Climbers on the Matanuska Glacier during the annual MCA ice climbing festival.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

Mt. Michelson summit ridge. Brooks Range, Arctic Refuge. Marcin Ksok and Carrie Wang.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

Rosie’s Roost was built in 1968, it is part of the Eklutna Traverse and was originally called Eagle Glacier Cabin.

Photo by Greg Bragiel.

Wayne, Carrie, Chris and Toby enjoy sunshine at the Scandinavian Peaks Hut.

Photo by Wayne Todd.

Recipients

A list of our award recipients.

Hoeman Award Recipients (scroll down for a bio about each of these recipients).

  • Tom Choate
  • Willy Hersman
  • Greg Higgins
  • Dave Johnston
  • Tim Kelley

Presidents Award Recipients

  • Greg Bragiel
  • Willy Hersman
  • Jayme Mack

Honorary Membership Recipients

  • Erik Barnes
  • Greg Bragiel
  • Helga Byhre
  • Tom Choate
  • Paul Denkewalter
  • Doug Fesler
  • Peter Hackett
  • Don Hansen
  • Willy Hersman
  • Greg Higgins
  • Dave Johnston
  • Tim Kelley
  • Jayme Mack
  • Tom Meacham
  • Helen Nienhueser
  • Neil O'Donnell
  • Nick Parker
  • David Roberts
  • Dave Staeheli
  • Helen Beirne (D)
  • Paul Crews, Sr. (D)
  • George Hall (D)
  • Terris Moore (D)
  • Lowell Thomas, Jr. (D)
  • Bradford Washburn (D)

 Dave Johnston - Hoeman Award

At the November 2016 monthly meeting the MCA honored Dave Johnston with the Hoeman Award. Dave made the following first recorded ascents in Alaska: Andy Simons Mountain, Bird Peak, Mount Stevens, and the Middle Peak of Mount Hunter in 1963; Mount Barnard, Beartrack Mountain, and Mount Case in 1965; Avalanche Peak and Manila Peak in 1966; Cantata Peak and Ice Cream Cone Mountain (aka Skybuster Peak) in 1967; Truuli Peak, Node Nunatak, and Mount Kiliak in 1968; K’esugi Mountain and Paradise Peak in 1969; Herringbone Hill and Moonshadow Peak in 1974; New Years Mountain, Grand Tokosha, and Tokosha Peak in 1975; Con Leche in 1980; The Crowned Jewel and Triple Crown Peak in 1983; Peakbagger Peak and Wisdom Tooth in 1984; Nagishlamina Peak and Peak 6740 in the Nagishlamina River drainage of the Hidden Mountains in 1989; and Bumble Mountain in 1994, having thus made exploratory climbs in the Kenai Mountains, Western Chugach Mountains, Alaska Range, Alsek Ranges; Beartrack Mountains (a subset of the Chilkat Range), Cathedral Spires, Chugach Mountains, K’esugi Ridge, Tokosha Mountains, Tordrillo Mountains, and Hidden Mountains over a 32-year period and demonstrating his long-term commitment to exploration of mountain ranges throughout Alaska. In addition to those first recorded ascents, Dave also made the first winter ascent of Denali (in 1967) and the first solo winter ascent of Mount Sanford (in 1984). In addition to his climbs in Alaska, Dave was the first (and so far only) person to have reached the summit of the highest points in all 50 states during calendar winter (completed in 2005). He authored 10 trip reports for the Scree and 11 trip reports for the American Alpine Journal, and he has given four presentations to the MCA, demonstrating his commitment to documentation of hiking and climbing opportunities in Alaska. In his profession as a park ranger – for a year at Glacier Bay National Monument and for 26 years at Denali State Park – Dave promoted hiking and climbing. The MCA’s Awards Committee (Cory Hinds, Steve Gruhn, and Tom Meacham) presented Dave with an engraved plaque and honorary membership in the MCA.

- Steve Gruhn, December 2016 Scree

 Tim Kelley - Hoeman Award

Tim Kelley, a prolific hiker, climber, and skier, known for exploring and reporting on many of Alaska's numerous lesser-known and visited peaks in the Chugach, Talkeetna, and Kenai Mountains over the past two decades was honored as the recipient of the MCA’s Hoeman Award during a brief ceremony at the November 2008 general meeting.

Mr. Kelley was selected to receive the award by the MCA Awards Committee because of his significant contributions to the exploration of remote and previously unnamed peaks in the Chugach, Talkeetna, and Kenai Mountains, as well as other areas of Alaska, and for sharing his many exploits and discoveries with the hiking and climbing community through numerous trip reports in the MCA newsletter, Scree.

According to MCA records, Tim has climbed 91 peaks in Alaska that do not have records of prior ascents, more than any other known person, and he continues to add more every year. It is probably safe to say that no person since Vin Hoeman has climbed and named as many peaks in Alaska. More importantly, Tim has documented his climbs for future generations by submitting at least 45 articles to the Scree describing these climbs and associated adventures. A listing of Tim's climbs of peaks without records of prior ascents appears in the December 2008 Scree.

Tim served on the MCA Board for one two-year term in the early 1990s, but is probably best known for his entertaining articles in the Scree and several presentations given to the club on his explorations. In recent years, he has been focusing on boat-based explorations and adventures out of Prince William Sound and continues to pursue long-distance, lightweight crust-skiing excursions in the mountains of southcentral Alaska.

- Bill Romberg, December 2008 Scree

 Greg Higgins - Hoeman Award

Long time MCA member Greg Higgins was an honored recipient of the MCA Hoeman Award during a brief ceremony at the April 2006 general meeting.

Accomplishments and Contributions

Greg Higgins was very active in the Mountaineering Club of Alaska in the 1970s and 1980s. He moved to California in the 1980s and currently resides in Chico, CA.

  • Mr. Higgins has numerous first ascents in Alaska to his credit, including North Andiron (1986), Mount Eva (1986), East Kiliak Peak (1986; solo), Palmer Thumb (1977; solo), Peak 5007 in the Kenai Mountains (1985), Fog Peak (1987), and Three Bell Spires(1973).
  • Mr. Higgins served as the chairman of the MCA's Geographic Names Committee and was considered by others (namely Willy Hersman) to be the authority on peak names in Alaska.
  • Mr. Higgins frequently wrote articles in the Scree, which have provided information to many a future climber. In fact, he wrote 44 Scree articles, including trips to East Tanaina Peak (1972), Homicide Peak (1977), Palmer Thumb (1977), Montana Peak (1977and 1987), Pioneer Peak (1977), Mount Sanford (1978), Mount Soggy (1980), Mount Yukla (1980), Vertigo Peak (1980), Baleful Peak (1980 and 1981), Mount Drum (1980), Pleasant Mountain (1980), The Ramp (1980), the Churchill Peaks (1981), Mount Rumble (1981), Phoenix Peak (1981), Ptarmigan Lake (1982), Mount Alice (1985), Moonlight Mountain (1985), Pellet Point (1985), Significant Mountain (1985), Peak 5358 in the Kenai Mountains (1985), Peak 5007 in the Kenai Mountains (1985), Mount Gerdine(1986), Penguin Peak (1986), Mount West Kiliak (1986), Whiteout Peak (1986), Ovis Peak (1986), The Mitre (1986), Mount Eva (1986), North Andiron (1986), Paradise Peak (1987), Mount Wickersham (1987 and 1993), Lemonade Peak (1987), Peak 8450 in the Chugach Mountains (1987), Fog Peak (1987),Temptation Peak (1987), Gunsight Mountain (1987), and Spearmint Spire(1987).
  • He took charge of the MCA's summit registers and undertook a major effort to gather all of the original, Vin Hoeman-era summit registers from Alaskan peaks in the Chugach-Kenai-Talkeetna area, archive them, copy them into new containers and put them back out on the summits.
  • He produced a card catalog index of peaks, which he made available in the Vin Hoeman Library for references for trip reports and the names of those who had climbed the peaks previously. This index later became the Scree index and was placed in the back of the bound Screes.
  • He led a number of MCA trips including ones to Homicide Peak (1980), South Avalanche Mountain (1980), Peters Creek Valley (1981) and Ptarmigan Lake (1982), assisted in teaching basic rock-climbing classes (1980), and served as the unofficial MCA historian and caretaker of the VinHoeman collection.
  • Mr. Higgins also served as club Secretary for one year.

Mr. Higgins' activities resulted in a vast increase in the body of knowledge for local climbers and enabled many others to explore further into the mountains. He also maintained records so that those who never knew him are still able to obtain detailed information on routes, geographic names, and ascent histories. According to friend and local MCA climber Tom Meacham (a long-time member of MCA), Greg is now living in Chico, CA where he is retired from practicing medicine. He just recently completed all of the 50 state highpoints in late 2005 and is also an avid kayaker who (like our other award recipient) remains passionate about mountains, birds, plants, everything to do with the out-of-doors.

- Bill Romberg, June 2006 Scree

 Tom Choate - Hoeman Award

Long time MCA member Tom Choate was an honored recipient of the MCA Hoeman Award during a brief ceremony at the April 2006 general meeting.

Accomplishments and Contributions

  • 40 to 50 first ascents of Alaskan mountains – Chugach, Brooks, Alaska, and Talkeetna ranges and probably several others (too many to list).
  • Partners on many of these first ascents have included Vin Hoeman, Dave Johnston, Willy Hersman, Steve Gruhn, Stu Grenier, Ken Zafren, James Larabee, Wayne Todd, Mike Miller, Neil O’Donnell, Dwight and Annette Iverson, and others.
  • He has led over 30 hiking and climbing trips for the club.
  • He has led over 20 training trips for the club.
  • He has performed many hours of hut maintenance on the MCA club huts.
  • He has served for over 15 years chairperson of the Geographic Names Committee -- Are you sure it was a “true” peak you just climbed?

Stories and Highlights

  • It is particularly appropriate that Tom is being awarded the Vin Hoeman award because one of Tom’s formative climbs was with Vin himself, the 1963 – Grand Traverse of Alaska Range with Vin Hoeman, Dave Johnston, and Cliff Ells. The team walked in from Wonder Lake, up the Muldrow Glacier, and summitted the north and south peaks on McKinley in 14 days. Apparently they needed to move fast so they could be on the summit for the solar eclipse. They started in July, wore bunny boots and walked straight through rivers, slush, waterfilled crevasses, etc. They were four on a rope and when someone fell in a crevasse, they simply pulled each other out and kept going. After summiting McKinley, they descended the West Buttress, resupplied at Kahiltna Base, then proceeded to climb all three summits of Mt. Hunter via the west ridge. These were the first ascents of middle and south peaks. During the ascent of the west ridge a cornice broke and Tom held Vin’s 50’ fall down the north side. After summiting the middle and south peaks, they summited the main peak at night, racing an approaching storm that pinned them down for two days. On the walk out the Kahiltna, Vin Hoeman writes, “The walkout took us nearly a week, traveling first by compass in a whiteout, falling into water-filled crevasses in a bad icefall, and finally completing our saturation in rain-soaked brush and swollen streams when we got off the edge of the glacier to cross Dutch and Peters Hills… ”
  • On the 40-year anniversary, 2003, Tom again summited McKinley. After trying on all the newfangled boots out there, Tom went back to the old school bunny boots. The 50th anniversary climb will probably be the same!
  • Recently Tom has been leading popular annual trips such as Mt. Ascension on the Kenai.
  • One of the great benefits of being on a trip with Tom and his wife Charlu are their knowledge of the flora and fauna. They can tell you what that bird is, what animal made that track, or what flower that is.
  • When Tom gets close to the summit of a peak, he has been known to use the “water bottle level” technique to determine which summit is higher. He stands on one summit and gets his eye level with the water surface in his bottle and looks out at the other summit. If he sees air, he is on top, if not, he climbs the other one too.
  • One of the ways Tom keeps going on these climbs is his disciplined rest schedule. When you climb with Tom, you will notice that he stops for a 5 minute rest and refuel every hour. However, you had better be ready to go after 5 minutes, because he is up and moving. Many have heard the old, “Well, I guess I’ll start moving up slowly” only to find him waiting on the summit! 
  • Climbing along unroped a corniced ridge in the Western Chugach, Tom unexpectedly dropped through a hole out of sight. He 9 partners were terrified and screamed “TOM! TOM!” As he climbed out of the hole, he scolded his partners for worrying, “I’m allllll right..”
  • Tom is a master of puns, and he is always looking for the perfect occasion to get in that perfect pun. In fact, “the punster” is probably cooking one up right now.
  • Those who have climbed with Tom know that his gear is notoriously old and some of it is in questionable shape. In recent years, he has been known to spend the majority of time in camp with a needle and thread trying to hold his gear together.

- Bill Romberg, June 2006 Scree

 Willy Hersman - Hoeman Award

Willy Hersman at the Mint Hut, July 2007.

Willy Hersman joined the MCA in 1979. Since then he has served and inspired countless Alaska mountaineers.

Trip Leading. Willy began leading trips in January 1982 with a trip across Portage Pass on Super Bowl Sunday. It was to become an annual tradition until its tremendous popularity (over 100 people would show up to make the traverse from Portage to Whittier) caused it to be curtailed for safety reasons. Willy's service as a trip leader continued for parts of three decades. He led at least 69 MCA trips and many of those trips involved training others in the skills required of mountaineers. He also led trips involving public service, such as trail clearing, hut construction, and hut maintenance.

Scree. In March 1982 Willy began to write articles for the Scree, sharing his trips with those who were unable to join him. Over the years he authored at least 72 articles in the Scree. In August 1983 Willy served as the typist for the Scree. The next month he assumed the role of Scree Editor. It was a position he would hold until April 2002. Willy also served as Scree Editor from February 2003 to April 2003 and again from June 2004 to February 2005. In all, he edited 236 issues of Scree, far more than any other Scree Editor.

MCA Leadership. In 1983 Willy was elected to the MCA's Board of Directors. In 1985 he was elected Vice President and in 1987 he was elected President of the MCA and continued to serve on the Board of Directors until 1989.

Huts. Willy was the driving force behind the construction of four MCA huts in the Chugach and Talkeetna Mountains – the Scandinavian Peaks Hut, the Bomber Hut, the Dnigi Hut, and the now-decommissioned Bock's Den. He proposed hut locations; helped build and ready the huts for transport; helped erect the huts; and helped maintain them for years.

Peakbagging. Beginning with his March 1983 ascent of Chichantna Peak and continuing to his July 5, 1997, ascent of Rusty Mountain, Willy made 25 first recorded ascents of peaks in the Tordrillo, Chugach, Kenai, Wrangell, Western Chugach, and Talkeetna Mountains. Atop Hunters Peak on June 30, 1990, he became the first person to climb all 21 recognized 7,000-foot peaks in the Western Chugach Mountains.

Website. In 1999 Willy launched the MCA's website from his home computer. Willy donated the server and the internet access to the MCA. He designed the web pages and wrote his own programs to allow it to function, adding downloadable Screes, a bulletin board, and an index of peaks linked to the downloadable Screes in which the individual trip reports appeared.

Volunteerism. For three decades Willy has been a devoted volunteer for the MCA. In the April 2002 Scree he wrote about volunteering, "the person who gives gets more than the people who receive, a fact that you can only appreciate if you try it." The MCA is deeply indebted to Willy Hersman for his decades of volunteerism and encourages all members to find the appreciation of service that he did.

Awards. For his significant contributions to the exploration, documentation, and promotion of hiking and climbing opportunities in Alaska, Willy was the first recipient of the MCA's Hoeman Award in November 2002. The same day he was also the first recipient of the MCA's President's Award for his service to the MCA. As part of the Hoeman Award, Willy was granted honorary lifetime membership in the MCA.

- Steve Gruhn, December 31, 2009





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Many thanks to: Wayne Todd, Tim Silvers, Ross Noffsinger, Steve Gruhn, Carrie Wang, Billy Finley and many others who provided information, ideas and photos. And thanks to Willy Hersman who created, managed and hosted the first MCA website, without which this site's development would have been so much more difficult. Current website donated by Couloir Graphics.