Take Me Outdoors Ep.10: Entrepreneurism and Activism with Phil Powers

By Kristin Carpenter-Ogden

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“Climbing and the American Alpine Club have grown substantially over the last 10 years, and this growth allows us to do more of what we want to do: more good in the world.”

– Phil Powers

Famed climber and alpinist Phil Powers has pioneered thirty personal expeditions around the globe, including the first ascent of the Washburn Face of Denali and climbing K2 without supplemental oxygen. His visionary leadership and roles as entrepreneur and educator in the outdoor industry have grown equally influential. Phil currently serves as the CEO of the American Alpine Club, where he has vastly expanded the organization’s membership base and education and conservation efforts. Phil formerly served as the vice president for institutional advancement at Naropa University and worked for seventeen years with the National Outdoor Leadership School as chief mountaineering instructor and development/partnerships director. An entrepreneur and author, Phil also owns Jackson Hole Mountain Guides and wrote NOLS Wilderness Mountaineering.

In this episode of the Take Me Outdoors podcast, Verde founder and CEO Kristin Carpenter-Ogden sits down with this mountaineering, climbing and outdoor industry legend to talk about the role of the outdoor industry in conservation and outdoor activism in a rapidly changing political climate. They also discuss how to the AAC works to improve climbing safety and education as the sport continues to diversify and grow, so that everyone can get outside. Phil shares what he learned working for NOLS for 17 years and mountaineering around the world; how he became an author; how business taught him to pause and be mindful; and ultimately, why despite all of his epic adventures, Phil would rather be rock climbing in the sun with his family.

Phil is a visionary and inspiration to everyone excited about getting outdoors and preserving the planet, and we hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!


  • Established in 1902 by climbers and conservationists, the American Alpine Club (AAC) is a goods and services organization that supports climbing and climbing landscapes. In addition to providing lodging and rescue services for its members, AAC plays an instrumental role in conservation, advocacy, and encouraging people to get outside through grants and education.
  • After expanding its membership from 4,000 to 18,000 over the past 10 years, AAC is capitalizing on its blossoming base to do more good in the world, especially by deepening its commitment to public policy. AAC advocates for federal policies that protect and preserve public lands to ensure that organizations and individuals can get outside and can learn to do so the right way.
  • AAC partners with organizations like the Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, and Access Fund to find and forward state and federal legislation that funds conservation and prevents the transfer of public lands to new ownership that would limit people’s access to them. AAC also mobilizes support through motivating members to participate by writing letters to and calling legislators.  
  • AAC continues its legacy of funding climbing, conservation and research projects through its grants program, which is larger than ever before. AAC will give away $60,000 in Live Your Dream grants this year.
  • AAC is committed to expanding its education program, which entails streamlining education across the country and improving educational quality. This consists of working with institutions effectively to make sure climbing curricula are similar and by beginning to certify climbing instructors.
  • Climbing is expanding and diversifying. Passionate about making climbing and exploration accessible to all, Phil and AAC welcome new climbers at the gym to the outside by increasing education.
  • AAC Universal Belay Program strives to standardize belaying across the U.S. so that every American climber is armed with the knowledge and practice to belay in  fundamentally sound way. The curriculum promotes three fundamental principles of belaying technique.
  • Phil has written two books, an expedition planning guide (Climbing: Expedition Planning (Mountaineers Outdoor Expert) and the work he is most proud of, the textbook for mountain climbing at NOLS (Wilderness Mountaineering).
  • As the Vice President for institutional advancement at Naropa University, Phil learned the power of pause. Punctuating the beginning of a time you want to spend with friends, family or colleagues enables you to come together collectively and mindfully. A pause is situational, and can entail bowing before dinner, summoning people together with a gong, or honoring partnership– the most central aspect of climbing– through formally checking each other before you start.


Posted in Take Me Outdoors | Tagged: AAC, American Alpine Club, Phil Powers


Kristin Carpenter-Ogden

Founder, CEO