Honorary Members

John Christian (Deceased)

John Christian was a long-time member of the Mountaineering Section (PATC-MS). He was also a member of the Alpine Club of Canada, the American Alpine Club (ACC) and many other outdoor and professional organizations.

John discovered mountaineering and rock climbing in 1952 on his first trip to Europe. Returning to the Washington DC area, John quickly fell in with climbing at Carderock and Great Falls.  He participated in more than 20 first ascents at Seneca Rocks. John also climbed in the Rockies and particularly in Canada. He participated in a number of first ascents including that of Mt. Rhodes in the Clemenceau area, along with new routes on Mt. Stanley and Mt. Livingstone in 1972.  

John’s participation in mountaineering organizations went well beyond climbing. He served as both Chair of the Mountaineering Section and editor for Up Rope. Together with Joe Wagner, John organized the Blue Ridge Section of the AAC in 1978. In 2018 he received a “Lifetime Achievement” Award from the AAC. 

In the 1970s, as the number of climbers and foot traffic increased at crags nationwide, John became active in environmental advocacy projects, leading efforts through both the Mountaineering Section and the AAC to preserve climbing access and conserve fragile environments.

For the last three decades of his life, John shared his love of the mountains, and his adventurous, optimistic outlook on life with his wife Kate Hughes. They traveled widely, hiking and skiing in the mountains of North and South America and in Europe.

John passed away in 2022 at the age of 93.  His obituary with details of his life can be found here John F. Christian 1929 – 2022.

Jan and Herb Conn (Deceased)

Summarized from Wikipedia…..Jan Conn and Herb Conn were climbing and caving pioneers across the US. They are credited with establishing many classic climbs at Carderock, Seneca Rocks, Cannon Cliff and in the Black Hills of South Dakota. 

Herb Conn was an electrical engineer for the Navy Department in Washington DC during WW II. They began climbing in 1942 at Carderock, establishing many of the routes including Herbie’s Horror, Jan’s Face, Spider Walk and Ronnie’s Leap, the latter named after their dog. Herbie’s Horror was one of the first 5.9s in the US.  They also made the first documented ascents of the classic routes Conn’s East and Conn’s West at Seneca Rocks, following the pitons left by the mountain troops who trained there.  And in 1944 they started publishing Up Rope, which soon became the official newsletter of the Mountaineering Section.

In 1947 they settled in the Black Hills of South Dakota where they made around 220 first ascents in the Needles and published a climbing guidebook to the area. After buying land they built a small, rustic stone home they called Conncave where they lived off the grid, without running water or electricity, for the next 60 years.

In 1959, they were introduced to caving in Jewel Cave by their friend Dwight Deal who had done some exploration there. That initial trip turned into a passion of exploring Jewel Cave that lasted for over 22 years and took over 6,000 volunteer hours on 700 trips. From 1959 to 1979, Herb and Jan mapped 62.36 miles of the interior of Jewel Cave. The Conns’ book The Jewel Cave Adventure serves not only as a record of their years of cave exploration here, but as an exciting tale of adventure even for non-cavers.

Herb Conn passed away in May 2012 aged 91, and Jan Conn in May 2023 aged 99.

James Eakin

James started climbing with the PATC-Mountaineering Section in the mid 70s. He climbed with the club for the next two decades locally, at Seneca, the Gunks, and the New, as well as on vacations in the Tetons, Rockies, Cascades, Sierras and British Columbia. He was an active leader of climbing trips and taught numerous club climbing courses in this period, and also served as the club vice-chairman 1981 and club chairman in 1982.

At that time, the Mountaineering Section received funding for Up Rope and other activities through membership dues and an annual budget request to the parent club. James thought there had to be a way for the club to be more financially independent, and as a result he wrote the first edition of The Climber’s Guide to Great Falls of the Potomac, with the profits from the guide to go to the Mountaineering Section. Two years were required to complete the guide with cliff photos, route descriptions and maps.

In June 1985, James was made a life member by the Mountaineering Section, with the following letter:
“Dear James: On behalf of the PATC Mountaineering Section, it is my great pleasure to announce that at the regular meeting on May 8, 1985, the Section approved, unanimously, a motion to award you with Life Membership in the Section. The motion, offered by Chairman Tom Russell, recognized your many years of contribution to the club, including serving as an officer, trip leader and guidebook author. Your generous offer to donate your share of the proceeds of the Great Falls guidebook sales to the Mountaineering Section will establish a secure foundation upon which the club can grow. We have been fortunate to enjoy the benefits of your leadership and commitment to the club over the past years, and hope that as a Life Member, you will continue to share in our activities. Safe climbing. Stuart Pregnall, Vice Chairman.”

Pete Grant (Deceased)

Pete moved away from the DC area in 2003 but for many years before that had been an enthusiastic club member, organizing trips, serving on the committee and climbing at every opportunity.

Pete was born in Finland in 1940 and moved to the US in 1953. He went to school, joined the Army, served in Vietnam, left the army and became a programmer, often working for the Department of Defense.

Pete joined the Mountaineering Section around 1980. He led many trips for the club, taught climbing and mentored new climbers. As a climber, Pete focused on enjoying the outdoors, the companionship, and the joy of moving in vertical terrain. He was not focused on grades, didn’t brag about his accomplishments, and preferred trad climbing to sport climbing.

Pete was Vice-Chairperson (1986) and Secretary for part of 1983 and for 1985. He edited the newsletter, Up Rope, for the club for many years and almost single-handedly wrote entire issues in the early 1980s, taking many of the photos. He also maintained the club database.

Pete Grant passed away in December 2021 just before his 80th birthday from complications with Parkinson’s disease. More details of Pete’s life can be found here Remembering Pete Grant.

John Gregory

John has long been involved with climbing in this area.  He was a partner with John Markwell at the Gendarme, and together they started the Seneca Rocks Climbing School. They were also among the founders of the American Mountain Guides Association. John wrote a how-to book called “Rocksport: Tools, Training, and Techniques for Climbers” published in 1989 by Stackpole Books.

John gave the Club the copyright to his Carderock guide so they could use his material for the Mountaineering Section guide and worked with Selma Hanel on this. John also edited the printer’s galleys for her. 

John has been active over a number of years in the development of climbing at local areas. For PATC, John signed the original agreement to do restoration work at Carderock. John was also involved with trail construction at Seneca Rocks and building the pavilion at Seneca Shadows.

John is a regular at Carderock and wherever the rock beckons.

Ozana Halik

Ozana revitalized the Club in 2005 when membership and participation was at a critical low. He would hear no part of dissolving the club and soon took charge. His slogan was “LEAD,  FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY”. Ozana applied for a gear grant from REI in which the Mountaineering Section was awarded $3000 and an assortment of climbing gear was purchased for use at club functions like Carderock Wednesdays, Seneca and GFNP. The gear collection has grown from ropes, harnesses and belay devices to ice tools, mountaineering boots and a circus tent. The gearmeister and gear room were created to keep track of, dispense and maintain the Club’s implements of diversion.

Ozana approved the creation of a Club database to bring the Club into the 20th century, which led to everything we do and see online involving the website and membership database. Ozana created ROCKBUSTER, an addition to the database which allowed the membership to check out videos. RopeBAY is a venue in which members can buy and sell their used climbing gear. In addition, Ozana designed and purchased the club t-shirts and club stickers.

Selma Hanel- Rosenthal

Selma began climbing at Carderock and the Gunks and enjoyed many trips with PATC in the 1980s before moving to Vancouver, British Columbia and then to upstate New York in 1999. She met her husband Stuart Rosenthal when they were both members of the club. In this period Selma was the editor of the Carderock Guide that was published by the club, and served as Club Secretary.

Selma received her PhD in plant sciences at the University of British Columbia and presently lives in Syracuse NY where she continues to hike, kayak and spend time outdoors. In recent years, Selma has been active volunteering with various New York State organizations that monitor and track the spread of invasive plants and insects that threaten local ecosystems.

Alex Tait

Alex grew up in Connecticut and started climbing at age 11 in the Adirondacks. His first lead was Bob’s Knob route on Chapel Pond Slab in 1981.  Surviving this and other adventures such as a ground fall on Cannon, he amassed a good collection of US and Canadian alpine routes including a number of the Fifty Classics. His ascents include:

  • Canada: East Ridge of Edith Cavell, North East Ridge of Bugaboo Spire
  • Tetons: North Ridge of the Grand Teton, Direct South Buttress of Mt. Moran
  • Wind Rivers: East Ridge of Wolf’s Head, North East Face of Pingora
  • North Cascades and Cascades: Ascents of Rainier, Hood, Jefferson, Shasta

Alex was active in leading Club trips in the 90s and served as Chairman in 1993.  He also produced the 2nd edition of the Great Falls Guide, in 2005 introducing photographs and route lines rather than diagrams.

Vincent Penoso

Vince has been a member since 1998. He served as the Up Rope newsletter editor until 2007. During these years he also served as secretary, vice-chair, gearmeister and webmaster. Vince edited, published and produced the Second Edition of the Carderock Climbing Guide. He also photographed all the images – including the cover, which is of legendary climber Chris Sharma.

Vince was inducted into honorary member status in 2010 for continued service to the club.

Annette Rebellato

Elected to the honorary list for her editing and layout expertise in the editing and publishing of the the Second Edition of the Carderock Climbing Guide.

Jeanette Helfrich

Jeanette has been a stalwart member of the Washington DC climbing community since the 1980s. She has served as a leader of both the Mountaineering Section (Chair 1989, Vice Chair 1988) and the Blue Ridge Section of American Alpine Club (Chair 1999-2003). As an active climber in our area, she has mentored many new climbers including many women climbers.

Over the years she has taken on numerous assignments for the Club. Her most recent contribution to our climbing community has been leading the effort to organize and digitize 68 years of Up Rope newsletters. She, along with others on the committee, collected old issues from past officers and members all over the country as well as from the PATC archives. Making Up Ropes accessible online will provide a valuable resource to area climbers to research history of local climbing areas as well as the history of expeditions and far flung trips by our members. Without her perseverance and attention to detail this project just would not have happened.

Martin “Marty” Comiskey

Marty has helped mentor and guide countless Club members through the rigors of foundational to advanced skills, especially in the areas of rope-work, anchor building and self-rescue. He has taught numerous seminars on these items and created a continuing series of small “skill clinics” at our Carderock Wednesdays. For the past few years he has led at least two day-long self-rescue clinics each year. His knowledge of climbing knots is seemingly endless and his energy for sharing these skills is equally boundless. Marty was inducted as an Honorary Member in 2013.

Robert “Bob” Graver

Bob has been a mainstay of the Club for years and served as Chairman in 2008 and 2009. He worked hard to create the Alpine Skills Weekend program that the Club holds each year on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. In addition, he has helped new trad followers and leaders as well as new ice leaders.

Bob has always had a high level of enthusiasm for climbing and for getting more people involved in the Club and on Club outings. He was inducted as an Honorary Member in 2014.

Neil Arsenault

Neil has been a PATC-MS member, and occasional Chair, since the 1970’s, almost as long as he has been an active climber. He was a significant figure in first ascents at Seneca Rocks and numerous other East Coast locations. Neil has also been important to the community through his career as an outdoor gear shop owner and extensive dispenser of expertise boot and crampon fitting and the 80’s revolution in rock and ice climbing gear and associated changes in technique. Numerous individual club members have benefited for decades from his advice and hands-on fixes in everything from crampon fitting to crevasse rescue training. Neil’s wide contacts in the community have lead to our annual Whitetail training day and have supported climbing access over the years. Neil was inducted as an Honorary Member in 2019.

Greg Christopulos

After Army service in Vietnam, Greg went to graduate school at American University in the 70s. A summer trip took him to Geneva, and let him get to Chamonix for a course and guided trips with the French Alpine Club. Greg joined the Mountaineering Section when he returned from Europe.

Greg has served as the trainer for new lead climbers, Treasurer, and Club Chair. Greg pioneered ice climbing at The Narrows (in New Jersey near Kintnersville). He has worked with our local ski area, Whitetail, so the Club could run the annual snow skills clinic there. He also organized the annual ice climbing trips to the Adirondacks.

Caroline Mosher

Caroline first joined the Mountaineering Section at the suggestion of her instructor after taking a top rope anchors class with REI. She quickly fell in love with climbing and progressed through top roping, sport climbing, and finally trad leading under the mentorship and guidance of the seasoned membership of the Mountaineering Section. Spurred by a desire to give back to the community that made her a climber, she served as Vice Chair and Chair throughout 2021-2023 with a break in 2022 to deploy to the Middle East as a nurse anesthetist.

As Chair, she spearheaded the creation of a women’s group within the Mountaineering Section to give women their own space to grow and learn as climbers. She also created a formal mentorship program in order to facilitate the passdown of knowledge from the club’s wealth of highly experienced climbers. Throughout her tenure, she led countless trips to Sugarloaf Mountain, Annapolis Rocks, Shenandoah, Rocks State Park, and Seneca Rocks. She became an honorary member in 2024 in recognition of her effort in revitalizing the club.