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Alumni Outdoor Pioneers

Frequent climbing partners Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney were nominated for the prestigious Piolet d'Or mountaineering award.
Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney

Although Gilmore and Mahoney could pass as an outdated detective sitcom, these two names have an opposite ring in mountaineering circles throughout the world. Ben Gilmore and Kevin Mahoney are both NOLS graduates who have recently chipped their way into fame by climbing around the globe, including three first ascents in the Alaska Range.

“I started climbing in 1990 while in school at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine,” says Gilmore. “I climbed every chance I could get for a couple of years and then I took a NOLS Wind River Mountaineering course in the summer of 1992. I took my NOLS Instructor course in 1993. I climbed during all of my free time in between work and living on the road in my van.”

The two climbers met while instructing their first NOLS course in 1994. They were leading students over Dinwoody Pass, in the Wind River Range, and were headed in opposite directions. “After that, we were on the same work track and ran into each other again at NOLS Pacific Northwest,” says Gilmore. “Our first climbing expedition was a month-long trip in the Waddington Range.”

Ten years later on April 2, 2004, the duo climbed a new route on the East Face of Moose’s Tooth in Alaska, which they named Arctic Rage. After completing this first ascent, the two were nominated for the Piolet d’Or, one of the most prestigious awards in mountaineering.

“We both went to France for the ceremony and they covered our expenses to travel over there,” says Gilmore. “It was easy come, easy go for us, and we never expected to win. We were just honored to be nominated and to get the chance to go over and meet some of the superstar alpinists.”

The climbing team has received other recognitions, including the Mugs Stump Award (2004), Lyman Spitzer Award (2003), and the Alpinist B-Team Grant (2003).

They also attempted an unclimbed route on Thalay Sagar in the Himalayas but unfortunately didn’t finish.

Through it all, the men have learned to work through some tough moments together. “On Thalay Sagar, we had a month of bad weather with lots of snow,” Gilmore says. “After waiting it out for a while, we started running out of time and went for an attempt trying to go very light without bivy gear. That day, the worst storm ended up coming in and dumping on us, so we had to retreat in a blizzard and tons of spindrift avalanching.  It was pretty scary.”

These days, the climbers can be found working winters for the International Mountain Climbing School in North Conway, New Hampshire.

- Will Waterman

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