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Future First Ascents: The Faces of the Mugs Stump Award

Recently, we announced the winners of this year’s Mugs Stump Award, an alpine climbing grant funded by a collaboration of Black Diamond, Mountain Gear, Patagonia, W.L. Gore and us. The decision came after we sifted through 148 pages of applications from one of the most competitive groups of applicants the committee has seen. In our January 13, 2013 NewsWire, we introduced their objectives. Now meet the nine teams chasing those summits with all of Mug Stump’s boldness and commitment to light and clean alpinism.

North Ridge of Shispare Sar (7611m), Karakoram, Pakistan

Doug Chabot, Bruce Miller, Rusty Willis

Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller have a strong history of climbing together in Alaska, India and Pakistan, including alpine-style ascents of K7 and Hispar Sar. Rusty Willis teamed with Doug for a month of alpine rock climbing in Pakistan last summer, which has led to a solid partnership. Bruce’s breadth of high altitude climbing, Rusty’s technical strength and Doug’s experience on six Pakistan expeditions creates a complementary skill set to pull off an alpine-style ascent of Shispare Sar.

Tahu Rutum (6651m) and Kunyang Chhish East (7431m), Karakoram, Pakistan

Hayden Kennedy, Kyle Dempster, Urban Novak [Photo] Kyle Dempster collection

Urban Novak is the Slovenian powerhouse and super intellectual PhD student. Hayden Kennedy and Kyle Dempster are grateful to have him as a partner, especially when he breaks trail at high altitude. Hayden is a super technical master of all climbing disciplines and lives in his van. Kyle owns Higher Ground Coffee and likes climbing because it makes him look good naked (or at least he thinks so).

One of two Mugs Stump-funded teams attempting the peak this year, Dempster, Kennedy and Novak will try a line on the unclimbed west face of Tahu Rutum. Dempster spent 24 days on the face in 2008, solo, bailing less than 300m from the summit. Next, the team hopes to climb the southeast face of Kunyang Chhish East, just down-glacier from Tahu Rutum.

Lunag Ri (6909m), Himalayas, Nepal

David Gottlieb and Chad Kellogg [Photo] David Gottlieb

David Gottlieb and Chad Kellogg met in the winter of 1995 while climbing in Joshua Tree and worked together at Mt. Rainier for several years. They’re now both in their forties and live in Washington. Kellogg, who owns a home-remodeling business, has spent the last year living from his truck on job sites in Seattle to save money for climbing trips. “You know Chad is fast and strong, etcetera, but for my purposes, more importantly, (he’s) a solid trad climber with good skills across the board,” said Gottlieb. “He also has a strong head and never ever whines while on route.” Based out of Carlton, Washington, Gottlieb has been a seasonal park ranger for 16-some years. He considers himself a generalist climber, “not great at anything but OK at most.”

Gottlieb and the late Joe Puryear climbed the southeast summit of the Lunag Ri massif in 2009. This year, Gottlieb will return with Kellogg, with whom he climbed Pangbuk Ri (6716m) in 2011, to attempt the 6909m main summit of the massif.

West Face of Middle Peak, Saint Elias Range, Alaska

Colin Haley, John Frieh, Daniel Harro

Both responsible family men living in Portland, Oregon, John Frieh makes computer chips while Daniel Harro saves people when their houses catch on fire. Colin Haley is a self-described lazy derelict who lives either in his father’s backyard or his girlfriend’s apartment, but does come from Seattle, which he says is definitely a bit cooler than Portland. Although the three have never climbed all together, they are bonded by a love for, and apprenticeship in, the Cascade Mountains, where people don’t make up silly excuses when they don’t reach the top of the mountain, aren’t ashamed to wear gaiters and consider Ramen a basic food group.

Scott Bennett and Graham Zimmerman [Photo] Graham Zimmerman collection

Northwest Ridge of Tahu Rutum (6651m), Karakoram, Pakistan

Scott Bennett (Boulder, CO) and Graham Zimmerman (Seattle, WA) first meet while residing in Yosemite during the summer 2009. Ever since they have been close friends and have climbed together all over North America. The northwest ridge of Tahu Ratum will be a fantastic challenge for these two climbers, they say, requiring a broad range of skills sets on a very aesthetic line ascending a beautiful peak.

East Face of Mt. Hayes south summit (13,305′), Alaska

Samuel Johnson and Ryan Johnson

Samuel Johnson is a lifelong Alaska resident devoted to exploratory alpinism, art and experiential learning. This passion has taken him to mountains in Alaska, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. He and partner Ryan Johnson, an underground miner, skier and alpine climber, first teamed up in 2012 near Juneau, Alaska, for big new ice lines, and attempted Kizil Asker in Kyrgyzstan last fall.

The pair plan to climb the 6,000-foot west face of Hayes in a 24- to 36-hour push, expecting to find the crux of the climb in a 2,000-foot section of ice.

K6 West (7100m), Karakoram, Pakistan

Jesse Huey, Ian Welsted, Raphael Slawinski. Photographers, from left to right: Jesse Huey collection, Raphael Slawinski, Jon Walsh

Jesse Huey met Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted in the Canadian Rockies in 2008. The Canadian pair of Slawinski and Welsted has racked up an impressive list of climbs both at home in the Rockies and around the world. Huey, based out of Boulder Colorado, is also an active alpine climber, making multiple trips to South America, Alaska, Asia and Europe. The trio, having actually climbed a limited number of days as a team of three, is excited to see what their potential can produce collectively in the Karakorum.

K6 West has been the focus of much attention, culminating in 2007 when three exceptionally strong teams–Maxime Turgeon and Louis Phillipe Menard; Steve House, Vince Anderson and Marko Prezelj; Kelly Cordes and Scott Decapio–converged on the peak. None reached the summit. Most recently, in 2012, Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy and Urban Novak hoped to attempt the peak, but opted to climb a new route on K7 instead. Huey, Slawinski and Welsted expect to need five to 10 days of perfect weather to climb the estimated 3,000 feet of vertical gain through technical ridges, ice and mixed terrain.

South Pillar of Panbari (6905m), Peri Himal, Nepal

Clint Helander and Mark Westman

Despite having grown up hiking and skiing in the Sierra, Mark Westman didn’t rope up for the first time until age 22 on Mt. Rainier. In the subsequent 21 years, Westman fell in with a strong and motivated group of aspiring alpinists, using the Cascades and Yosemite as training for ambitious adventures in the Greater Ranges. One of that group is his partner on this year’s attempt on the South Pillar of Panbari, Clint Helander, who developed his intense interest in alpine climbing through the University of Alaska Outdoor Club. Moving beyond basic ice climbing and mountaineering, Helander took as many trips to the Alaska Range as his teachers would allow. He and Westman became fast friends during short, but memorable shared ventures on the rope.

This October, they will head to Nepal and trek 75 kilometers from Besisahar to the base of Panbari, north of Manaslu. The peak was first opened to climbing in 2002, and saw its first and only ascent four years later by a five-person Japanese team in expedition style. Helander and Westman will attempt Panbari by its unclimbed South Pillar in alpine style.

East Face of Cerro San Lorenzo, Patagonia, Argentina

Josh Wharton, Mikey Schaefer, Bryan Gilmore. Photographers, from left to right: Patagonia, Inc., Mikey Schaefer, Bryan Gilmore collection

It took one email from Bryan Gilmore to convince Mikey Schaefer and Josh Wharton to join him on an attempt of San Lorenzo this year. All three have climbed in the Fitz Roy/Cerro Torre region. Schaefer alone has put up seven first ascents there. Travelling into Perito Moreno National Park will require a marked increase in commitment, with a much longer approach and few other visitors. Despite those challenges, they expect the crux of the trip will be learning Spanish.

Find out what happened to last year’s Mugs Stump teams here.