deep past, the AAC takes a forward-looking approach to improving the climbing experience for all on issues like safety, access, and education. This makes the AAC one of the modern climber’s biggest allies.

American Alpine Club CEO, Phil Powers, has climbed for decades all over the world, and has brought the lessons from his experiences to the helm of the AAC. In our conversation, he introduces the American Alpine Club to climbers who might not know why the AAC’s mission is so important. We also talk about his vision for the AAC’s role in shaping climbing as we move forward, as well as the decision to give their prestigious Underhill award to Alex Honnold for free soloing The Freerider, even as they work to encourage safe climbing practices.

American Alpine Club CEO, Phil Powers, on Blister's All Things Climbing Podcast
American Alpine Club CEO, Phil Powers.


  • Episode Intro (2:23)
  • Phil’s personal favorite style of climbing (4:00)
  • What was it like to summit K2? (5:00)
  • How do you handle risky scenarios? (6:50)
  • Phil’s role at the AAC, and the mission of the AAC (7:54)
  • What is the AAC? 8:30
  • Will the Olympics grow the sport, or is climbing experiencing a bubble? (10:45)
  • What is the role of climbing organizations in welcoming new climbers? 12:43
  • How does the AAC operate in conjunction with other climbing organizations? (18:45)
  • Why is it so important that the AAC is a nonprofit? (26:00)
  • How does the AAC’s rescue benefit work? (29:10)
  • If I get injured in Clear Creek, what do I do? 32:15
  • What are the AAC’s publications? 35:15
  • Are there trends in climbing accidents? Can they be prevented? 39:50
  • Dissonance in awarding Alex Honnold the Underhill Award? (44:00)
  • Outro (47:10)


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On top of all that, Rhino Skin Founder Justin Brown sits on the board of the Smith Rock Group, which helps plan and fundraise for various maintenance projects at Smith Rock State Park. We’re also donating all our proceeds from the show, after production costs, to the American Safe Climbing Associate and the Access Fund. Rhino Skin is fully behind this effort and has offered to knock 10% off your order and kick an additional 10% over to the Access Fund when you use the promo code “Blister” at checkout. Head over to Rhino Skin Solutions to check out their offerings.

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