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AAC Recognizes David Allfrey for Outstanding Accomplishment

David Allfrey during an attempt with the author on El Cap’s Virginia (5.8 A3, Bosque-Clance, 1991) in mid-March 2010.

[Photo] Chris Van Leuven

“It’s a huge honor. I’m in shock about whole thing,” David Allfrey said when we congratulated him after hearing that the American Alpine Club awarded him the Robert Hicks Bates Award. The award is presented annually for “outstanding accomplishment by a young climber” who has “demonstrated exceptional skill and character in the climbing or mountaineering arts and has outstanding promise for future accomplishment.”

Allfrey will receive the award in Washington DC during the club’s Annual Benefit Dinner on February 27.

We’ve reported Allfrey’s climbs in NewsWires many times over the years, including: Allfrey, Honnold Become Fastest to Wrestle Alligator Route, 7 in 7: An El Cap Marathon with Alex Honnold, Deconstructing Jenga on Baffin Island and Climbers Tap Free Climbing Motherlode in Wind River Range.

Previous recipients include many of the top names in American climbing:

Sasha DiGiulian: 2015, Madaleine Dimont Sorkin: 2014, Scott Bennett: 2013, Kyle Dempster: 2012, Hayden Kennedy: 2011, Alex Honnold: 2009, David Turner: 2008, Freddie Wilkinson: 2007, Colin Haley: 2006, David Graham: 2004, Josh Wharton: 2003, Brian McMahon: 2003, Jonathan Copp: 2000, Lisa Rands: 2000, Chris McNamara: 1999, Beth Rodden: 1998, Tommy Caldwell: 1998, Steph Davis: 1997, Jeff Hollenbaugh: 1997, Katie Brown: 1996, Chris Sharma: 1996

We asked Allfrey to share some photos and stories from his best climbs. He sent over the following photos from his collection and stories to go with each shot.

David Allfrey’s Top Climbs (in his words)

[Photo] David Allfrey

“‘So, you do know how to aid climb, right?’ Alex Honnold clarified. ‘Uh, yeah, I do.’ I laughed. It was early morning in June 2012, and I had been brushing my teeth at Lower Pines campground in Yosemite Valley. I was fresh off The Reticent Wall, and six days on El Cap left me thinking of faster ways to climb. Just then, Alex drove by, and before I could think about it, I threw my hand in the air and waved him down. Too polite to ignore me, he pulled his van off the road. I told him about my idea to climb Lunar Eclipse in a single push, ideally with him. I envisioned mixing our skills. Alex would do the free climbing and, I would do the aid climbing.

“Lunar Eclipse was our first route together. For me, that was the beginning of a great new friendship and also a new chapter in my climbing. Since that day I have climbed El Cap around 30 times but only spent three nights on the mountain (while freeing Free Rider).

“Above, Alex climbs on the first one-day ascent of Excalibur.”

[Photo] Gabriel Mann

“Whenever I topout a route, I’m always thinking about what’s next before we’re even back to the car. It was no exception when Alex Honnold and I completed the first one-day ascent of Excalibur. As we hiked down, I told him about something I overheard Ammon McNeely and Ivo Ninov talking about: to climb seven routes on El Cap in seven days. At first Alex thought it sounded miserable but soon we agreed to try it the following spring.

“Here is the sixth route of the ‘7 in 7,’ and I am passing a team of three Korean climbers during their sixth day on the Zodiac. We are high on the route yet only four hours into the day, tired, dehydrated and beat.”

[Photo] Nik Berry

“In the summer of 2012, I had a plane ticket booked to Pakistan to climb the Great Trango Tower with two Polish friends. A horrendous attack at the base camp of Nanga Parbat changed everything and I canceled my ticket.

“Instead, I headed into the Wind River Range, Wyoming, that summer with Nik Berry and Mason Earle. We hoped to climb a new free route on Mt. Hooker. I didn’t know either of them well but we quickly became great friends. A mix of aid climbing and free climbing allowed us to go ground-up on the 1986 Steve Quinlan route Sendero Luminoso. This is my all-time favorite style–to use aid climbing skills to establish big wall free climbs.

“In this photo, I’m stepping out of the aiders to free climb up with tiny holds on the route’s third pitch, one of several pitches of 5.12+ face climbing.”

[Photo] Skiy DeTray

“In 2013 I traveled to Patagonia for the first time. While we successfully climbed several routes, our main objective was the East Face of Fitz Roy. We had a good weather window and did our best, but about one pitch from the summit, in rapidly changing weather, we made the tough choice to turn around and began the long descent for fear of being caught in a storm on the summit.

“The next year, 2014, I traveled to Alaska to climb the East Face of The Moose’s Tooth, a massive 4,500-foot wall that rises straight out of a glacier. Ice and mixed climbing is new to me but I had enough experience to see us through to the 2,000-foot granite wall perched at mid-height. Poor conditions and weird weather, however, prevented us from continuing to the top. Skiy DeTray and I returned home from the trip with the taste of failure. But as I reflected back on the trip, I realized that while we hadn’t summited The Moose’s Tooth, we hadn’t failed either because it was such a rich learning experience.

[Photo] David Allfrey

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to use the big-wall skills I learned in Yosemite to climb on other walls around the world.

“After several years of dreaming about the big walls and ocean fjords at Baffin Island, I finally traveled there in May 2015 with Cheyne Lempe. I embraced the cold, the isolation, the fear, and focused on the climbing and the beauty of the landscape and we established a new route on the 3,000-foot Great Cross Pillar.”

Sources: David Allfrey,,