The Small Stuff
Each year our Live Your Dream grant gives everyday climber’s the chance to live out their dreams. No dream is too big or too small and you’re never too old or too young to apply. The application period for the grant starts January 1st and goes through March 1st. Start dreaming!
By AAC member McKenzie Long
Mountaineering really speaks to me. I love long adventures in the mountains that require effort, tenacity, and creativity to complete—the Alaska Range is the perfect setting for this type of climbing. The idea of camping on a glacier with only the gear we brought with us for protection and only the goal of climbing was immensely appealing. I wanted to completely unplug—try something new and difficult.
The Live Your Dream grant allowed me to dream a little bigger than normal. I chose to apply for a trip to Alaska because I wanted to get on bigger mountains in a remote location. But, the cost of an expedition like this is quite prohibitive. Not only is the travel expensive, but the gear required adds up in cost. The idea that I might be able to have help with the cost allowed me to imagine that I could actually go to Alaska. The Live Your Dream grant covered the cost of the air taxi flight onto the Kahiltna Glacier, which was a significant expense of this trip. Support from the grant helped me take the leap and go on an expedition where the weather and outcome can be really uncertain.
I prepared for several months ahead of time—even before I knew for sure that I had won the grant. My partner and I spent a month ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado to improve our skills and make sure we were feeling strong and climbing confidently. I slowly pieced together all the gear I would need and researched routes that we might like to climb, making a short tick list.
Once we arrived at basecamp we learned of unusually warm temperatures and a low snow level, meaning several of the routes we planned on trying weren’t in condition. We set our sites on more attainable objectives and found success.
I led the scariest pitch of my life. Scraping up a granite slab in my crampons, and then heading straight up for a length of unconsolidated sugar snow with no protection. I pushed myself, my abilities, and my comfort level and found myself rewarded. I learned about glacier travel, assessing conditions, and making decisions in the mountain. We might not have climbed a new or groundbreaking route, or even anything particularly big, but I came away from the trip and a stronger, wiser climber, and I developed skills that will help me in future expeditions. See more photos and read McKenzie’s full trip report.
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