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Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 28, 2007 - 03:17am PT
Mugs Stump

DOB: 28 August 1949 RIP: 21 May 1992

He would have been 58 this year. Quite an inspiration.

Thanks mate. You the man.

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These images are from an attempt on the Bauman / Lewis Route on the Eye Tooth, Alaska. He was 39 at the time.

Any images or stories out there?

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Aug 28, 2007 - 10:17am PT
I wrote this pasted-in-below piece shortly after Mugs passsed. It was published in a short-lived Brit magazine called . He was the man.


a distanced appreciation of Mugs

There are these mystics wandering about all our mountains. Not too many of them. It is very likely that a few of them get themselves killed in any given year. They don't make big headlines when they do, because nobody but a few other hard men know who they are or how they die.

– John Jerome, "The Hard Men," On Mountains

I didn't personally know Mugs Stump, who died last year (1992) on Denali at the age of 41, except in the way the New Testament claims: "By their deeds you shall know them." I have a deep respect for his deeds. In the early eighties I taught school with L. the quintessential armchair mountaineer. He worshipped Chris Bonington as someone might who relies on book knowledge for an understanding of the game. I remember when Outside published their article on the ascent of the North Buttress of Mt. Hunter, calling it the Last Great Problem (to give them their due, perhaps they called it the last great Alaskan problem. Either way it was one the last times I remember a climb being described in those terms). L. came in raving, flecks of spit flying in excitement: "You gotta love this guy, Mugs Stump. Can you believe this guy?" L. had found himself an American hero.
I can't help crazily juxtaposing Mugs and Jay Gatsby, the great American fictional hero who died young. Nick, the narrator of his story, speculates that Gatsby "paid a high price for living too long with a single dream." But who's to say what is too high a price?

Nonclimbers start calling climbers masochistic mystics with overwhelming death wishes; climbers maintain that nonclimbers simply don't understand. It is not that the truth lies somewhere in between these irreconcilable viewpoints; it is that the truth is unavailable.

– John Jerome

After I moved to Salt Lake City I'd see Mugs around from time to time though still didn't know him personally. The first time I saw Mugs he was hanging in the local shop, a great shop, in which it's often not possible to distinguish the employees from the people hanging around reading magazines and eating Mexican from the nearby fast food place. He was talking about routes in the Cathedral Spires. He was making them sound like afternoon bouldering problems, no doubt to appeal to his audience of predominantly sport climbers. Mugs was relaxed, no hard sell here, and at the same time I thought his expression "focused," faraway perhaps, but nothing dreamy about it. I didn't sense among the younger climbers who were listening any desire to do an Alaskan Grade VI. Precisely because they knew what was involved: deprivation, exhaustion, frostbite, and objective dangers. I can't blame them, after all, I probably have more in common with them than I did with Mugs. And while I admire them, the sport climbers who work for a month on a sequence of 12d moves, the admiration is more like that I have for a professional tennis player.
It sounded to me as if those young climbers were humoring him. Sure, they had a genuine interest; they enjoyed hearing his descriptions, but they were only window-shopping, at best. Around the same time I remember hearing a young guy at the same shop ask: "When are you going to get rid of these bogus mountaineering photos and put up some pictures of real climbing?"

The second time I saw Mugs was just last fall; one of those greater examples of synchronicity that makes you think, against such overwhelming evidence, that there is after all, some sort of plan at work (whose plan it is, and what it might mean remain, of course, in essence unknowable). I was at the bakery. That very day I had read in a newly arrived magazine that Mugs had soloed the Cassin on Denali in fifteen hours. The mere thought of it blew me away: the commitment, the speed. I have thought about the Cassin, studied the Washburn photos, had a sense of what is involved. I felt inspired by Mugs' achievement; not that I wanted to make immediate plans to do the Cassin (much less solo it), but just inspired to know there was someone out there who had done it. I felt privileged just to understand the magnitude of his accomplishment. The account added that Mugs' current home was his van in Salt Lake.
Hours later I walked to the bakery pushing my infant son in the stroller. There was Mugs waiting in line, longish hair streaked with gray. I thought twice before complimenting him on the Cassin – it was October, months after the fact. I was a geek with a kid in a bakery, getting ready to load up on far more carbohydrates than I would be burning off any time soon. Plus, I never knew how to actually pronounce Cassin – would my tendency to pronounce all foreign words as if they were Spanish betray me here? Finally, I did speak, telling him I admired the route and that soloing it was a truly amazing achievement, all the time thinking, "Is this what L. feels like?" I held back from saying I thought I might like to do the Cassin someday, thinking about how whenever someone introduces you as a writer, one in two people respond by saying, "I always wanted to write a book . . ." and if you're lucky they leave it at that. I told him I climbed on weekends and used to climb a little more. Mugs was modest – there was nothing really for him to say. I watched him drive off in his van and gave my son a raisin breadstick to occupy him on the walk home, half a mile, my only exercise of the day.

The last time I saw Mugs was at the Black Diamond open house. Many well-known climbers were there. I knew only the local people and few others by sight and reputation. Mugs was there. We nodded politely at each other–what would I say, "Hey, remember that time I saw you at the bakery?" Mugs just about fit in. He had on the right clothes–a bit more worn but clean, casually rakish. But I sensed a difference between him and the people in that crowd. It had to do with a certain indefinable leanness or readiness, and any further description lapses even further into cliché: the right stuff, the real thing, a hard man. A look more at home there, probably, than anywhere else; shared, even, by a few others. Nonetheless, I wondered if others envied Mugs. The others? Those spending fewer and fewer days in the mountains and more days taking care of business. Or was it vice versa: Did they secretly pity Mugs and might he have envied them?

I had been gone from Olympia only a few months when someone called to tell me that Unsoeld had died in an avalanche on Rainier. In the following weeks dark and speculative rumors abounded – not the sort to be voiced publicly – about how so and so had been to Rainier the day before the accident and pronounced snow conditions to be the worst he had ever seen; about how someone had heard Willi say that this next time up would be his last above 10,000 feet, that his hips wouldn't carry him any longer. Soon people began whispering, "he knew," packing into the two simple words deep and various meanings, accompanied by their own looks of knowledge. The truth is, of course, unavailable.
You will often read in tributes to climbers who die in the mountains that "they died doing what they loved," which, though no doubt true, does not mean that someone who dies climbing dies happily or chooses to do so. This "died doing what he loved " stuff is post facto rationalization that we the living make to comfort ourselves. I've joked about death during times it was probably closest. I wouldn't call it either bravado or false bravado, more like that by speaking the name of the beast, we dance with it at arm's length.
Bridwell titled the account of his and Mugs' ascent of the east face of the Moose's Tooth, "The Dance of the Woo Li Masters." There is a lot more truth to the title than Bridwell ever alludes to in the account. I don't just mean the dancing part. We all know the William Butler Yeats' poem (okay, perhaps not the poem but the concept at least) about being unable to tell the dancer from the dance –that is especially true when the dancer is gone and only a trace of the dance remains.
"Wu Li" is the Chinese term that means, roughly, "patterns of energy," or physics. But since "Wu" also means seventy-nine other things, depending on how its pronounced, the matter is considerably more complicated. Gary Zukav in his explanation of the new physics, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, gives the five essential meanings of "wu li": Patterns of Energy, My Way, Nonsense ("wu" as nonbeing or void), I Clutch My Ideas, and Enlightenment. They sound like chapters in an expedition account or a climber's biography.
But it is "masters" where Bridwell has struck a more exact chord. "Whatever he [the Master] does," writes Zukav, " he does it with the enthusiasm of doing it for the first time. This is the source of his unlimited energy." So must it have been for Mugs. How else could he climb the Supercouloir on Fitzroy, the East Face of the Moose's Tooth and the North Buttress of Hunter in a single year? How else could he solo the Cassin over ten years later, entering the fifth decade of his life?
If Einstein were a climber I doubt he would have said , "God does not play dice with the universe." Rather he would have often seen the dice rolling. How else can we make sense out of Bridwell and Mugs being able to rap off a single #3 stopper on one day and on another day for the mountain to move under Mugs' feet? So the dice roll.

When we start out climbing we are looking for something. We do not know what exactly that something is, but we know that we will recognize it when we find it. When we do find it, we are still relatively inarticulate about what it was we have found. We know that we want to find it again, bask in that moment. There is a very real sense in which these moments defy the ability of language to capture them. Peter Croft described an example of this phenomenon in his recent slide show. He said that when he sees the friends he had been with on an expedition to Nepal they don't even really talk to each other, they just sit around grinning at one another.
Mugs must have had a lot to smile about. In his own words, describing a night just below the top of Hunter's North Buttress: "I thought of what I'd done to get here, not just in the last four days, but in years past. For some reason, I felt part of some great movement, one of infinite scale, too grand to see but only to feel in the night's wind." There is a lot of the transcendent in climbing. We don't talk much about it, not only because we're not good enough with words, but that's part of our relative silence. It's understood; to speak publicly about it is–I don't know–unbecoming. Transcendency and death–the two great everpresents of climbing–we don't talk about them until we have to.
The poet Elizabeth Bishop asks, "Oh must we dream our dreams and have them too?" It's a plaintive cry. She's telling us there's tragedy in the attempt. Which brings me back to Gatsby–he made a couple mistakes: he thought the ideal could be made real, he thought you could repeat the past. Nick, the guy who tells the story is pretty much an observer of the events he writes about, the only thing he ever really does besides tell the story is tell Gatsby that he's "worth the whole damn bunch put together." Mugs dreamed the dream and had it, made the ideal climb reality, and repeated the past many times by climbing at the jagged, wavering edge of the abyss for so long. We love our heroes but we're damned hard on them. We admire them for making the choices we quite deliberately did not make. That day in the bakery I was far short of telling Mugs that he was worth the whole damn bunch put together–too unbecoming. But I think it's true; I'm saying it now.
Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Aug 28, 2007 - 10:21am PT
I met Mugs in Moab;.....he knew my name for I had climbed with his girl friend in Peru, and she had written to Mugs about climbing with me. We talked about climbing sanstone towers and such. A few years later, I was riding my bike from the west Coast to the east coast, and I saw Mugs and Conrad up on the Streaked Wall in Zion;.......It was cool to look up and see specks on that beautiful wall and put a face to it......He was the man. It was a pleasure to meet Mugs. Bridwell said that his two best partners ever were Mugs and Fling Brian McCray....THAT is a recommendation indeed.

'cross the great divide
Aug 28, 2007 - 10:30am PT
Mugs remains one of my heros to this day. I never knew him well, but crossed paths with him in CO and WY several times, and was always impressed by his positive and humble attitude.

Many years ago I was guiding the Snaz. My client (who is the brother of a CA climber, Ed Sampson, if I remember correctly)and I had gotten a very early start and were moving well. We were maybe four pitches up when we see a party approaching the base of the route. I was quite smug about the fact that we had started early and that we would finish the route well ahead of the party below. In maybe an hour the party caught up. It turned out to be Mugs, who was also guiding the Snaz. He was leading the route without placing any pro between belays. We shared a ledge with them, eating lunch, and Mugs told me that he was "training for the alpine" in the method he was leading the pitches.

When I heard that Mugs had been killed (from Derek Hersey, ironically enough) I got super drunk at a party that night(rather out of character for me) and woke up the next morning, somehow, in the back of my pickup. His death really hit me hard.
captain chaos

Aug 28, 2007 - 11:07am PT
Conrad, Bridwell has some good ones... if you don't have his contact info e-mail me and I'll get it out to you. I hope all's well and good job on Everest this spring- Craig
feelio Babar

Trad climber
Sneaking up behind you...
Aug 28, 2007 - 11:41am PT
my first year in Utah, a total neophyte climber, I chatted with Mugs once about some LCC routes and a long scary slab fall I had taken. Great guy. No attitude. It wasn't till a few years later, that I realized I had been to the mountain, and spoken to the prophet himself.

Cool post Conrad. Is it true you guys used carpentry nails on the streaked?

Trad climber
devil's lake, wi
Aug 28, 2007 - 12:09pm PT
No stories but that sad news back in 1992.

A previous girlfriend of Mugs I met in AK preached to my wife and I that guiding is dangerous stuff. Clients are always trying to kill themselves and trying to kill the guide.

Mountain climber
Aug 28, 2007 - 02:20pm PT
I was a young want-to-be groom without a master in the late '70s. Living in Telluride I met or saw Mugs a few times at parties or whatnot. Only heard through the whisper vine who he was and what he climbed (and heard more later over the years). But he had an inordinate influence on me even I never climbed with him and hardly knew him. As I recall he used to have this old rusting yellow panel van; filled with climbing gear, roaming from climb to climb or so I heard.

Now I'm over-the-hill once wanted-to-be but never became. Still dabble in the mountains occasionally, but I have an old van perpetually filled with all my climbing gear. Never thought about it but I suspect there is some influence. We can still dream of unending road-trips and unclimbed walls.

You go Mugs
rick d

Social climber
tucson, az
Aug 28, 2007 - 03:33pm PT
I met Mugs in the Valley shortly after he came off the Nose in a freak summer cold storm. I had his brother Edmund for Geology at ASU and knew of Mugs exploits for years. His partner on El Cap was some gal who kept relaying to everyone in the cafeteria about how dangerous the climb was- blah, blah, blah…Like anything in the Valley year round would be hard with Mugs as lead guy. Then Derek Hersey shows up and relays how he and his partner raced to catch Mugs to top out w/ them in tow on El Cap. Quite funny. Eric Kohl also was bitching about lightweights needing rescues. Them were the good ole days.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Aug 28, 2007 - 09:49pm PT
Never met the guy, but he was an inspiration through his accomplishements in the mountains.

Thanks Conrad for posting this rememberance.

Aug 28, 2007 - 09:51pm PT

What an awesome dude.

R.I.P brother ............

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Aug 28, 2007 - 10:08pm PT
Damn Dolomite, that's one hell of a post...

I never met Mugs, but stories of what he did have made a huge impact on my climbing. My favorite story is that one in Krakauer's "Eiger Dreams" where Mugs is soloing the Eiger, lost or off-route, or just over it, looking for the famed "green door" into the train tunnel and thus safety. He finds it, but not long afterwards, a train comes and he's forced to think himself thin, just narrowly (maybe the width of a gnat's dick) escaping death by dining coach.

Anyhow, a few years back BD ran a "What if Mugs were alive?" double-feature (Ice Catalog 2003.) Here's Doug Heinrich and Kennan Harvey's (respectively) take on the visionary. Enjoy.


"If Mugs were still alive, he would be traveling the world exploring new, untracked terrain. His insatiable desire to discover untouched, remote, alpine regions of our planet left his files full of aerial photographs and topo maps marking the “next big project.” Always reticent to divulge the actual location of an unfamiliar massif for fear of “the word getting out,” he understood there was more than a lifetime of untouched, pristine terrain, but also knew our resources are fragile and finite.

In Mugs’ future he would have been settling down in his funky house in Draper, Utah and adopting a slightly slower-paced routine. Like most explorers and alpine fanatics, Mugs was torn with the desire to enjoy the comforts of Western society and the drive to explore the unknown reaches of the world. Impassioned about his home and securing his financial future, he struggled with the challenge of finding a female soul mate who could deal with his eccentric lifestyle and his alpine idiosyncrasies.

Mugs needed to give his body some downtime to recover from years of hard use. Training and climbing locally to stay fit overrode the luxury of rest. He realized life is linear: there’s a beginning and an end, and what lies between the two points is the journey. With Mugs there was no time to rest.

If Mugs were still alive, he would applaud the accomplishments of the Mugs Stump Alpine Award recipients as well as other inspirational alpine ascents of late. Understanding the evolution of athletic achievement and embracing the next generation when they had soul, respect and integrity for the environment was a mantra for him. Mugs professed what he called “the higher intellectual form of the experience.” Disturbed about the ever-growing population of climbers who take and don’t give anything back to the sport, he would stress about those who didn’t have a clue about style, access and the valuable resources that we explore.

The new mixed craze might have left Mugs guessing, but then again he slowly embraced sport climbing when it was new to the USA in the 1980s. Before his tragic crevasse-fall death in 1992, Mugs was psyched about speed climbing in the Valley, Zion and alpine routes like the Cassin Ridge, expressing that we were just beginning to realize what it meant to go “fast and light.” He knew that pro€ciency at all genres of the sport is what produces the best alpinist.

As an alpine leader Mugs evolved the trade and the tools of the trade—he was a visionary. For him the journey was the joy, and it still saddens me that his journey came to an early end, but his energy and smile will always be with the few who were close to him. If Mugs had a legacy to leave us, it would be: “Appreciate the approach, the route, the summit, the descent and the journey back home. Most importantly, appreciate your partners.” D.H.


"When climbing standards rise almost as fast as rabbits propagate, it’s hard for a climber’s legacy to survive solely on their resume. Historical import requires the rare occasion when someone climbs with such style and vision that their lead is embraced and promulgated by subsequent generations—many of them. Terrance “Mugs” Stump was such a climber.

Of course Mugs climbed well—the Emperor Face on Robson, the East Face of Moose’s Tooth and the Moonflower Buttress of Mt. Hunter to name a few. By the early nineties his knees were shot from his football days at Penn State, and from the mountains. It was painful to watch Mugs hobble the short approach to American Fork, yet he still soloed the Cassin Ridge in 27 hours round trip. “In a day” was just beginning to rally climbers in ’91, mostly only in perfect-weather Yosemite. Mugs, however, learned locally and acted globally. “The Cassin wasn’t the ultimate,” he said. We were all blown away while Mugs was just sensing the future. Some feel he also sensed his own demise the next year in a crevasse on Denali, his favorite mountain. Visionary—that was Mugs.

What if fate differed and Mugs was still alive? Obviously, without the Mugs Stump Award the significant climbs from the past decade would be less. If he were alive, his friend Steve Quinlan suggests Mugs would have his own guide service in Alaska, complete with Park Service bickering. Or, Mugs could have gone through the ranks at North Face, as well as the women, and would now only be kayaking because of his knees.

“I should move back into my van,” Mugs often said, “get rid of this house. How can I transcend the material plane with all this crap?” At 50-plus he’d be a curmudgeonly hero vigorously criticizing media climbs and sponsored climbers. I hope he’d be spending more time photographing. Surely he would be exploring the remote lesser ranges of Alaska and sailing and climbing throughout Antarctica.

As a gear freak, he would be climbing leashless and likely wearing a Pecker for an earring since he climbed the Streaked Wall with tied-off concrete nails. WindStopper and Schoeller would hang at the front of his closet. Everything light was right.

Michael Kennedy described Mugs “as a dedicated athlete and seeker after a higher truth beyond the physical manifestations of his chosen sport. Mugs saw climbing as a celebration of boldness, purity and simplicity.” In this way he is very much alive today. Ultimate adventures still embody his spirit of bold lightness and these parameters prompt equipment designers to make further refinements. Overall, I think he would approve of our community’s efforts to explore, watch lofty sunsets and travel fast enough to hang out afterwards around the camp€re or stove with our friends." K.H.

Aug 28, 2007 - 11:07pm PT
A Bump for Mugsy and Conrad

The Eye of the Snail
Aug 28, 2007 - 11:18pm PT

Yeah, Conrad, spin a little Rodeo Queen yarn if you feel up to it.
Wild Bill

Aug 28, 2007 - 11:55pm PT
Conrad, there's a lot of spirit in those pictures.

I remember driving from your folk's place to Mugs's place in SLC, NON fecking STOP. Not only were we trying to get there, but you told me you were practicing, as you often did, for times when you and Mugs were climbing. A zen state of denial, without water, food or even a pee break.

I complained to Mugs when we arrived, and he beamed with pride at hearing this, as if he had taught his son well.


Bill McMahon
Scared Silly

Trad climber
Aug 29, 2007 - 12:37am PT
Hey Conrad,

Funny I have been thinking about Mugs. Was up at Hell Gate a couple of weeks ago and was scoping out one of his lines, "Not Boshed Up" A nice little 5.9+R route. Saddy, some folks decided to put up a heavily bolted sport route right under it and they placed their anchors right at the crux of "Not Boshed Up". I was pretty bummed to see this for two reasons, putting anchors one someone route sucks, and it was one of Mugs routes which are often bold routes so the bolts totally changed the route.

If I do not get up to the Tetons this weekend I think I will move them along with another route that needs some clariification.

Mugs ... here is to ya, your adventuring spirit lives.


Standing Strong

Trad climber
heart and soul in the boondocks
Aug 29, 2007 - 02:53am PT


Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Aug 29, 2007 - 10:29am PT
I never climbed with him but I had the pleasure of meeting him several times in Camp 4 back in the mid-1970s, and I always admired his ability in the mountains, almost to the point of envy. RIP Mugs.
Michael Kennedy

Social climber
Carbondale, Colorado
Aug 29, 2007 - 12:40pm PT
Mugs on Gasherbrum 4 in 1983:
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Selected Climbs -- Mugs Stump

I climb the road to Cold Mountain,
the road to Cold Mountain that never ends.
The valleys are long and strewn with stones;
The streams broad and banked with thick grass.
Moss is slippery though no rain has fallen;
Pines sigh but it isn't the wind.
Who can break from the snares of the world,
and sit with me among the white clouds?
    from a poem by Han Shan

1972–1974: Lived in or around Snowbird, Utah. Skied in the winters, hiked in the Wasatch Mountains in the summers. Competed in local freestyle ski contests for a time, but gradually turned more and more to the backcountry. Interest in climbing kindled by the desire to ski steeper and steeper slopes.

1975–1976: First roped climbs, in areas near Salt Lake City. Self-taught, influenced by reading books such as Lionel Terray's Conquistadors of the Useless and Doug Scott's Big Wall Climbing. Continued with backcountry skiing in the winters. Did his first long route in summer 1976 on Lone Peak in the Wasatch, Open Book (5.8), with Bill MacIlmoyl. Spent a month at Tahquitz Rock, California, with Bill Arthur, starting out climbing 5.6 and ending up on 5.9. Climbed the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran in the Tetons, Wyoming, with Tom McGinty. Started climbing frozen waterfalls.

1977: Winter ascent of the Yellow Wall (V 5.8 A4) on the Diamond, Long's Peak, Colorado, with Dakers Gowans. Visited Joshua Tree, California, and Indian Creek, Utah, with Bob Sullivan, climbing several new routes, and in the spring, completed Merlin (V 5.10 A3), a new route on the North Chasm View Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, also with Sullivan. Spent much of the summer in Chamonix, France, climbing classic snow and ice routes in fast times. Made an attempt on the Dru Couloir, one of the most difficult ice climbs in the Alps at that time, with Jack Roberts, Steve Shea, and Randy Trover, but was forced down by storm. Continued with difficult rock and waterfall climbs after returning to the United States.

1978: Attempted an alpine-style ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan with Trover, Jim Logan, and Barry Sparks. After spending 10 days on the lower part of the ridge (which hadn't been climbed before) the four reached the point where the original route joined the ridge; with many more days of hard climbing to go, they turned back. The route had seen just one prior ascent. Shortly after getting back from the Hummingbird, Stump and Logan returned to Canada and made the first ascent of the often-tried Emperor Face on Mount Robson, a landmark mixed climb that has yet to be repeated.

1979: Winter solo ascent of D-7 (V 5.6 A2) on the Diamond. In the spring, climbed The Shield (VI 5.10 A3) on El Capitan in Yosemite with Sullivan, then made an attempt on the East Face of the Moose's Tooth in Alaska with Logan. On his first visit to Denali, reached Denali Pass on the West Buttress.

1980: With Marius Marstad, made a 19-hour ascent of the Super Couloir on Fitzroy, Patagonia, early in the year. In the spring, climbed the Pacific Ocean Wall (VI 5.10 A5) on El Capitan with Sullivan, making the fifth ascent of what was then considered the hardest aid route in the world. Made the first of four trips to Antarctica as a safety consultant to the National Science Foundation.

1981: After returning from Antarctica, made the first ascent of the East Face of the Moose's Tooth in frigid conditions in March, with Jim Bridwell. The face had been attempted several times by the central crack line, but Bridwell and Stump bypassed this section by climbing steep ice and mixed ground to the right. This dangerous and committing route has yet to be repeated. The pair then flew in to the Kahiltna Glacier intent on the North Buttress of Mount Hunter, but the cold prevented them from even making an attempt. Stump returned to the route in May with Paul Aubrey and climbed it to its intersection with the upper ridge; he considered Moonflower Buttress, as he named the route, his best climb ever.

1982: Guided on Denali early in the summer, then went to the Cirque of the Unclimbables in Canada, where he climbed the classic Lotus Flower Tower, with Reinhard Karl.

1983: Attempted, in alpine style, the huge West Face of Gasherbrum IV in the Karakoram Himalaya, Pakistan, with Michael Kennedy. In 3 1/2 days, the pair surpassed the high point of previous fixed-rope attempts, despite being slowed by new snow. A major storm pinned them down for five nights at 23,000 feet, forcing a retreat to basecamp. Continued bad weather thwarted further attempts. Stump returned home via Chamonix, where, with Trover, he made ascents of the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, the Super Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul, and several other hard alpine classics. Later in the fall, returned and free-climbed all but 20 feet of the last pitch of Merlin (V 5.11+ A0).

1984: Attempted Northeast Buttress of Thalay Sagar in the Gangotri region, India, with Laura O'Brien. Extensive waterfall climbing in Telluride, Colorado, including very fast ascents of Bridalveil Falls and the Ames Ice Hose. Many difficult crack climbs (5.11 and 5.12) in Indian Creek, Utah, including several first ascents.

1985: Second trip to Antarctica with the National Science Foundation. Ascent of the Totem Pole (III 5.11 A2) in Monument Valley, Utah, with Lyle Dean.

1986: Guided Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, and the Cassin Ridge on Denali. Made the first of three attempts on the East Buttress of Mount Johnson in the Ruth Gorge, Alaska, with Lyle Dean. Climbed Kedar Dome and attempted Shivling in the Gangotri region, India, with two clients; afterwards, made the first of two attempts on the East Face of Meru, with Dean. Caught in an avalanche while retreating in a storm, Mugs dislocated his shoulder and was nearly swept away.

1987: First ascent of the South Face (VI 5.11 A3) of Broken Tooth in Alaska, with Steve Quinlan. Second attempt on Mount Johnson with Lyle Dean.

1988: On his third Antarctic trip, made 26 first ascents in the Gothic Mountains with his brother Ed Stump, Paul Fitzgerald, and Lyle Dean. Later in the year, made another attempt on the East Face of Meru, with Quinlan, Billy Westbay, Robin Waxman, and Doug Snively.

1989: Ascents of all the major ice climbs in Provo Canyon, Utah, in a single day, with Conrad Anker. Spent eight days pinned down in a portaledge while attempting a new big wall route on the Eye Tooth, Alaska, with Anker. On his last trip to Antarctica, he made solo first ascents of the Southwest Face (2200 meters, 5.7) of Mount Gardiner and the West Face (2500 meters, 5.9) of Mount Tyree, huge mixed climbs that were each completed in less than a day.

1990: Climbed the Streaked Wall (VI 5.11 A4+), a major big wall first ascent in Zion National Park, with Anker. Attempted the East Buttress of Mount Johnson, Alaska, with Renny Jackson. This was Mugs' third try on the route; his and others' previous attempts had been stopped at the 10th pitch, but with Renny he found a way past the obstacle via 5.10+ face climbing. The pair climbed 33 pitches with three bivouacs before retreating in the face of very rotten rock.

1991: In January, made a winter ascent (with three bivouacs) of Mescalito (VI 5.10 A3) on El Capitan, with Anker. Very rapid solo ascent of Cassin Ridge on Denali, Alaska – 27 1/2 hours round trip from a camp at 14,200 feet on the West Buttress, 15 hours to climb the route itself. Attempted the East Face of the Bear's Tooth, then did two new 10-pitch routes on the Wisdom Tooth in the Ruth Gorge, with Quinlan. In November, made a one-day ascent of The Zodiac (VI 5.11 A3) on El Capitan , with Walt Shipley.

1992: Second ascent of Prophet on a Stick, a very difficult free-hanging icicle in Provo Canyon, Utah, with Lyle Dean. First winter ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall (VI 5.11 A5) in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, with John Middendorf. On May 21, Mugs was killed in a crevasse fall while descending the South Buttress of Denali with Bob Hoffman and Nelson Max.


sf, ca
Aug 29, 2007 - 01:13pm PT
I agree with that sentiment, Michael. The first line of the Han Shan poem is weighty and great. Reminds me of the classic 'struggle for the heights' from Camus. Was Mugs Stump ever thinking about climbing's greater societal importance?

I feel like anyone would be amused by a reaction like this to their life (like my admiration of him as symbolic of commitment). Do you think Mugs Stump would have been excited with his kind-of 'transcendent' position in climbing's annals? Hope so.


"This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." Camus, 'Sisyphus'
Michael Kennedy

Social climber
Carbondale, Colorado
Aug 29, 2007 - 03:03pm PT
This is long - about 6000 words - so I'll pull it if it's too much. Originally published in Climbing, February/March 1993.

Shameless plug: We established the Mugs Stump Award in 1993 to help support small teams doing big alpine routes. Still going strong - for 2008 we'll have $30,000 available. More info at

[Click to View Linked Image]
Mugs on the Magic Bus, Pakistan 1983

The Dream
High on the Cassin Ridge three climbers considered their options. It was bitter cold and snowing hard, and as far as they could tell they were off route. Searching for a decent bivouac among the windswept granite cliffs, they were astounded to see a lone figure off to the side, climbing quickly and confidently up into the raging storm.
Carrying nothing but the ice tools in his hands, a liter of water, a few energy bars, a stove, and a parka stuffed in a day pack, Mugs Stump paused briefly to shout directions to the trio. Concerned that he'd disappear into the clouds above and never be seen again, they told him he'd be welcome to share their shelter.
It was early in the morning on June 5, 1991. Mugs briefly considered staying with the three climbers. "I knew how bad it could get up high," he said several months later. "I had to make a conscious decision to keep going." But feeling that the storm wouldn't get any worse, he pressed on toward the summit of North America's highest peak.
Mugs had developed a keen sense of the vagaries of the region's weather from his years of experience in the Alaska Range, so the intensity of the storm came as no surprise. He had also made several previous ascents of Denali, including two of the Cassin, and realized that he now might be climbing into a trap. Though he had already dispensed with the major technical difficulties of the route, the wind and cold could stop him dead in his tracks at almost any point. Nearly 4000 feet lay between him and the cloud-encased summit at 20,320 feet. And from there he'd still have to make a tiring, 6000-foot descent before reaching the safety of his camp.
Mugs had started at 14,200 feet on the West Buttress at 9 p.m. the previous night, traversing over and descending the steep West Rib to the start of the Cassin Ridge at 11,500 feet. Near the bottom of the West Rib he encountered a party laboring up the steep snow, belaying each other and carrying heavy loads. "You're bumming our epic, man," one of them commented as Mugs sped past.
Continuing on in the twilight of the Alaskan summer night, he motored up the Japanese Couloir and the ice ridge above, then tackled the difficult traverse necessary to circumvent the bergschrund below the Cassin's hanging glacier at 13,900 feet. At 5 a.m. he came across a Czech climber bivouacked in the first rock band. The weather had started to go bad, and Miroslav Smid made tea while the two got acquainted. "We are solo brothers," Smid told Mugs, offering him a spot in his tattered tent until the weather improved. After a short stop, though, Mugs continued up the route.
By the time he'd reached the off-route party in the second rock band, Mugs was climbing in a full-scale Alaskan blizzard. Yet there was something oddly serene about the snow drifting silently down the steep granite and the surrealistic gray clouds swirling all around. "I felt very comfortable being up there alone, at home," he said later. Even the distant howl of the wind on the summit ridge seemed less threatening than usual.
His intuition about the storm and faith in his capabilities paid off. A few hours later, Mugs climbed through the clouds into the morning sun, and soon he was standing happily atop the Cassin Ridge at 20,000 feet. He had spent 15 hours on a route that even fast roped parties climb in four or five days. Eschewing the summit, a half-hour of easy walking away, he headed down, taking a short nap in the middle of the "Football Field," the19,000-foot summit plateau, along the way. Mugs stumbled back into his camp on the West Buttress at 12:30 a.m. on June 6, just 27 1/2 hours after leaving it.

As long as it was at least a little bit out there, Mugs Stump was always psyched for anything -- big walls, long free routes, frozen waterfalls, or high alpine faces. A true “climber’s climber,” he wanted to be on the edge, pushing the envelope of possibility, getting to that rare place where you climb intuitively, fluidly, unburdened by doubt and fear. Although Mugs readily shared his experiences with friends in conversation and letters, he seldom wrote articles or lectured about his climbs. The act of climbing, the doing, was the important thing. The Emperor Face on Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, the East Face of the Moose's Tooth and the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter in Alaska, his two big solo routes on Mount Gardiner and Mount Tyree in Antarctica, and his one-day solo of the Cassin were all precedent-setting climbs, but he wasn't primarily concerned with either his physical performance or making history. For Mugs was more than just a superb athlete -- he pursued his climbing, and his life, as a quest for spiritual enlightenment, a search for the godhead.
Other climbers were stunned by his rapid solo of the Cassin -- the closest anyone has come to his time was Charlie Porter, who took 36 hours from the top of the Japanese Couloir during the first solo of the route in 1976 -- but Mugs considered this audacious ascent as just another step along the path he'd been following for well over a decade. Inspired by the enchainments done in the Alps, he'd even thought about doing a super link-up of hard routes on Denali, Mount Foraker, and Mount Hunter, the three highest summits in the Alaska Range. It would be a project of almost unimaginable proportions, involving miles of glacier travel and close to 30,000 feet of elevation gain as well as difficult climbing in harsh Arctic conditions.
Before the Cassin solo, he had planned to solo a new route leading up from the head of the remote Peters Glacier to Denali's north summit, and after a rest, go on to the Cassin. "The Fathers and Sons Face [as he had named his proposed route] has become a deep part of me," he wrote in his journal at the time. "It can be done on-sight and solo, and it is extreme and big and at altitude in Alaska! It is the epitome of this type of big mountain climbing." But during a lengthy reconnaissance and acclimatization period on the nearby West Buttress, he became increasingly concerned with the amount of new snow building up on the route. He decided to leave it for another year, opting for the Cassin alone.
"The Cassin wasn't the ultimate," Mugs told me later, as we sat around his ramshackle house in Sandy, Utah, last February. "What it really did was to open my mind to lots of other possibilities." We talked about some of those possibilities, about climbs past and what he or I or our contemporaries might be capable of, about what the next generation of alpinists would do and the potential adventures that would be left for our children.
As always, Mugs was full of plans: for 1992 alone, he had lined up forays to the Black Canyon, Yosemite, Alaska, Baffin Island, and Antarctica. He was in the middle of negotiating the purchase of the house he'd lived in for several years, and he had hopes of getting a concessionaire's permit to guide on Denali. He was as happy and as at peace with himself as I'd ever known him to be.
It was an enlightening discussion, pleasantly interrupted by friends passing through on their way to a ski tour, random questions from other house guests, and numerous trips to Mugs' library to dig out references to certain peaks or faces. Crumpled sleeping bags littered much of the open floor space, and ropes, racks, and ice gear haphazardly decorated the walls. We parted with tentative plans for a climb together in 1993, our first in several years.
"Much form and concentration," he wrote to his parents in March after making the first winter ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado, with John Middendorf. "Home on the stone. Close to those I love and the 'big force.'" The day before Mugs left for Alaska later that spring, he told me about the Hallucinogen and we talked about our proposed trip, going over the mundane details of peak fees and the logistics of Third-World travel. "Do you think you'll really be able to spend that much time away from home?" he asked me, more concerned about how I'd feel leaving my young son for such an extended period of time.
Three weeks later, on a perfect Saturday morning as I packed lunch before leaving for a mountain-bike ride, the phone rang. It was Billy Westbay, an old Colorado climber I hadn't seen in years, who had been to India with Mugs in 1988. He had terrible news. On May 21, Mugs was killed while guiding two clients down Denali's South Buttress in a storm, the victim of a simple misjudgment and a substantial dose of bad luck. Investigating the route ahead, he'd strayed too close to the unstable edge of a huge crevasse. When it collapsed, Mugs fell in and was buried beneath the jumbled mass of ice.

Mugs started climbing at a relatively late age -- he was 26 when he did his first roped climbs in Utah -- but his sense of the spiritual potential of athletics started early on. "I can look back and I remember ... when I first realized that my life was not going to be as [his father's], an incredible feeling of freedom, realizing a choice that was a part of me," Mugs wrote in his journal on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska in the mid-1980s. "I was lying on the grass end of Dietrich Field watching the clouds pass over the mountains and Mifflintown [his hometown in Pennsylvania]. I had just run about 15 miles. Something in me so natural created by the push of my physical body. An opening of my mind brought to be part of the beauty of the earth around me. I thought of the abilities I had and how high they could take me, and how close to God, the spirit that is in everything, I felt when using them. I thought then I would probably be a professional athlete. I was 15."
Born and raised in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, where his parents still live, Terry Manbeck Stump started fishing, hunting, and camping at an early age with his father, Warren, and his brothers, Ed, Quig, and Thad. His mother, Sis, remembers him as a happy and energetic child who nevertheless seemed to live by the adage "question authority." Although sometimes unruly, Mugs was well liked by his teachers and often displayed a surprising sensitivity for one so outwardly tough.
During his first couple of months at grade school, his mother recalls, Terry, as he was then known, would cry and cling to her leg when she dropped him off. He later told her that he remembered being afraid of his first-grade teacher. His father, who worked hard at the family's grain-and-feed business, was usually gone early in the morning, but eventually he became the one to take Terry to school, and the crying stopped. Later, in high school, when his classmates made life hell for their ninth-grade homeroom teacher, Terry told his mother he felt for sorry him. "The way some of those kids treat Duffy [as the teacher was nicknamed]," he told her, "I'd like to hit them."
Mugs played baseball, basketball, and football throughout his school years. He made the honor roll in his senior year of high school, and also was an all–state quarterback and captain of the "Big 33," a team of the best high school players in Pennsylvania -- a state in which people eat, breathe, and sleep football. "I remember when you (Dad) came up to the field in the evening and would stand by the stands and watch me do my drills," Mugs wrote in his Kahiltna journal. "I would push hard for you, a communication we made to each other without saying a word. It made me so proud and happy. Wanting you to know that I loved what you gave me."
He attended Pennsylvania State University on a football scholarship, and his teammates came up with "Mugs," the moniker he’s been known by ever since. By the time he'd graduated in 1971 with a degree in Recreation and Health, Mugs had started in two Orange Bowls. "He wasn't the best athlete on the team," says Joe Paterno, the well-known Penn State coach, "but Terry was very enthusiastic and courageous, a strong leader, and a hard worker." He was also an independent thinker. Paterno recalls that Mugs was the only player he ever had to tell to get a haircut. When he informed Mugs that he had a choice of playing second-string quarterback or third-string defensive back for senior year, an undaunted Mugs told him he'd play defensive back and start in every game, which he ended up doing.
After college he skied in Aspen, Colorado, for a winter, and then played a year of semi–professional football. Mugs realized that he was probably too small to make it into the big leagues, and he moved to Snowbird, Utah, in the winter of 1972–1973 to ski full time.
Mugs soon became well known for his go-for-it-attitude both on the hill and off -- wild apres-ski parties being the major form of entertainment in the isolated Snowbird community -- and after two years of skiing virtually anything that held snow, found himself increasingly drawn to the backcountry. He spent his summers roaming the Wasatch wilderness surrounding Snowbird and by the winter of 1974–1975 had given up lift skiing in favor of touring. Bill MacIlmoyl, Mugs' roomate at the time and a constant companion both on and off the slopes, recalls, "Mugs' favorite thing was to go up early and lay down a bunch of tracks before the helicopter skiers came out."
As Mugs ventured into steeper and wilder terrain, he sought out local climbers and avalanche experts for advice, and in the summer of 1975 made his first roped climbs. "Rock climbing is the ultimate spiritual communication with our center – God!" he wrote to his parents that fall. Climbing soon supplanted skiing as his raison d'être. As he and MacIlmoyl watched the sun come up after a night on the summit of Mount Timpanagos early in the summer of 1976, Mugs said, "This is what I want to do -- climb all over, do big routes, really big routes."

A quick study, Mugs soon started to do routes that were hard by anyone's standards. In the summer of 1977 he spent two months in Chamonix, France, climbing classic snow and ice routes. The trip culminated in an epic attempt on the Dru Couloir (then regarded as one of the most difficult ice climbs in the Alps) with Randy Trover, Steve Shea, and Jack Roberts. Starting out with no bivy gear, and food and water for a single day, they got off route and were trapped on the face by a storm for two days. They barely made it off the mountain alive when, in the worsening storm, the ropes repeatedly froze to the anchors; unable to pull them through any more, the four finally abandoned them on the last rappel. "If we'd started down 10 minutes later," said Trover at a memorial service held for Mugs in Utah last summer, "they would have been doing this for both of us 15 years ago."
The climbs only got harder. In spring, 1978, Mugs attempted the second ascent of the Hummingbird Ridge on Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak, with Trover, Jim Logan, and Barry Sparks. After 10 days of hard climbing and marginal bivouacs on a new direct start, the four reached the point where the original ascent party had gained the upper ridge, but retreated with several thousand feet and many corniced miles still to go. For Mugs, it was nevertheless a pivotal climb. "He came away from the Hummingbird knowing he could do anything he wanted," says Trover.
Later that summer, Mugs and Logan returned to Canada intent on the Emperor Face on Mount Robson. Logan, a very experienced climber from Colorado, had tried the unclimbed face three times previously, and now the pair was determined, as Logan later wrote in the 1979 American Alpine Journal, "to spend all summer if need be in the attempt." They spent two weeks observing their route and waiting out storms from a camp near Berg Lake, then clearing weather prompted them to move up to a bivouac at the base of the 4000-foot upper wall.
On the second day, 60-degree ice slopes interspersed with thinly iced rock steps -- the most difficult ice climbing Logan had ever done -- took the pair to a good bivouac on a snow rib in the center of the face. The difficult mixed climbing continued to an uncomfortable third bivouac on tiny seats chipped out of a 70-degree ice slope. A storm moved in that night, and spindrift avalanches threatened to push the two off their airy perch.
The final headwall loomed above. Mugs led up steepening ice to its base, then Logan took over the crux lead, a full ropelength of intricate aid and mixed climbing on loose rock. It took him eight hours. A few more easy ice pitches and they reached the summit ridge, where they spent the night.
Mugs and Logan had made the first ascent of one of North America's greatest alpine prizes, a route that had repulsed numerous attempts by some of the strongest climbers of the day. The achievement gave Mugs a heightened sense of inner strength and a feeling of the "rightness" of the path he'd chosen. "I have felt myself going through some amazing changes on the walls in the last year, becoming totally relaxed and comfortable, feeling like this is the place I belong," he wrote to his parents several months later. "It can be so peaceful ... even in the most extreme situations. Feelings of endless space and time made so real, a closeness to nature. A sense of accomplishment and a sense of worthlessness – a combination that feels so fine."

Mugs had a recurring dream that he related often to his friends. In it he had just climbed a very challenging new route, sometimes alone, at other times with a partner, but the style was always impeccable: using neither pitons nor aid, he had done it quickly, leaving no trace of his passage. Next in the dream, he went to a pub and was sitting in the corner with his girlfriend when a group of climbers who had just done the same route came in. The climbers were toasting themselves about their seeming first ascent, and after joining their celebration Mugs would sit back and smile. All that was important, he would say, was his own knowledge that he had done the climb the way he'd wanted to.
The dream represented an ideal that Mugs would pursue consciously and persistently throughout his life. "Doing the extreme is not the point," he wrote to his parents after climbing Fitzroy in 1980. "I care less and less about that, but the desire to climb and be with nature's and the mountain's forces is still there, strong as ever. I don't care about accomplishments. I care about fulfilling dreams of being happy." To Mugs, being happy would mean achieving an ego-less state of perfection, "Living outside and exercising, moving every day, climbing -- just looking." Even at his house in Sandy, he'd sometimes sleep in his van with the doors open.
Although Mugs traveled widely and loved rock climbing perhaps best of all, the snowy expanses of the polar regions are where he came closest to reaching his ideals. He made four trips to Antarctica under contract with the National Science Foundation. He took his work as a safety consultant as seriously as his guiding. "Mugs was not just a one-man climbing machine, he was into doing the best job possible to ensure the science was done," says Paul Fitzgerald, a geologist who worked with Mugs both in Antarctica and Alaska. "Of all the field assistants I've had, Mugs was easily the best, not just because he was the best climber, but because he really got to understand why we wanted to do things the way we did."
Mugs developed a special affinity for the pristine and barren continent of Antarctica, and did much off-the-record exploratory mountaineering there, including two of his purest climbs ever, the 7000–foot Southwest Face of Mount Gardner and the 8000–foot West Face of Mount Tyree — each solo, without bivy gear, and in a single day. He never said much about any of his climbs in Antarctica (outside of sharing information for a brief report I wrote for Climbing in 1990 highlighting the Gardner and Tyree ascents), preferring, I think, to share the memories and feelings engendered by these remote gems with only a few close friends.
Well before his first trip to Antarctica in 1980, Mugs had ventured north, and over time, Alaska would become his spiritual home. "It's so, so beautiful, unique," he wrote his parents in 1984. "Subarctic lands have such a vast, quiet beauty, a stillness I really hope I get the chance to share with you."
The pioneer atmosphere and booming economy of the 49th state also appealed to his free-spirited nature. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Mugs earned his living between climbs by salmon fishing off the Alaskan coast. Later, he guided extensively on Denali and elsewhere in the Alaska Range. He returned again and again to peaks surrounding the Ruth Gorge, attempting Mount Johnson several times and climbing a host of routes on lesser-known peaks in the area.
His greatest climbs in the Alaska Range, however, were on three of the region’s most celebrated mountains, the Moose's Tooth, Mount Hunter, and Denali, the first two just a few months apart in 1981. In March of that year, Mugs and the legendary Yosemite hardman Jim Bridwell made the first ascent of the East Face of the Moose’s Tooth, a 4500-foot wall that had repulsed some 10 strong attempts in the previous decade, including one by Mugs and Jim Logan in 1979. Mugs and Bridwell's was an exceptionally bold effort over five days in frigid conditions and with minimal food and equipment.
After several days of storm, the two started out a bit hungover after "deliberating on whether to wait another day while consuming large quantities of whiskey," as Bridwell wrote in his 1981 article about the route. In contrast to the earlier attempts, which had all concentrated on the central aid line, Stump and Bridwell climbed icy gullies to the right, then traversed back left on sparsely protected ramps to the center of the wall. They tackled the crux section of the climb, seven pitches of steep, ice-choked chimneys, on the second day, then continued up an A4 headwall and more tenuous mixed climbing on the third. Gorp, coffee with sugar, and two packets of soup were their entire rations for the climb, so when the pair reached the top on their fourth day they were hungry and severely dehydrated.
After a bivouac near the summit, the pair dropped onto a 1500-foot rock face, aiming for a wide snow couloir that would eventually deposit them at their basecamp at the bottom of the wall. As they descended, the rock got worse and worse. They hadn't brought any bolts, and wished they had. Ten pitches down, they had no choice but to rappel from a single #3 Stopper. As Bridwell started off, Mugs looked at the anchor and reached towards it, ready to unclip, then dropped his hand. He'd prefer a quick end to a futile wait of a day or two. One more rappel got them to the snow, and two hours later they were celebrating in their tent on the Buckskin Glacier.
Although Mugs would later say that his and Bridwell's climb was, in retrospect, unjustifiably risky and probably not worth repeating, he had no such doubts about his other great Alaskan climb that year. The Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, which he climbed with Paul Aubrey, represented a quantum leap in technical difficulty for climbs in the Alaska Range. Asked 10 years later what had been his best route, Mugs said, "Probably the Moonflower Buttress -- doing it just like I'd hoped. It was a very aesthetic line, safe and difficult. It had all the elements."
It was also the only climb on which Mugs ever published an article. The story, which appeared in Mountain 85 and the 1982 American Alpine Journal, describes a four-day odyssey, punctuated by precarious bivouacs and the odd pitch of aid, up icy ramps and grooves. "I thought of what I'd done to get here, not just in the last four days but in the years past," Mugs wrote of the final night. "I felt part of some great movement, one of an infinite scale, too grand to see but only to feel in the night's wind ... In the vastness in front of me, I felt even more isolated. I was a shell, the same as the figure beside me and the mountains around. I felt an aloneness, my thoughts totally my own, creating a peacefulness of beauty and friendships."
"No place to stop, there was no need to stop," he would write about the last pitch of the route, an ice-filled vertical crack he managed to free climb. "Freedom was my catalyst as I deliberately and methodically made each placement. As I pulled over the top and onto the summit slope I was envisioning a crack such as this running for days ... I didn't want the feeling to stop." A mile and a half of steep snow climbing would have gotten them to the summit of Mount Hunter, but satisfied with the effort, they rappelled the route, reaching the bottom that afternoon. "I climbed to the top of the photo" was Mugs' usual response to questions about why they didn't go to the summit. (Mount Hunter's North Buttress, as Stump and Aubrey's route is also known, was climbed to the summit in 1983 by Todd Bibler and Doug Klewin. The route has been repeated several times since, becoming something of a modern Alaskan classic.)
Summing up an incredible year, Mugs wrote later in 1981, "My imagination is a gift for my life. The climbs to do are creations – to understand what is there, not to be surprised. The more I have done and been with other climbing partners, the more I have learned about myself. I am so lucky to have such a life, to have such freedom – not the political or social, but the freedom that is my spirit."

Climbers are prone to a certain hubris, and Mugs was no exception. At his best he was generous, supportive, and enthusiastic, but he could also be selfish, insensitive, and moody. More than anything, he wanted to be a good person -- humble, open, caring, and, above all, centered -- and he struggled mightily with his own ego and insecurities in finding that perfection.
His relationships with his many girlfriends, in particular, were intense and joyful, but often strained. "We struggled in the relationship because he could not be owned," says Lynne Romano of her time with Mugs in the past two years. "I finally asked him for more than he could give me, and we were no more." It seemed as though he could relate more openly to women he wasn't intimately involved with. Indeed, he counted many women, several of them ex-girlfriends, as his closest friends.
"He was the most important person in my life," says Mona Wilcox, who lived with Mugs on and off in the 1970s. "He taught me everything -- about the mountains, climbing, skiing, living." She is happily married to one of Mugs' old climbing partners from Telluride, but she and Mugs regularly kept in touch with each other over the years. "Words just don't fulfill the experience of things like I am trying to say and do," Mugs wrote to Mona in 1985. "I'm glad that you know me and know what I hope to be and feel in my life."
"Mugs had a huge ego -- he was the most selfish person I've ever known," says Jenny Edwards, an occupational therapist whose Anchorage house and Talkeetna cabin had been his base of operations in Alaska since the mid-1980s. The two were incredibly close nevertheless. "I knew Mugs neither as a guide or a climbing partner," says Jenny, "but as a spirit sister and soul mate, and loved him with his imperfections as he did me."
Diane Okonek, a long-time friend from Talkeetna, also remembers his sensitive side. "Mugs would always come by and we would spend a few hours catching up on each others' lives," she says of his return to Alaska each spring. "Sometimes we would laugh and sometimes we would cry, and it was always a special time for us both. I have always thought of Mugs as one of those rare men who was self confident enough to allow his gentle side to show."
Mugs could be intimidating to those who didn't know him well, but it usually didn't take long to break through that shell. "I have climbed on and off for 30 years and have never met a guide as considerate, capable, and likable as Mugs," says Bob Hoffman, one of the clients with Mugs at the time of his death. "He had a gift for bringing out the best in people, for showing them how to overcome fear and do things they felt unable to do."
Mugs was a good mentor and coach, although he could be demanding. "Some days he would be excited that I was climbing better than he. He was proud that my skills were shaped by his actions," says Conrad Anker, Mugs' protégé over the past several years. "Other days he would hold the high ground and rub it in that I was still the grasshopper." The two climbed extensively in Utah, Yosemite, and Alaska, forming a lasting friendship. In an exercise to help develop mental toughness, Mugs and Anker once drove all the way from Salt Lake City to Yosemite without talking. "By being stronger in the mind," says Anker, "Mugs felt one would be better prepared to tackle the big climbs."

In 1983, Mugs and I spent eight long, difficult days on the West Face of Gasherbrum IV. On our second night out, we bivouacked sitting up in the open as a light snow fell. I stayed up late melting snow and passing hot drinks to Mugs, huddled deep in his sleeping bag next to me. But the frigid night air aggravated my already chronic cough, and in the morning I knew that I wasn't going to be climbing well. Mugs took over the lead without hesitation and got us to the base of the Black Towers at 22,500 feet, the high point of several previous attempts on the face. After we'd chopped out an airy bivouac site from the crest of an ice ridge, he led a short, difficult chimney, and fixed a rope.
Good bivouacs were rare on the face and we knew that the climbing above would be time-consuming, so we anticipated staying where we were for two nights. A thin scud of gray clouds veiled the sky the following morning. As always, Mugs gave me the thumbs up as I started up the next pitch, a rotten, poorly protected overhang that left me gasping. The climbing felt like 5.12, but it would probably have been 5.8 in rock shoes at sea level. Mugs continued on, free climbing and then aiding up the steep, friable rock. He finished the pitch with a spectacular double pendulum, reaching the top of the Black Towers. We'd done what we thought would be the crux of the route, and even though we still had over 3000 feet to go, the way ahead was clear. Our two ropes barely reached the tent as we rappelled down in the worsening spindrift.
We settled into "the hang," rationing our remaining supply of oatmeal, tea, soup, and dehydrated potatoes in hopes that the storm would move through quickly enough to allow us to continue. For the first few days we maintained our psyche, but as the avalanches boomed all around it soon became obvious that we weren't going anywhere but down. We spent five storm-bound nights in the cramped Bibler tent before retreating. "I thought I'd never go back to the mountains again," Mugs later told a slide show audience in New Hampshire.
When we reached the relative safety of the West Gasherbrum Glacier, Mugs strode out ahead, anxious to rid himself of the intensity of the face, to go the last few miles at his own pace. I trudged on well behind him, lost in my own disappointment about the route. A couple of hours later I crested a little bump in the glacier, and there was Mugs, waiting so we could walk back into basecamp together.
A year later, Mugs, Laura O'Brien, Randy Trover, and I traveled to northern India to try the virgin Northwest Face of Thalay Sagar, a peak that had seen just two ascents at the time. We planned on climbing independently as two ropes of two, but from the start a subtle tension was in the air. We'd had some minor hassles with the Indian bureaucracy over Laura's late addition to the team. Mugs was sullen and uncommunicative with all of us. In particular, he didn't seem to be getting along too well with Laura, who was his girlfriend and climbing partner. A few days after reaching basecamp, Trover had to retreat to Gangotri, the nearest village, for several days to recover from a bronchial infection. To top off our problems, persistent storms battered the peak, plastering our proposed route with snow and rendering it too dangerous to climb.
We turned our attention to the elegant Northeast Pillar, which after several attempts had been climbed by a Polish/Norwegian team in 1983. It had also been our original objective when I'd applied for the permit for Thalay Sagar in 1982, so as a consolation prize it wasn't bad. Laura and Mugs tried it first, but high winds low on the route beat them back. When Trover and I passed them on our way up, all Mugs would say was that we didn't have a chance. "It has been a rough day, and a rough last week," he wrote to his parents at the time. "I've been very frustrated lately and going through the usual questions of the value of what I pursue at times like this."
Trover and I made the climb despite the continued bad weather. It was a hard-won summit, my first after four trips to Asia. Trover had put in a stellar effort for his first climb in the Himalaya, especially considering his earlier illness and relative lack of acclimatization. We'd pushed hard all the way, especially on the descent, knowing that the porters were scheduled to arrive the morning we would return to basecamp.
But when we got there early on September 15, camp was empty. No one had waited for us or left us any food or even a note. We were disappointed and angry, but not too surprised given Mugs' moodiness over the past weeks. We stashed our climbing gear in a couple of duffel bags under a boulder and trudged down the valley. Late that afternoon in Gangotri, Laura ran up to us full of smiles and hugs and questions about the climb. Mugs, who was cooking some eggs on the porch of a teahouse, barely glanced up.
We moved to another basecamp nearby to try Shivling, but Trover and I were burned out, so we headed home. Mugs and Laura stayed on for a few weeks and didn't manage to accomplish anything. Our trip to India ended on a sour note, and we other three drifted apart from Mugs for a while. "I thought we'd never speak to each other again, let alone climb together," says Trover, who had learned to climb with Mugs and had been one of his best friends.
Each of us eventually made our peace with him. "Mugs and I knew each other well enough that we didn't need to say anything," says Trover. "Just going climbing together was an acknowledgment that we were friends and that things would work out." The rift wasn't easily healed, but the two eventually became closer than ever. "The last three years were the best time for our relationship, despite the fact that we did almost no climbing together," says Trover, who with his wife, Adrienne, now has a three-year-old son, Eric. "We became his surrogate family. The way Mugs latched onto Eric was incredible – I think he realized it was as close as he'd ever get to having children."
When I had left India, I'd thought that Mugs had simply gotten too full of himself. He seemed to feel that his obvious talent and drive somehow made him a better person than the rest of us, and that the world owed him something. He had even expressed some bitterness over the fact that we'd paid for the entire trip out of our own pockets, forgetting that it had been largely a matter of our own choice not to seek sponsorship.
In retrospect, it seems to me that Mugs underwent something of a spiritual crisis at that time, that he lost sight of his chosen path. Success in the mountains didn't come as easily as it had for several years. He made two more frustrating trips to India to try Meru, for example, as well as three attempts on the East Buttress of Mount Johnson in Alaska. They were the only two routes he returned to that many times. Others I've spoken with have commented that Mugs seemed out of sorts for a lengthy period of time in the mid- to late-1980s. A letter he wrote to Mona Wilcox in 1985 while he was recovering from knee surgery confirms this impression: "It's been good to have this quiet, still, sedative time here to catch up on some thinking ways, reading and going into my spirit some, to try and reach some understanding about myself [that has] slipped away the last couple of years. I haven't felt as centered as I used to."
In the end, Randy, Laura, and I gained a deeper understanding of both ourselves and of Mugs, and developed a stronger and more complete friendship with him, as have many who were close to him as he grappled with the vicissitudes of his life.

We all struggle to balance our inner yearnings with the demands of the world; our lives are littered to one degree or another with unkept promises to ourselves and others, but we hope that our existence has a purpose beyond the self. It was this search for a deeper meaning that always preoccupied Mugs.
In December, 1991, Mugs went back East for the first time in several years to visit his family and friends, and at Christmas his father told him he was facing some serious potential health problems. "What a month this has been with the closeness to death," Mugs later wrote. "Many thoughts about the fullness and happiness that is held with our friends. I do in my personal (and selfish?) self find a lot of peace and happiness in this drifting way with climbing and the mountains. But it is so good to see those close to us and give our time to those we love."
Earlier in December, Mugs stayed by the bedside of Gavin Borden as he succumbed to the final stages of cancer in a New York hospital. A wealthy heir and publisher of college textbooks, Borden had been Mugs' best client, but more than that he became a true friend. His death affected Mugs deeply. "The feeling of love and caring for others seems to be a natural part of us, yet so many times we don't let it out," Mugs wrote. "I guess one way I keep a positive outlook is by trying to keep aware that we are all of the same place. When I look into Gavin's eyes or my dad's eyes and I see the fear and worry, I just wish I could somehow help them have peace.
"Our lives are so wonderful and it's all we really know," Mugs concluded. "We want to keep its joys, but there must be such an amazing awakening in death. I can't imagine that the supreme God is not realized, or at least in a way there is a true awakening that we are all a part of it."

right here, right now
Aug 29, 2007 - 05:12pm PT
Not too long at all Michael,
The more good writing we get on this forum, the better.

It's also nice to see a little more tribute to alpinism here, as we tend to be a little rock-centric on Supertopo. The other posts have been really nice too and it's interesting to see how much depth is brought forth in these reflections of Mugs' life; he a put a lot into it, so conversely, we're getting quite a good bit out of it and it carries a rich quality.

Your story is penetrating and meaningful.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Sep 1, 2007 - 02:19pm PT
Thanks to all for this thread, but especially to Dolomite and Michael for posting these long and thoughtful pieces here. Great to learn more about Mugs’ life and climbs.

I met Mugs only once, in the summer of 1977 in Chamonix, when he was just starting out in Alpine climbing. I couldn’t find any slides of him, but I found a couple of Randy Trover and Steve Shea, who with Jack Roberts were climbing with him that summer. I gather from Michael that Randy was a regular climbing partner with Mugs.

Steve and Randy at the base of the south face of the Aiguille de Midi

[Click to View Linked Image]

Steve leading behind a French party on the original route on the South Face of the Midi.

[Click to View Linked Image]

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Sep 1, 2007 - 04:46pm PT
I really miss that guy. What a spirit.

Sep 1, 2007 - 11:07pm PT
So true Ducey, so true.

Then one day I threw the football at Mugs. He wouldn't look at it. He scowled at that ball and kicked it away from himself angrily.

Later I find out from him that he was pissed he ever played football because it fuked up one of his knees and kind-off screwed up his climbing.

I never did see him slow down due to his knee, and man he was fast.

Big Wall climber
the Southwest
Sep 2, 2007 - 11:54am PT
Yes, Mugs' discussion of how to deal with injuries has always inspired me to be a bit tougher in situations. His spine was reminiscent of the Lightning Bolt on Midnight Lightning, and his knees were shot, but with 800mg of ibuprofin every morning, he'd push through the initial pain of each morning, and be as tough as nails all day. Pretty amazing, though he never really complained or anything.

He said something to me once, about dealing with pain, something to the effect of "When you got pain, just deal with it" rather than commiserating or letting it affect your performance.

Mountain climber
Sep 2, 2007 - 04:44pm PT
never new him but I have been inspired by Muggs for a long time. what a stud.

Social climber
The West
Sep 2, 2007 - 05:11pm PT
I didn't know him very well, just met him at the Salt lake Roasting company and trade shows, but every meeting was memorable. Every time I've sat in his van (is it still extent?) the one inherited by Los Quinlans, and look at the items in the shrine assembled by Steve and Chrissy-Anne I am aware of how much he touched a lot of lives.

Big Wall climber
El Cap
Sep 2, 2007 - 06:38pm PT

"Is it true you guys used carpentry nails on the streaked?"

Yep, it's true but they're more like sawed-off cement nails. I plucked a couple of 'em out with my fingers. Gave one to Chris Mac and kept one for myself.

Nice post Conrad! Mugs is one of my heroes too.

Edit: Here's a pic of the "Rodeo Queen Piton"

[Click to View Linked Image]

Social climber
No Ut
Sep 2, 2007 - 08:39pm PT
Sorry to say I never got to know Mugs very well. Only climbed one day in Eldo with him. But we saw eye-to-eye on all things alpine. Wish I'd had the opportunity to get on something big with him.

Sep 4, 2007 - 09:02pm PT
Mugs on relationships: "The f*#king you get is not worth the f*#king you get."

climber a single wide......
Dec 18, 2007 - 12:53am PT

Social climber
The West
Dec 18, 2007 - 01:02am PT
"Why didn't (Steve Q) mention I needed a handplaced standard angle to top out on the (T-pole)? had to prussick the summit!"

Big Wall climber
arlington, va
Dec 18, 2007 - 10:44am PT
Bump for Mugs

PS Michael Kennedy stated that Mugs ascent of the Pacific Ocean wall in spring 1980 was the 5th. In early summer, Bob Williams, John Dale and myself did it in 4 days. Ours was written up in Mountain as being the fastest at that point, but I was told we had done the 10th ascent. I'm sure there weren't 4 ascents between the two. Not a big deal, just curious, since I'm not qualified to wash Mugs's jockstrap.
Great thread, thanks Conrad

Trad climber
Denver, CO
Dec 18, 2007 - 11:42am PT
What can you say about guys like Mugs, Conrad,
Jack Tackle, Jim Donini. . .I wouldn't make a pimple
on any of their butts, but it's people like them
we aspire to be. Safe travelling, all!
Big Kahuna

Ice climber
Hell Hardest climb I did was getting out of bed.
Dec 18, 2007 - 05:44pm PT
I have had two Heroes in climbing Mugs and Largo. What they share other than being two well known legends of climbing is they are two big burly guys. Being exceptional large for a climber myself and climbing having a considerable strength to weight relationship I gathered a great deal of inspiration from them. The level of difficulty that they climbed is so amazing to me, such a feat of the human mind over matter and triumph of the human sprit. When ever I reached a number grade and thought I could not climb any harder I looked to them for inspiration to push further. God I whish he was still out there setting examples for us to follow.


Dec 18, 2007 - 05:48pm PT
what makes mugs significant is the soulfulness of his climbs: Moonflower, Moose's Tooth w/Bridwell, the impromptu solo of the Cassin...

how much soul is there really in some dude working 5.14d until -- finally, on the nth try -- he sends? utter wankery.


Dec 18, 2007 - 05:54pm PT
How much soul?

The soul in every living entity is the same.

Are you some bratty junior high school kid, Marky?

Dec 18, 2007 - 06:28pm PT
why would it matter if I were some bratty junior high school kid if my soul is on the same plane as yours?
ron gomez

Trad climber
Dec 18, 2007 - 07:13pm PT
More Mugs stories!

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Dec 18, 2007 - 10:58pm PT
What are some good books or articles about Mugs? i have allways known he was the man, but haven't read much about him...


Topic Author's Reply - Dec 18, 2007 - 11:21pm PT
The following letter was written by Mugs to his mother Florence. He was close to his parents and three brothers. Both Warren and Florence are with Mugs, in the spiritual sense. Florence complied a bunch of his letters and thoughts into a small copy shop book titled "Remembering A Mountain Climber: Full Circle" This quote is from p. 36.

Yosemite October 1981

It’s snowing. All the climbers are huddling in the lodge or lingering as long as possible in the cafeteria over cups of coffee and tea. It is all so familiar to me. I’ve done so much spacing out in the past years at different places in the world, different mountain ranges waiting for the weather to clear, to go back up, to get out of the tent and start to climb. Or putting idle time in some café in Europe or somewhere else along the way. Waiting for the weather to break in the far north, to be flown into some vast glacier range. There have been so many times like this, my mind wandering, to past experiences in my life, to friends long since seen, to future climbs. My imagination is a gift for my life. The climbs to do are creations to understand, not to be surprised. Experience has been my teacher as I have studied the mountains intensely… I am so lucky to have such a life – to have such freedom - not the social and political but the freedom that is my spirit. I don’t know where it comes from - the life has been from you - but what is the spirit? There are many climbers as I look around this room – all different – some restless, some new at the “hang” in life. The drives are as different as the people. I am lucky to be able to sit in this room, in the fields, on the glaciers, on the wall. It’s empty and yet I’m full.

Social climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 02:42am PT
hey there... just thought this could use a bump....

just ran across it again, since it was up last aug 2007...
(edit, ooop, since dec 2007---seems i did not read far enough---as i was so impressed again, i posted before re-reading more)...


seems it would be nice to have it up here again, as aug 2008, just passed about a month ago (since it was FIRST up)...

really something to look at his list of climbs...

Social climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 02:48am PT
hey there.. say, i really enjoyed the simple yet deep feelings of his letter, that is shown here... (to his mom, i think it said)...

very nice note...

Social climber
wuz real!
Oct 4, 2008 - 07:07am PT
If anyone has the in memorium peice that Steve Quinlan wrote for one of the climbing Mags, this would be a good time to scan it in.

edit; it was in Climbing # 151, 2002 'Dreamweavers' by Steve Quinlan

Social climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 12:56pm PT
hey there... bump for jaybro's request to get noticed...

Trad climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 02:46pm PT
I went down to Homer, Alaska once for the Kachemak Bay ski marathon and we crashed at the house of Mugs' widow. I didn't know her but my friends did. She was away and had left the place open for us. There were pictures of him and mountains around. I only knew of Mugs as legend so it was something to be so close to old photos and things from his world.


Social climber
Oct 4, 2008 - 03:42pm PT
hey there emon.. say, i just popped in here to see if anyone was able to help-out jaybro...

say, i must share with you:
that was a very kind and special post, about seeing mug's old photos, etc, in the home that was his....

photos DO tell a very precious story... (i did not know the man)--you had treated to be at said-place at said-time...

one learns small little things the others never get to treasure this way--upon visitings ones "once" place of dwelling full of such reflections of ones life....

thanks for the share...
may we all be so blessed to have others enjoy what was precious to us, too... when our days are gone...

Oct 6, 2008 - 03:35pm PT
A vein of purity here.

Thanks to all who posted.

Trad climber
North Carolina
Oct 6, 2008 - 10:21pm PT
One of my best friends in Telluride, Mona, introduced me to Mugs in the late 80's. I had built a climbing wall in the Telluride High School and Mugs would come in and climb with the locals when he was in town. The Elementary School kids especially loved him as he encouraged them to give it their all on one very overhanging climb. They had no clue who he was and didn't get the "Mugs" they just called him "Bugs" like the bunny. He just laughed and enjoyed himself and their love of climbing for the fun of it...and so did I....Thanks Mugs!

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 26, 2010 - 03:56pm PT
Heart Throb?
Heart Throb?
Credit: Conrad

"Hey man!"
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 26, 2010 - 05:59pm PT
I seem to recall it was a Barstow photo, in a calendar. I'll have to check the inventory...

Conrad: streaked wall?

Nice shot.
Paul Fitzgerald

Mountain climber
New Zealand
Jul 26, 2010 - 06:22pm PT
Mugs - base of the west face of Tyree, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica
Mugs - base of the west face of Tyree, Ellsworth Mountains, Antarctica
Credit: Paul Fitzgerald
Mugs: about the best friend and climbing partner you could have

Social climber
kennewick, wa
Jul 26, 2010 - 06:23pm PT
Wes, the pic I remember was on the Globe part of the LDS Church bldg...


Trad climber
Behind the Zion Curtain
Jul 26, 2010 - 06:42pm PT
How big was Mugs? As in...height and weight?

Topic Author's Reply - Jul 27, 2010 - 04:02pm PT
Thanks for the kind words. Paul - awesome to hear and see you here on SuperTopo. It's been a many years since we crossed paths. I still remember the fission tracking expedition to Denali. I have a picture of you and Mugs on the summit that I'll post up later.

Mountain Gear is putting together a calendar for the Mugs Stump Award and I was working with their team, looked for a thread here and decided it would be nice to bring it back up.

A woman from Germany who met Mugs met in 1980 sent me a great letter how she and her friend met Mugs at the Watchman Campground in Zion National Park. They hiked about and it was the highlight of her trip to the states. It is really quite touching how one meeting changed her life. She thought his name was Max Stomp (an easy enough mistake given the language) and never knew about the accident in '92 until about a month ago. I'm waiting for her permission to post it on this thread.

I'll scan the Mugs' diary his late mother Florence put together after his death. I'll contact his family to be sure they are OK with this. I'm hopeful we'll all enjoy the art work and letters. I think Mugs would be happy to see his legacy thriving. He had tons of motivation and this is a good way to share it.

Mugs and Cliff Hudson in the Super Cub spring of 89. This is on the ol...
Mugs and Cliff Hudson in the Super Cub spring of 89. This is on the old Talkeetna airstrip, right across from the Fairview.
Credit: Conrad

Cliff Hudson passed away March 5, 2010 at age 84. He always called Mugs "Two Ton" for all the gear he would haul in to the range. Cliff always flew with Sparky, his tiny poodle, on his lap. Talked to the poodle he would. Kind of his co-pilot. Mugs had a stack of respect for Cliff and the whole Hudson family.

This is Cliff walking around his favorite 185 @ Kahiltna Base Camp. No...
This is Cliff walking around his favorite 185 @ Kahiltna Base Camp. Not having the aircraft painted saved 30 pounds, which is more fuel and climbing gear.
Credit: Conrad

Jeff - glaciology is moving along at (pardon the pun) a glacial pace. Working with James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey we installed 5 cameras in the Khumbu this past May. We also are working with historical repeat photography from Barry Bishop's first ascent of Ama Dablam. Needless to point out, the glaciers are shrinking.

If you are on facebook there is Mugs page.

Why not?
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 27, 2010 - 08:44pm PT
Mugs was dating a good friend of mine, Robin Waxman, who worked at the Little Cottonwood police/avalanche control station, a station unlike any other. I had run into Mugs several times in Yosemite where he strangely never seemed to fit very well. Mugs came limping into the HQ and raised up his shirt to show a clearly displaced vertebrae. It had popped out while climbing down canyon that day.

Mugs was a bear of a man having played semi-pro football along the way so I figured that he was pretty durable. My diminutive gal at the time used to walk my back with a bit of direction and support and pop every joint.

"Can you do anything?" he asked with a wince. I suggested that this method might do the trick and he was willing to submit to just about anything. A bit of massage to loosen up his linebacker's frame and a couple of chairs to turn me into a ninety pound Japanese woman and we were in business! At the end of every exhale a little hop and POP. When I got to the crux disk, the POP turned Mugs into groaning Jello and I stepped off.

I got to pull a thorn from the lion's paw!
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Jul 27, 2010 - 09:01pm PT
A bit of massage to loosen up his linebacker's frame and a couple of chairs to turn me into a ninety pound Japanese woman and we were in business!

Sorry, Steve, but, ahh, you know, this story shoulda just been between you and Mugs.


Ha ha!

-Brian in SLC
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Jul 31, 2010 - 01:04pm PT
Mongo Straight---Bump!

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 8, 2010 - 08:35am PT
Hey Mugs - a belated thank you from two people you met and changed their perspective on life. Hanging in your van and looking at tiny slides with the help of the dome light. How classic.

Dear Mr. Anker,

I write you from Germany, because I found your article about Mugs Stump from May 2008 in the internet and I think, you are a good friend of him. And at first ­please excuse my bad English, but I haven´t spoken it for a long time with the exception of learning English vocabulary with our sons.

I am very sad and also a little bit shocked to hear, that Mugs isn´t still alive. I met him in October 1980 in the Zion National Park, when I made a tour through some National Parks of the Southwest, together with my girlfriend Marianne. We were 21 and 22 years old, had finished our studies of agriculture in Germany and had an invitation to San Francisco and Los Angeles by some American students that spent a year in Germany. We rent a little car, drove to Yosemite and then to the Bryce Canyon und spent a wonderful time by hiking there. On the way to the Zion Park it started snowing and we arrived there late in the evening, because we needed hours togo there, for our car only had summer wheels. The visitor center was closed and the camping ground empty except an old van, standing in one edge. At first, we discussed to search a motel, but what happens, if we would stick with the car in the snow? So we decided to stay there and tried to build up our tent, but it doesn´t work, because the ground was frozen. Suddenly a man came out of the van and was rather surprised to find two young women and immediately helped us to build up the tent. The next morning he had a cup of coffee for us and invited us to make a little tour with him to have a wonderful overview over the park. This tour was one of the best things, we did in our life, although we were totally exhausted and could hardly follow him because we weren´t trained enough. He noticed this and offered to carry our backpacks, too. We were unable to speak and crawled on hands and knees uphill behind Mugs, who walked without any strain with three backpacks and told us a lot of his sight of nature. When we finally reached the top, I saw only golden and red rings and my breast was hurting, but then, the overview was overwhelming. One evening Mugs made tortillas for us und showed us slides of rocks, especially of the “Moothes Tooth” and told us a lot about it, but we couldn´t see very much, for the slides were little and the light bad.

This tour and all that Mugs told us about nature and being outside, I never forgot in my life and very often I notice, that he was right and that his sight had influenced me. I´m working for an organization for nature (so my husband do) and don´t like big cities at all and our sons like being outside and are very interested in nature and Marianne lives on a farm and has 5 children. Since we met Mugs,we had the wish to thank him for his inspiration and to tell him, what we are doing now and that he would like it. But unfortunately we thought, that his name is written like “Max Stomp” (like the German “Max and Moritz”) and since I have internet, I looked nearly every year for him and searched by Google and couldn´t found him.

Now we are planning the same tour after 30 years, before we are too old. This time I wrote “Stomp” at first in my laptop and Google proposes the right name and now I´m very sad to see what happens to Mugs. But it helps a little to write this mail to you. Meeting and spending some time with Mugs was a great luck.

Thank you for reading my mail and with the best wishes,

Eva M. Hugenbusch


Trad climber
Aug 8, 2010 - 09:00am PT
That is one sweet letter. Thanks for posting, Conrad.

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 8, 2010 - 12:04pm PT

Bump for two greats.

Mugs & Conrad. WOW!

Trad climber
North Carolina
Aug 8, 2010 - 12:47pm PT
It was the winter of 84/85 and I was working as a lift operator in Telluride. In those days the "new Mountain Village" was just an idea in the minds of developers and the base of Lift #3 was a remote, beautiful area with only trees and snow in sight. I had the opportunity to get to know Muggs through my friend Mona and knew how much he loved to ski the backcountry. Lift #3 only had 103 chairs on it and was not very busy on powder when Muggs would come out of the woods beside the ski area in his backcountry skis and skins...of course I let him onto the lift so he could telly the upper mountain. I was just learning to telemark and was having trouble just committing to the "fall line" and pointing my skis downhill on the steep powder slopes. I remember one powder day when I joined Muggs for some powder runs...he told me to quit thinking about technique and just go fast and have fun. I followed him down the mountain cranking the best telly turns of my life and had FUN and the best day on the mountain ever. Lots of falls, but lots of memorable Black Diamond runs following him down the slopes! I miss Muggs and the way he would inspire all of us to give it our best to get the most out of whatever we did! Thank you Muggs!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Oct 19, 2010 - 06:54pm PT
I applaud Deeski for letting Mugs in on the lift line. Great people in their sport deserve a bit of privilege.

I recall a Yosemite ranger once telling me how proud he was of meeting Mugs as he kicked him out of Upper Pines for overstaying the 2 week limit. That guy should have let him slip by, or used his insider info to get him into a low-key arrangement so he could stay. I'm sure that ranger regrets his action.

Anybody want's to pass me on a route. I let them.

Oct 19, 2010 - 07:01pm PT
There is a Mugs Stump route along the Seward Highway which is some terrible rock. Its at an area called Bermuda Triangle. It goes through this roof,

[Click to View Linked Image]

I think I am going to replace the bolts on the route but they are going to go in the exact same place even though the routes scary as I could possibly imagine at that point. The first bolt is mid crux. For an 11d that makes it scary!


Toyota Tacoma
Oct 19, 2010 - 08:54pm PT
Bump for the stories. This is great folks. Thank you all so much for sharing.

Ice climber
Happy Boulders
Oct 20, 2010 - 02:14pm PT
Conrad, thanks for posting that letter from Eva

Trad climber
Charlottesville, VA
Oct 23, 2010 - 09:43pm PT
I met Terry (aka Mugs) Stump in '79, I think, maybe '78, via my friend Dakers Gowans, in Boulder. We did a couple of Eldorado standards together, and he "dated" a woman I knew there for a while.

The next January or February, he was charged up to do a winter ascent of the East Face of Mt. Alice (this will only be meaningful to those who know RMNP). I agreed, and was excited for a moment, but then remembered the misery of winter climbing in RMNP, and was ultimately glad that the weather was so horrible that Mugs called it off! He was definitely more hard-core than I was, and was no doubt bummed by the the weather forecast.

Very good guy, unique and driven....
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 31, 2010 - 09:18pm PT
A Mugs ad from Climbing May 1990.
[Click to View Linked Image]
Bhagirathi III Youth!

Topic Author's Reply - Jan 5, 2011 - 06:15pm PT
Scan of Mugs from his mother's note book.
Scan of Mugs from his mother's note book.
Credit: Conrad

Double D

Jan 5, 2011 - 08:54pm PT
That's a classic image!

I was recently editing the Bird's story on the Moose's Tooth where he describes leading a hideous chimney pitch and belaying on a prayer. Mugs follows it like he's done it before. Bridwell deducted that it must be because, as far as he can tell,
Mugs is from UT & CO where all climbs end up in chimneys and off-widths whereas Cali boys, with the exception of Jay Smith, just don't got the groove!

(Heavily paraphrased)

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 28, 2011 - 07:48pm PT
Happy Birthday Mugs.

This would be 62.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Aug 28, 2011 - 07:52pm PT
He was THE MAN!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Aug 28, 2011 - 11:08pm PT
Mugs was a rare and much larger than life character and I smile at the 62...He would have too!

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 29, 2011 - 04:01pm PT
From Sis' journal.
From Sis' journal.
Credit: Sis Stump

Mugs was about 35 at the time.
Mugs was about 35 at the time.
Credit: Florence "Sis" Stump

Mugs' poem. His handwriting and art work.
Mugs' poem. His handwriting and art work.
Credit: mugs


Trad climber
Hilly, but no rocks Folsom, California
Aug 30, 2011 - 06:51pm PT
bump for climbing heroes

Trad climber
fresno, ca
Aug 30, 2011 - 07:54pm PT
What an amazing thread....reading the old posts and stories from M. Kennedy and Conrad has been really cool. Sometimes The Taco is pathetic....sometimes its amazing. Thanks Conrad for re-igniting this thread. What a treat. I was inspired by Mugs as a new climber....couldn't wrap my mind around how fast he moved in the mountains. Still cant.
Trusty Rusty

Social climber
Tahoe area
Oct 15, 2011 - 12:48pm PT
Reflections of a solid individual

Nov 19, 2011 - 03:16pm PT
The following article is adapted from The Roof At The Bottom Of The World, Ed Stump's history and exploration of the Transantarctic Mountains, the most remote mountain belt on Earth. The illustrated book is the first authoritative look at this little known region.

I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of the Organ Pipe Peaks in a 1935 Geographical Review article by geologist Quin Blackburn, who had led a party of three to the headreaches of Scott Glacier in 1933. It was 1970 and I'd the good fortune to land a position on an Ohio State University geological research expedition in the Transantarctic Mountains. I was reading all of the old literature that I could get my hands on, but I struggled to believe that any grouping of summits could be so dramatic, so beautiful, and so fine.

They were a fantasy of mountains rendered with bold and simple strokes, faceted grandeur in black and white.

I dreamed of traveling to those peaks, bowing down before their central spire, The Spectre, and sampling a piece of the rock. Alas, the Organ Pipe Peaks remained beyond my reach that season.

Ten years later, on my fifth Antarctic expedition, I found myself camped on Sanctuary Glacier in the shadow of the Organ Pipe Peaks. My work that season had begun with geological mapping of the La Gorce Mountains and ended with a collecting traverse down the east side of Scott Glacier, essentially retracing Blackburn's route. Now I was one day away from attempting an ascent of The Spectre.

Being a klutz with ropes myself, I have always had someone in the party who is experienced with roped climbing in case we needed it. This time, the field assistant/mountaineer for the party was my brother Mugs, who ad made his first big mark in climbing the previous year by scaling the Emperor Face on Mount Robson in British Columbia. From the beginning of the field season, Mugs and I had joked about climbing The Spectre. We figured he would do all the leading and if necessary would winch me, the older brother, up on a rope.

Now that we were camped in the shadow of The Spectre, looking up its backside, the climb was no longer a joke. It was real, sheer, and daunting. Mugs studied the fractured upper wall of the spire, and, although he couldn't see a clear route, said: "We'll just wander around on the face and see where it leads."

I understood Mugs's nonchalance and trusted him completely. I also trusted myself. I must admit, however, that I didn't sleep well the night before the climb. What would it be like? Would the rough passages be vertical or overhung? Would I be in way over my head? I hadn't had such a case of butterflies since before wrestling matches in high school.

After a big breakfast Mugs and I snowmobiled over to the foot of The Spectre. We carried a minimal rack of climbing gear: a half-dozen carabineers, several slings, and four pitons to secure the rope. The first half of the ascent was a straightforward climb up a steep (50°) snow chute to a shoulder on the right skyline, with Mugs kicking in all the footsteps and I following in his prints.

At the shoulder, we pulled out the rope and while I belayed Mugs began working his way across and up the face, which in this stretch was pretty much vertical. When he reached secure spots, Mugs would set the belay for me, and I would follow up his path. There were good-sized cracks in the rock that gave plenty of handholds and places to rest, so I mostly managed to climb with no problem.

The most difficult passage of the climb -- the crux -- occurred at a place where there was a slight overhang. The only handholds were high above my head, but there was nowhere to place a toe if I pulled myself up. I thrashed around some as Mugs laughed and tightened the rope. But then I found a bulge on the rock out to my left side that could be grasped between my knees. From there I could reach the next handhold, and we were both past the touchiest part of the day.

After about two hundred feet of roped climbing (two pitches), we made it past the steepest stretch, and came out onto a rock face with a slope angle closer to 60° than to vertical and with lots of snow-filled cracks that made planting steps easy. Here Mugs packed the rope, and we continued upward across the face. We had started the day in full sun, climbing in shirt sleeves with our parkas packed, but as the sun circled its way to the south, we slipped into shade and the chill that it brings. Rather than take off our packs on the steep terrain, we decided not to pull out our parkas, and pushed on to the summit.

A small cornice of soft snow maybe eight feet high was the last barrier to the top. Mugs chopped and kicked his way through and over it, and we emerged into sunlight on the flat of the summit. In all directions splendid peaks reached for the heavens, piercing the undulating mantle of white and blue. No sound stirred the silence. We took a round of photos and then had some lunch.

You could say that we were pleased with ourselves. I can also say that we brothers never felt closer. Each of us knew that he wouldn't be at this spot were it not for the other. I had provided the opportunity and Mugs the expertise. What I recall most was agreeing with Mugs that our parents would be more than doubly proud. We lingered a bit longer and finally descended; I rappelled most of the distance down to the shoulder and Mugs mostly downclimbed after me, stripping the hardware from the belay points.

At the shoulder, we figured a glissade down the snow chute would be the fastest way back to the base of the mountain, so we sat back on our heels, set the points of our ice axes in the snow for braking, and slid all the way down to our snowmobile. My dream a decade earlier of bowing before The Spectre had been exceeded.

Photos at this link:

Nov 19, 2011 - 08:44pm PT

Dec 8, 2011 - 11:44am PT

Tempe, Arizona
Feb 1, 2012 - 05:31pm PT
I recently became aware of this forum, and am touched by how many folks have weighed in with comments about my brother. Thanks, Conrad, for starting this ball rolling. I have been blogging about the Transantarctic Mountains since August in connection with the publication of my book on the same subject. My lastest post briefly outlines some climbs that Mugs and I did in the Scott Glacier area and on the Vinson collecting for fission-track dating studies. Readers might be interested in the photos, or earlier posts where Mugs is mentioned or pictured. The link is The other climber during the 1986-87 field season was Lyle Dean, whom I have lost track of. If anyone out there knows Lyle's whereabouts, please let me know. I have something from that season that belongs to him.

beneath the valley of ultravegans
Apr 8, 2012 - 10:39pm PT
[Click to View Linked Image]

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Apr 8, 2012 - 10:47pm PT
that's a serious line

Mountain climber
Seattle WA
Apr 8, 2012 - 11:08pm PT
RIP may the climber rest in peace....

Topic Author's Reply - Aug 28, 2012 - 09:57pm PT
Happy Birthday Mugs.

You would have been 63 on this fine day.

You've been an inspiration to many and continue to motivate through the Mugs Grant.

Werner knew how much you hated football, yet it gave you a framework for later in life.

Keep sending the pitches. You were my sensei.

You humble grasshopper.

Come and get it.   I've had my run in the big mountains. You young buc...
Come and get it. I've had my run in the big mountains. You young bucks.... open project.
Credit: Conrad

Aug 28, 2012 - 10:47pm PT
A good man, and thorough...

Trad climber
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:10pm PT
Not sure if my post will mean much, but he kicked it. Truely a great climber with vision.

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:41pm PT
Best of all he was just a good guy. Really cool to young new kids who wanted to do stuff in the big mountains.

Ice climber
chingadero de chula vista
Aug 29, 2012 - 12:01am PT

this warrants more attention

wish I had know him

Aug 29, 2012 - 12:07am PT
zBrown -- "wish I had know him"

He had enough plans in place to scare the sh!t of us mortals .......

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Aug 29, 2012 - 12:13am PT

Happy Birthday, Mugs.
Thanks for sharing with us, Conrad.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Aug 29, 2012 - 12:25am PT
I never met him, but I read the list of names and have climbed with some. It is kind of weird how we are all connected somehow.

I have thought about that on routes like the Nose or other popular routes. You know, belly flopping onto Dolt Tower and knowing that pretty much all of your buddies and heroes and whoever have touched the same holds. If holds could tell stories, that would be pretty damn cool.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Apr 6, 2018 - 11:09am PT
Big Kahuna

Ice climber
Hell Hardest climb I did was getting out of bed.
Aug 28, 2018 - 10:35am PT
Happy Birthday Mugs
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