On December 5, 2007, the Bradford Washburn American
Mountaineering Museum will take delivery of one of the most historic
artifacts in the world of mountaineering – the Schoening ice axe. The axe
was used to save the lives of five men, and has come to represent the
pinnacle of mountaineering ethics.
The axe, which will be on loan from the Washington State
Historical Society, will be delivered to the American Mountaineering Center
in Golden, the home of the museum, at 1pm and promptly installed in its
secure display case. Installation of other museum exhibits and graphic
panels will take place alongside this event, and opportunities will exist to
see the faux rock formations and crevasse.
In 1953, an American team of mountaineers was struck by a
storm at 25,000 feet on the slopes of K2, the world’s second highest
mountain. While maneuvering an ill teammate down the precariously steep and
icy slope, one of the other climbers lost his footing. In the ensuing
entanglement of rope and climber, five men began plunging toward their
deaths off the face of the mountain. It was Pete Schoening, the youngest man
on the expedition team, that instinctually jammed his ice axe behind a
boulder—with the rope wrapped around his hip and the wooden shaft of the
axe—and instantaneously stopped five men from hurtling to their deaths.
The events of August 1953 have become the classic
mountaineering tale and a symbol, for many, of alpine ethics at their best:
friendship between climbing partners had prevailed above all other
considerations. There are more than 30 people alive today because of “The
Belay,” as the act has become known.
Other historic artifacts will continue to arrive in the
coming weeks. The axe will be on display at the American Mountaineering
Museum upon the museum’s opening on February 16, 2008.
In addition to these artifacts, the issues of climate change,
conservation, mountain cultures and science will be explored in the museum.
The museum will answer the age-old questions: “Why do people climb?” and
“How do they get those ropes up there?” Both the AAC and the CMC have long
histories and are in possession of the artifacts, oral histories, and
engaged members necessary to tell this story well. The NGS is a
world-renowned institution devoted to the dissemination of geographical
knowledge and their partnership will greatly enhance our museum.
About the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum
Opening in early 2008, the Bradford Washburn American
Mountaineering Museum is devoted to the stories of mountains and
mountaineers. The only museum of its type in the United States, the museum
will introduce visitors to the world of mountain and rock climbing and honor
the achievements of mountaineers from America and around the world. Exhibits
on climate, science, cultures and the humanities as they relate to mountains
promise to make the visitor experience exciting and interactive.
About the Colorado Mountain Club
The Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) is the oldest outdoor
education, recreation, and conservation organization in Colorado. Founded in
1912, CMC reaches an annual constituency of over 40,000 citizens, including
5,600 youth, providing a comprehensive and diverse range of programs and
activities. Programs revolve around education, conservation, science,
history, policy, recreation, arts and culture. CMC offers a wide range of
opportunities for the public to explore, observe, and learn about the
Southern Rockies, while simultaneously leading efforts to protect the
species, habitats, and wildness of our public lands. CMC publishes a
quarterly magazine, the Trail & Timberline and operates a book press with
more than 20 current titles. No other organization in the Intermountain West
has such a strong or broad-based approach connecting people and our Colorado
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