The answers to these questions and more can be found at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in historical downtown Golden, Colorado.
The museum, named after mountain explorer and photographic pioneer Henry Bradford Washburn Jr., was created by the Colorado Mountain Club and the Colorado Alpine Club in February 2008.
Museum visitors can learn about the history and accomplishments of climbers around the globe, the evolution of climbing gear, the effects of climate change and the environments that climbers encounter.
The American Mountaineering Museum also offers an interactive experience where guests can jump a crevasse, climb into a portaledge (a suspended sleeping tent rockclimbers use to spend the night) and view one-of-a-kind artifacts while enjoying other learning stations that teach and entertain.
Among attractions is a scale model of Mount Everest and the surrounding craggy Himalayas in central Asia. The highly accurate representation is based on maps created by Washburn and the National Geographic Society. It took more than a year to create the sculpture made of shaved foam cut into five millimeter slices. Each slice represents five meters of elevation.
The American Mountaineering Museum showcases the history of mountaineering (dating back to the 1500s) and the advancements that have evolved in mountain climbing attire and tools, entertaining visitors with interesting facts. For instance, did you know that in the 1800s mountaineers wore petticoats, dress shirts, non-weather-resistant wool coverings, hob nail boots and cuff links?
Break-through techniques and gear have made climbing lighter, faster and freer, allowing climbers to ascend at record speeds. The museum highlights the transition, providing examples such as Colorado’s Naked Edge in Eldorado Canyon, which once was virtually unclimbable and now hosts climbers nearly every day in the summer.
The Nose of El Capitan, in California’s Yosemite National Park, took 17 months to climb in 1958 but in 2002 Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama climbed the Nose in two hours 48 minutes and 50 seconds.
Through each of the museum’s exhibits, the accomplishments and history of mountaineering unfold for climbing fans of all ages to enjoy.
Visitors to the Golden museum also will learn several interesting facts about recent trends and developments in mountaineering.
New ropeless climbing trends, such as bouldering, which requires extreme strength, power and dynamics, have taken off. Bouldering is especially popular in Colorado, where boulder-plenty landscapes are abundant.
A common misconception is that the term “free climbing” refers to climbers who don’t use safety gear. It actually refers to climbers who use their feet and hands to cling to the rocks, while ropes and equipment are used only as a safeguard for slipping. The correct term is “free soloing.”
Ski mountaineering has also gained popularity. Climbers climb winter peaks and ski their way back down. Amazingly, Mount Everest has been skied from top to bottom several times.
The center in Golden is also home to the Colorado Mountain Club, the American Alpine Club and Outward Bound.
The Colorado Mountain Club offers various trips for hikers, climbers and skiers to quench their thirst for adrenaline. But it is more than an outdoor recreation club.
The Colorado Mountain Club offers various trips for hikers, climbers and skiers to quench their thirst for adrenaline. But it is more than an outdoor recreation club. It provides an opportunity for people to meet with other people who love the outside world, and are knowledgeable of it. Opportunities to take classes and attend lectures are also available for those who are interested.
The American Alpine Club offers support to the climbing community.
And, Outward Bound is a nonprofit educational organization that inspires character development through learning expeditions, often using unfamiliar settings as a way to help students realize they can do more than they thought they could.
The American Mountaineering Museum hopes to spark the interests and imaginations of visitors to teach, as well as entertain. The museum is a place to honor the accomplishments of great mountaineers in history and share the joy that they have experienced from climbing with others.
As Italian climber Walter Bonatti once said, “A climber is not crazy. He is not out to get himself killed. He knows what life is worth. He is in love with living.”
If You Go
Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum
710 10th St.
Golden, Colorado 80401