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Executive Director Status Update

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 by Luke Bauer

On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 17, American Alpine Club (AAC) Executive Director Phil Powers was injured in a climbing accident. Please visit americanalpineclub.orgfor the most current updates.Phil continues to make slow and steady progress and the need for daily updates has passed. We will update this site when major developments occur in Phil’s recovery. In the meantime Phil and his family ask for your patience in giving them the space they need during this time.  Well-wishers and concerned parties can send their words of support to the AAC either via email at [email protected] or via mail to American Alpine Club 710 10th St, Golden, CO 80401. The AAC will make sure that they get to the family.

[Update. May 24, 2011, 2:20 p.m.: Phil continues to steadily make progress in his recovery. He remains in stable condition at the St. Anthony’s Hospital intensive care ward in Denver, CO. In order to facilitate his recovery, the family is requesting no visitors at this time.]

[Update. May 23, 2011, 7:00 p.m.: Phil has made enormous progress in the last several days. He is breathing on his own, talking and—in typical Phil fashion—cracking jokes and making doctors, nurses, and hospital staff laugh and smile. He stood for the first time today. The recovery period will be lengthy, but all those in the TSICU at St. Anthony’s Central are incredibly impressed with his indomitable strength and determination.

Phil Powers released the following statement today:

“My wife, Sarah, and our family are deeply grateful for everything that has been done to make sure I am receiving the best possible care. My thanks to all those at the site of the accident, including my staff, the emergency responders, the ambulance and helicopter crews, and those working so hard here in the hospital. I am indebted to you all, for my life. This is certainly one of my most challenging journeys, but I am confident of a full recovery.

“I also want to thank and eventually reach out to everyone who has prayed for us, emailed, called, and sent good wishes, food and thoughts to my family.

“I know many people want to come and visit, and I appreciate your concern. For now though, we ask for your patience and understanding. I am focused on healing and would like to get a little farther down that road before I start entertaining.

“All climbing accidents have causes, subtle and otherwise. This one is no different. It would be unfair to the rigorous investigation now underway to prematurely release reports or to posit theories about what happened before all the facts are known. Trust that I, like you, will be extremely interested in what is to be learned here, and I will be supplying you with information as it becomes available and understood.”]

[Update. May 22, 2011, 6:54 p.m.: Phil continues to steadily make progress in his recovery. He remains in stable condition at the St. Anthony’s Hospital intensive care ward in Denver, CO. In order to facilitate his recovery, the family is requesting no visitors at this time.]

[Update. May21, 2011, 1:58 p.m.: Phil remains stable. The family requests that there be no visitors at present. No additional updates to report at this time.]

[Update. May 20, 2011, 3:15: Last night, doctors successfully performed surgery to fuse Powers’ T-12, L-1, and L-2 vertebrae. Powers, 50, sustained injuries as the result of a climbing accident on May 17th. Powers has maintained feeling in and motion of his hands and feet throughout his recovery, and it appears that no spinal cord damage has occurred. Powers continues to make progress toward recovery. He is in stable condition at the ST. Anthony’s Hospital intensive care ward in Denver, CO.]

[Update. May 19, 2011, 10:15 a.m.: Phil underwent surgery yesterday evening to fix his broken arm. The surgery went well and he is resting. The family requests that there be no visitors at present.]

May 19, 2011, Golden, CO—On the afternoon of Tuesday, May 17, American Alpine Club (AAC) Executive Director Phil Powers was injured in a climbing accident. He is presently in stable condition in the intensive care ward at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver, CO.

When the accident occurred, Powers was climbing with a group near AAC headquarters in Clear Creek Canyon’s Highwire area outside of Golden, CO. Clear Creek Canyon is a popular and accessible sport climbing crag on public land.

The area where the group was climbing is directly above the highway and river. The rock formation at the site of the accident is overhanging making direct sight contact difficult. Due to communication difficulties, there was confusion amongst the party over Powers’ method of descent which resulted in Powers falling approximately 50 feet to the ground.

Powers landed on dirt mainly on the left side of his seat and torso and suffered a brief loss of consciousness. His companions immediately assessed him and began implementation of wilderness first aid and rescue preparation. Golden, CO Fire Department responded quickly and began a complicated evacuation procedure.

After being stabilized at the accident site, Powers was lowered on a litter by the Golden Fire Department to the riverbed, hauled up to a waiting ambulance, then driven one mile down the canyon where he was transferred to a Flight for Life helicopter. He was flown to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver where he immediately underwent a successful surgery to repair a punctured diaphragm and address a collapsed lung. Powers sustained multiple injuries to his torso region in the fall: including a broken arm, fractured ribs and vertebras, a punctured diaphragm, a collapsed lung, and substantial internal bruising. Powers was not wearing a helmet, but it does not appear that he suffered any head injury.

The American Alpine Club is focused on Phil, his family, and his recovery and is asking that well-wishers and concerned parties send their words of support to the AAC either via email at [email protected] or via mail to American Alpine Club 710 10th St, Golden, CO 80401. The AAC will make sure that they get to the family.

No other information is currently available. As soon as any new information becomes available it will be shared and posted on the AAC website. Please do not contact Phil’s family at this time as they are dealing with many details important to his recovery.

About Phil Powers:

Phil Powers joined the American Alpine Club as executive director in May of 2005. His previous experience in the non-profit world includes service as Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Naropa University and seventeen years with the National Outdoor Leadership School as Chief Mountaineering Instructor and Development/Partnerships Director. He remains an owner of Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. Powers is author of Wilderness Mountaineeringand Climbing: Expedition Planning. His essay, “The Importance of Pace”, was aired on NPR’s “This I Believe” in 2006. Powers has led dozens of expeditions to South America, Alaska and Pakistan’s Karakoram Range, including ascents of K2 and Gasherbrum II without supplemental oxygen. He made the first ascent of the Washburn Face on Denali, naming it in recognition of the impact longtime AAC member Bradford Washburn’s photos had in the planning and route research of many Alaska climbs. Powers also made the first ascent of Lukpilla Brakk’s Western Edge in Pakistan, and the first winter traverse of the Tetons’ Cathedral Peaks. He is an active climber and skier and lives with his wife and children in Denver, Colorado.

About the AAC:

The American Alpine Club is a 501-c(3) charitable organization dedicated to supporting American endeavors in mountain environments around the world. The AAC supports alpinists, rock climbers, ice climbers, boulderers, and mountaineers who are passionate about climbing, its community, its history, and conservation of the places we climb.

Together, through this collective passion and the AAC’s programs, we inspire, create, partner, steward, and unite to have a stronger voice and lasting impact for future generations of climbers.

 

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