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Mugs Stump-Funded Expeditions: 2012 In Review

In 2012, the Mugs Stump Award committee (made up of representatives from the five supporters: Alpinist Magazine, Black Diamond, Mountain Gear, Patagonia and W.L. Gore) divvied up $33,500 among seven teams. This group of climbers best represented the type of bold, environmentally conscious and light-and-fast climbing style that made the late Mugs Stump one of the greatest mountaineers of his all-too-brief era.

By the end of the year, the climbers made several first ascents in Alaska, Russia and Pakistan. Not all teams, however, were met with success. One team was not granted travel visas while another found themselves short one partner and lacking desire after Yan Dongdong was killed in a crevasse fall. Find details and links to the full trip reports below.

This month, the committee pored over 148 pages of applications in one of the most competitive groups of candidates seen since the award’s inception in 1993. Click here to read about the 2013 winning teams and their objectives.

Franz Josef Land, Russia

Mike Libecki ventured above 82 degrees north latitude in his exploration of the climbing potential in Franz Joseph Land, Russia. After first visiting the distant archipelago in 2004, Libecki spent the following years tracking down a ship captain who could promise transportation, a permit and a rifle to protect himself from a healthy population of polar bears. Last year, Libecki hired a young Russian seaman who provided the first two–and a fistful of flares to make up for the lack of rifle.

Sailing throughout the island group, Libecki was turned away from several objectives by protected nesting birds (who had colonized the solid rock and left the choss to Libecki), multiple near misses by falling rock and hungry polar bears that had eaten two scientists the previous year.

Click here to read Libecki’s full trip report.

Revelation Mountains, Alaska

Last Spring, Clint Helander made his fifth trip to the Revelation Mountains of Alaska with partner Ben Trocki. Their main objective, the east face of an unclimbed, 8,940-foot peak called Golgotha, was a line that Ned Fletcher called, “a route for the next generation,” on an early exploration of the range in 1967. David Roberts said he believed it to be the Revelations’ hardest-to-reach summit. Despite high winds and exposure, the duo summited, though not by their planned direct line.

Helander and Trocki then found success where David Roberts and his team had failed–six times–on the south ridge of the Angel (9,265′) on their 52-day trip in 1967.

Click here to read the full story of their ascents in Helander’s trip report and our April 30, 2012 NewsWire.

K7 and Ogre I, Pakistan

Kyle Dempster, Hayden Kennedy and Urban Novak returned to K7 (6935m) after a 2011 attempt to finish linked ice chimneys and mixed steps up the unclimbed east face. Partway through they climb, they nearly gave up. “[C]onditions were grim. We were tired, cold and snow pelted our faces. The route ahead was unclear and the three of us spoke about our options for bailing,” wrote Dempster. “That was when Urban commented, ‘But this is what we came for, we knew it would be this way, we must continue.’ Urban’s words made the stark misery of the situation seem manageable. After all, K7 was our choice.” The trio summited on July 19 after Novak lead them through the final 200m of waist-deep, unconsolidated snow at over 6700 meters.

A month later, Josh Wharton roped up with Dempster and Kennedy at Skardu for an attempt on the Ogre I (7285m). After Wharton started feeling sick at 6900m–with a headache, muscle weakness and inability to hold down food–the trio weighed the pull of the summit with the safety of their team.

Read the full story in Kennedy’s trip report and our November 12, 2012 NewsWire.

Latok I, Pakistan

Josh Wharton received separate funding from the Mugs Stump Award for an attempt on Latok I, a mountain under which he has spent a cumulative six months in base camp between 2007 and 2009. Just after his partner bailed, he watched a heartbreakingly long weather window pass by. Considering a solo attempt but deciding he was not mentally prepared, Wharton solo climbed a smaller objective– the unclimbed northeast summit of the Middle Sister (ca. 5800m)–while he waited for Dempster and Kennedy to arrive on the Choktoi Glacier.

Wharton details his experiences on the Choktoi here.

St. Elias Range, Alaska

John Frieh, Dave Burdick and Zac West tested the habitually terrible weather that characterizes the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains, in hopes of summiting the unclimbed Middle Peak via its 5,000-foot west face. Heavy snow barely allowed the trio to fly onto the Hawkins Glacier and continued to encumber their primary climbing objectives for the duration of the trip. They instead ventured a line up to Point 8730, attempted Middle Peak by its southeast aspect and explored a fistful of potential new routes for future forays into the area.

Click here to read Frieh’s full trip report.

Tahu Rutum, Pakistan

Scott Bennet, Blake Herrington and Graham Zimmerman were awarded funding for an attempt on the northwest ridge of Tahu Rutum, in the Karakoram, a route they described as, “a perfect big mountain route… aesthetic, vast, remote and consistently steep, presenting technical challenges from hard free and wall climbing to steep ice and mixed terrain.” While they did secure a permit for the climb, the climbers were not granted travel visas before their departure date. Instead, they spent two weeks in the Waddington Range with Forest Woodward, putting up new routes on Stiletto Peak (3397m) and The Blade (3340m), among other climbs.

Sanlian Peak, China

The Mugs Stump Committee also awarded a grant to Steve Su, who planned to climb Sanlian Peak in Sichuan with Yan Dongdong and Zhou Peng, who he had met while they recovered the body of Jonny Copp on Mt. Edgar in 2009. On July 9, Yan, a leader in a promising alpine-style movement among Chinese climbers, died in a crevasse fall while descending from the summit of a previously unclimbed peak in the Tien Shan range of Western China.

Read Jon Otto’s obituary of Yan Dongdong here. Weeks before his death, Yan submitted an article to Alpinist about his vision of China’s alpine-climbing future. Click here to read the full text.