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About the Club

The Caltech Alpine Club is a student organization--welcoming all members of the Caltech community--dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of the outdoors, and promoting the enthusiastic practice of alpine activities in every way. The Alpine Club serves the role of a general climbing club, with interests in just about all things alpine: climbing (including trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, sport and trad, and ice climbing), glisse (including skiing and snowboarding) and first-aid. We sponsor a variety of events, most notably the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Reel Rock Tour, and are partly in charge of the Caltech Rock Gym.

The club has sponsored expeditions to the Himalayas and Patagonia in the past, and also sponsors more frequent trips to California destinations and local social events. All trips are open to the entire Caltech community, including friends and families of students/researchers/workers. Additionally, the club has some gear which it currently lends out free of charge to members. The club also serves as a community organization and supports environmental causes in southern California.


The current incarnation of the club was founded in 1987 by Fritz Nordby, but the Caltech Alpine Club has been around since at least the 1950s, which we know because there is an old Climber's Guide To Caltech (PDF) from then and this 1971 article profiling Caltech's climbers (1.5 MB PDF, from Engineering and Science, Volume 34:6, April 1971). Any Tahquitz and Suicide guidebook mentions in its background section the legendary Chuck Wilts (PhD Caltech, 1948), a Professor at Caltech, and other Caltech climbers from then, who were doing some of the hardest climbs of that age in the nearby Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks. As an interesting aside, the Yosemite Decimal System was developed at Tahquitz by Wilts and other fellow climbers. Wilts was a pioneer of both modern climbing technology and of California climbs. Wilts invented the knife blade piton in the late 1950s, beginning the era of hard aid in Yosemite Valley. In addition to first ascents at Tahquitz rock (e.g. the classic finger trip), Wilts also made first ascents in Yosemite NP, including the first ascent of the Mathes Crest with his wife on their honeymoon. Wilts passed away in 1991 while hiking the Echo Mountain trail in Altadena. The legacy of Wilts is carried on in the club through continued dedication to climbing at Tahquitz rock, Yosemite, and climbing technology.

Notable Caltech alpinists

  • Chuck Wilts (BS 1940, PhD 1948, professor), mentioned above: inventor of YDS, numerous first ascents, pioneering American free climber, author of A Climber's Guide to Tahquitz. The EE department has the Charles Wilts prize in his honor.

{{#widget:ThumbnailLink |target=wilts-sm.jpg |src=wilts-sm.jpg |caption=Chuck Wilts |align=right |width=80 }}

Current membership profile

As of late September 2010, the membership breakdown (totaling 552) is:

  • Staff: 29 members
  • Faculty: 10 members
  • Grad Students: 130 members
  • Guests, Visitors and Summer Students: 16 members
  • Postdocs: 18 members
  • Undergrads: 63 members
  • Unknown Affiliation: 286

(Note: these statistics were collected by analyzing email addresses. For email addresses, we can tell what the affiliation is, but for department and gmail addresses, we cannot, and we put the email in "Unknown Affiliation". So these statistics are not especially accurate).

In October 2010, we made a survey of our members, as mandated by the Athletic Department. The results of this, as of Nov 2 2010, are:

  • 108 people responded
  • 23 female
  • 84 male
  • 12 alumnus/alumna
  • 2 faculty
  • 41 graduate student
  • 17 JPL
  • 11 other
  • 4 postdoc
  • 1 spouse/partner
  • 9 staff
  • 11 undergrad

Joining the club

To get active with the club:

  • Join the Email List - you're now a member! Remember when posting that there are several hundred people on this list.
  • Contribute to this wiki
  • Participate in club Events and plan your own!


  • Past presidents, emperors, and dictators:
    • Stephen Becker (President 2006-2011, Dictator 2011-perpetuity)
    • Sean Tulin (Emperor 2006-forever)
    • Daniel Lieberman (early 2000s)
    • Brett Maune (early 2000s)
    • Eric Wintenberger (2001 to 200?)
    • Paul Wiggins (2001 to 200?)
    • Kirk Hansen (199? to 2001)
    • Ben Arthur (1994 to ? )
    • Peter Green (1992 to 1994)
    • Andy Wellss (1990 to 1992)
    • Fritz Nordby (1987 to 1990) Founded the modern version of the club

Steering Committee

In addition to the offices and roles above, there is a newly created (as of 2011) 13-member steering committee to discuss and debate general club affairs:

About this Wiki

This section has been left intentionally vague to encourage creative contributions, but goals for the wiki include:

  • Serving as a homepage for the club, advertising the club, our events, and the Email List, our other main online presence
  • Storing information on the club's Members, Equipment and Library, as well as the Caltech Rock Gym
  • Providing various informational resources to climbers, including those coming on our Club Trips
  • Building a repository of information on Local Areas, especially those with scarce beta elsewhere
  • Maintaining useful Trip Reports from these areas.
  • Providing a flexible way for members to find and disseminate climbing-related information

See the Community Portal for more meta material and some ideas of how you can contribute!

See Also

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