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Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum

Museum Devoted to Climbing and Climbers

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Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum

The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, Colorado offers lots of fun and educational exhibits about climbing.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum, housed in the American Mountaineering Center just north of downtown Golden, Colorado, is an informative and educational museum dedicated to mountain sports, including rock climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing in the United States and around the world.

Diverse Mountain Exhibits

The American Mountaineering Museum offers lots of diverse educational exhibits, including the history of American free climbing, the famed 10th Mountain Division from World War II, a Roof of the Rockies display on Colorado climbing, a 135-square-foot scale model of the Mount Everest region, avalanches, types of rocks, mountain cultures, and the effect of global warming on mountain environments.

Named for Mountaineer Bradford Washburn

The museum, named for the late Bradford Washburn (1910-2007), a great American mountaineer, explorer, photographer, and cartographer, honors his memory and accomplishments. Washburn was one of the world's leading mountaineers from the late 1920s until 1960, doing the first ascents of many major peaks, particularly in Alaska. These included Mount Luciana in the St. Elias Range in 1937; Mount Sanford in the Wrangall Mountains in 1938; Mount Hayes in the Alaska Range in 1941; and the popular West Buttress route on Denali in 1951. Washburn was also a pioneer in aerial mountain photography, making many striking black-and-white images of Alaskan peaks and mountain ranges as well as a mapmaker, creating detailed maps of the Denali-Mount McKinley area and Mount Everest. He also established the Boston Museum of Science and served as its director from 1939 to 1980.

Colorado Climber Albert Ellingwood

The American Mountaineering Museum also honors other great American climbers like Albert Ellingwood (1888-1934), a Colorado College professor who made many pioneering ascents in the American West through the 1920s including the first ascents of Lizard Head and the Ellingwood Arete on Crestone Needle, a Colorado Fourteener. Ellingwood learned climbing skills and current ropework in England as a Rhodes Scholar and then brought those skills back to Colorado. He was one of the first climbers to ascend all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot mountains. Some of Ellingwood's interesting artifacts displayed at the museum included his journal notes about Colorado climbing and a 3A Autographic Folding Pocket Kodak box camera from 1914.

Famed K2 Ice Axe Displayed

Other interesting artifacts on display include Pete Schoening’s famed ice axe with which he saved five falling climbers during an American attempt on K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in 1953; equipment used by the U.S. Army’s elite 10th Mountain Division soldiers in battles in the Italian Alps; cultural objects like a handmade Dorje Thorlo mask used in rituals at Tengboche Buddhist Monastery in Nepal; and an oxygen cylinder recovered on Mount Everest's north side that was possibly used in the 1922 British expedition led by George Mallory, which was the first one to use supplemental oxygen. Another interesting exhibit is a large three-dimensional model of the Mount Everest region that was made in 1980 and based on a large-scale map created by Bradford Washburn.

Visit the Base Camp Store Too

Also check out Base Camp, the museum store run by the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), with lots of cool gifts like climbing magnets, t-shirts, calendars, maps, books, stuffed mountain animal toys, jewelry, and souvenirs. Another interesting stop in the American Mountaineering Center is the American Alpine Club's library with its large collection of guidebooks, climbing magazines, and climbing literature.

Museum Located in Golden, Colorado

The Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum is located in the American Mountaineering Center (Home of the American Alpine Club) at:
710 10th Street
Golden, Colorado
It’s easily accessed from Denver via I-70, C-470, US 6 and CO 58 or from Boulder via CO 93.

  • Admission for Adults is $6.50 and for children is $4.50.
  • Members of the American Alpine Club, Colorado Mountain Club, and National Geographic Society pay $3.25.
  • Group rates are available: Call for details.

  • The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursdays are open until 7 p.m.

  • For more information and updates call:
    (303)996-2755 or visit the American Mountaineering Museum website.

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