Santa Cruz climbing gym and professional climber David Allfrey partner in support of climbing community

Words by Julia Townsend • Photos by Michael Bolte

“There is a decision moment in life where you have to accept some risk to have the rewards of success on any level.” — David Allfrey

Gazing at the movie poster for Free Solo the other day, it occurred to me that from the outside looking in climbing can seem like a solitary sport. But in reality, it is much more of a community endeavor. Partners provide belays, beta, and boost morale as needed. Venturing out of your comfort zone with friends can generate powerful bonds. So it makes sense that the community would rally around their own. On Saturday, September 15, 2018Pacific Edge Climbing Gym in Santa Cruz, California did just that by hosting a benefit with professional climber, adventurer, and alumnus David Allfrey. Approximately 75 community members were in attendance, helping to raise $3,000 for the American Alpine Club’s (AAC) recently launched Climbing Grief Fund.

In his presentation entitled “The Trango Towers of Pakistan: Fear and Commitment in the Greater Ranges,” Allfrey shared stories from his trip in August with North Face teammates Anna Pfaff and Andres Marin. From navigating the physical and mental trials of expedition life to dodging rocks high above base camp, he painted a vivid picture of his adventures on the American Route on Great Trango Tower and Eternal Flame on Nameless Tower. His narrative highlighted the personal nature of risk, as he shared some of the fears that confronted him while thinking of loved ones back home. While the gathering was festive overall, it came on the heels of the passing of two long time members of the local climbing community, Greg Galvin and Jay Dautcher. Allfrey expressed, “The event was really meaningful. It was great to raise money for the AAC’s Grief Fund. It was a powerful opportunity to be real about risks and rewards in the mountains and introduce the Grief Fund on a weekend where the local climbing community was feeling the very real and sad effects of loss. I hope this fund can help climbers in this exact situation now and in the future.”

Fellow big wall climber Madaleine Sorkin was the impetus to launch the Grief Fund. She recently completed a 24-hour climb in Black Canyon with Mary Harlan to raise funds and awareness about the new program. In Sorkin’s words, “This climb is motivated by the trauma of loss and change. People we knew, people we know, people we didn’t know and wish we had. Grief is part of the climbing experience, and while climbing is often fixated on stoke and sending, the expression of grief is also essential. We experience loss, we experience unwanted change, and inevitably we all find ourselves staring into the abyss, the void, the BLACK.”

The Grief Fund became available this fall with initial goals including: a grief resource webpage; individual counseling grants post-trauma and loss; group counseling sessions at AAC Craggin’ Classic events; and the development of a proactive response network that can be accessed after a trauma or death in the community. The AAC is currently working to build a network of grief professionals across the country. Readers with expertise who would like to join can contact Vickie Hormuth at To learn more go to and

The Association of Energy Engineers has set up a scholarship to honor Greg Galvin’s career in sustainability. Tax deductible donations can be made at Indicate “In Memory of Greg Galvin” to direct funds accordingly. A memorial fund has been established at the Indiana University Foundation to recognize Jay Dautcher’s scholarship in Uyghur studies and support emerging scholars. For details go to

Pacific Edge has been a special part of the community since 1993, and recently hosted its 25th Anniversary Party on November 11, 2018. The event was open to the public, with 50% of sales generated on that day donated to support the homeless in Santa Cruz.

Read more about David Allfrey at 

Learn more about Pacific Edge Climbing Gym at