It is believed that the presence of anticrossings with exponentially small gaps between the lowest two energy levels of the system Hamiltonian can render adiabatic quantum optimization inefficient. Here, we present a simple adiabatic quantum algorithm designed to eliminate exponentially small gaps caused by anticrossings between eigenstates that correspond with the local and global minima of the problem Hamiltonian. In each iteration of the algorithm, information is gathered about the local minima that are reached after passing the anticrossing nonadiabatically. This information is then used to penalize pathways to the corresponding local minima by adjusting the initial Hamiltonian. This is repeated for multiple clusters of local minima as needed. We generate 64-qubit random instances of the maximum independent set problem, skewed to be extremely hard, with between 105 and 106 highly degenerate local minima. Using quantum Monte Carlo simulations, it is found that the algorithm can trivially solve all of the instances in ∼10 iterations.