Ascend Welcomes Our Newest Board Member: Phil Powers

Updated: Feb 5

As our organization grows, we are thrilled to introduce a new powerhouse to our board: Phil Powers. Phil spent fifteen years as CEO of the American Alpine Club (AAC), where he focused on bringing more diversity to the organization and the climbing community at large.

"My main agenda there was to make sure that the AAC became the club for all climbers," said Phil.

"While growing to 25,000 members from 5,000 over the course of fifteen years, we changed the gender balance of the organization substantially. During the last three years, we enrolled more women staff members than men, with a focus on enrolling more people of color to our team."

Phil maintains that these results are a positive step forward, yet there is still more work to do. He is excited to have left the organization with a solid foundation for continued growth and success.

Now that Phil has retired from his fifteen-year stint at the AAC, he looks forward to dedicating his time to help improve the world through combating climate change and educating women.

He believes that in order to save the planet, women must be empowered. This is one of the reasons he was drawn to Ascend.

"If you look at methodologies for changing our climate direction, educating women and educating their children - especially in places where that is difficult - is key to that entire trajectory," said Phil.

Ascend encourages girls to pursue their education and establish a plan for achieving their dreams. Our mountaineering-based leadership program helps girls develop the confidence to pursue their own path and show up as leaders in their communities.

“There's a lot of people who struggle, especially in places like Afghanistan, but if they can experience the power of the success that comes from getting to the top of a pitch or getting through a training program maybe that can extend to the rest of their lives totally.”

"Whether we eliminate it from our lives is a separate choice, but we are all born as climbers.”

Phil Powers climbing in the Red Rocks (left), and with his son (right).

If there is one thing that Phil has learned during his job at the AAC and years of teaching and guiding at Jackson Hole Mountain Guides, it's that climbing really does change people's lives. He caveats, however, that the term "climbing" extends beyond its literal sense.

“I think people need to remember that climbing is everything. When you're a two year-old child and you climb up your first flight of stairs that's a big deal. People talk about free soloing as this crazy idea but we all free solo. We all free solo up the flight of stairs to the post office; we free solo down the sidewalk. You choose your limit. I like to extend the word climbing to many versions of that idea.

Climbing is getting outside, being vertical, enjoying the fact that you're breathing air and being aerobic. Maybe you take it somewhere special. Maybe you take it to an end game. But climbing is a very diverse thing and we all do it. We're all born doing it. Whether we eliminate it from our lives is a separate choice, but we all are born as climbers."

When asked about his hopes for the future of Ascend, Phil says that he hopes to add value to an organization that has already built momentum towards success.

"I'm joining the Ascend board at a time when so much hard work has been done by others to get it moving that now I can come in and and maybe add some value at a time when there's real leverage to that added value," said Phil.

Phil feels strongly that his generation owes a responsibility to our planet and the next generation. He believes that this generation can do a better job.

"I would like to find a way to apply what little I've learned about leadership or organizational development or governance to an organization that can make a difference for our planet.

I think Ascend is one of those organizations. I do think that changing the trajectory for women around the world will have leverage."

As an organization, we are excited to work with our growing team of volunteers and board members to help improve the trajectory of women and girls in Afghanistan. We look forward to fostering the foundation of success that we have built and pursuing solutions to help improve the lot of all girls in Afghanistan.

Learn more about Ascend by following us on Instagram @afghan_ascend or visiting our website. Help us continue our work by donating to our cause: can also help by joining our team for virtual yoga sessions. Sign up on our website.

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