2010 Mugs Stump Update: Success, Tragedy and Savage Peaks

Posted on: November 24, 2010

Established in 1993, the Mugs Stump Award provides funding to North American individuals and teams who propose exceptional climbing objectives—a first ascent, significant repeat, or first alpine-style ascent. The award was created in honor of American alpinist Mugs Stump, who was killed in a crevasse fall while descending the south buttress of Denali in 1992. Stump put up routes all over the world, but is best know for his first ascent of Mt. Robson's Emperor Face, the east face of the Mooses Tooth and a solo speed-ascent of Denali's Cassin Ridge: a record that has yet to be broken.


"Mugs saw climbing differently than many of his contemporaries, as a spiritual and mind-expanding quest," said award co-founder Michael Kennedy. "He wanted to push his personal limits and to stretch what we all saw as possible. He was one of the first people to really embrace the 'super fast and super light' approach."

In this spirit, award recipients are climbers who best exemplify Stump's alpine-style and leave-no-trace philosophies as well as reflect the values he embodied: humility, boldness, purity and simplicity, Kennedy said.

The 2010 Mugs Stump Award recipients attempted an array of bold objectives, from first ascents on obscure peaks in Tibet and Greenland; to new routes on well-known faces in the Central Alaska Range. Whether teams ultimately reached success or failure, each enterprise was undertaken with the same style and audacity as the award's namesake.

Please visit mugsstumpaward.com for more information on the award, to apply, and to read trip reports from past recipients.

Headwaters (5.10 A2 M5 80 degrees, 1000m), east face of Seerdengpu, Sichuan, China. Dylan Johnson and Chad Kellog completeded the mixed route in alpine style on September 13, claiming the first ascent of this 5592-meter peak. [Photo] Dylan Johnson

Americans Bag Sought-After Summit in China

On September 13, Dylan Johnson and Chad Kellogg reached the long-sought-after summit of Seerdengpu (5592m), which has attracted around a dozen attempts over the past decade.

Seerdengpu, translated as the "Savage Peak," forms the high point of the Changping and Shoughshiou River Valleys. A 1600-meter granite wall makes up the mountain's north and west faces, which are "incredibly accessible", reached by bus and a couple hours walk. The 1200-meter south and east aspects are much more remote and provide a combination of big walls and "complex" alpine mixed terrain, Johnson reports.

The pair arrived in the area in late August and set up an advanced base camp below Seerdengpu's east face after acclimatizing in the Changping Valley. On September 2-4, Johnson and Kellogg made an attempt on a line up the east face, climbing 250m of 5.10 granite before descending to high camp at 4900m. The pair were stormed on through the night and decided to bail, leaving fixed lines through the crux slabs before returning to base camp.

Chad Kellogg navigates an exposed traverse on Seerdengpu. [Photo] Dylan Johnson

They returned to the mountain four days later despite questionable weather and poor visibility, and were pleased to find "straight-forward" snow and mixed climbing up to M5 for 300m above their previous highpoint. At 5200m, the climbers encountered a complex sequence of gendarmes barring their progress. While drytooling a thin crack on one of the gendarmes, Johnson took his "first real alpine whipper" after his ice tool popped off the rock as he searched under the snow for a gear placement. Unnerved by the fall and lacking bivy equipment, Johnson and Kellogg cached their food and returned to high camp.

Chad Kellogg works his way up a 5086-meter peak near Seerdengpu in Sichuan, China. Kellogg, with partners John Dickey and Dylan Johnson, bailed off the spire just 25m below the summit. [Photo] Dylan Johnson

The duo recharged for a day at base camp before making the 15-mile trek back to the east face for a third attempt on September 12. They returned to the wall that night, climbing by headlamp and reaching their high point at dawn. This time, they decided to bypass the gendarmes by traversing for four 5.10 C2 pitches to access moderate terrain on the upper mountain. They simul-climbed the remaining 300m to the summit ridge, where easy mixed climbing led them to the summit at 2:30pm on September 13.

Johnson and Kellogg christened their route Headwaters (5.10 A2 M5 80 degrees, 1000m) in reference to Seerdengpu's position at the apex of the two river drainages and as "an acknowledgement of the alarming glacial recession underway here [which is] a major threat to the crowded Chinese lowlands extending thousands of miles downriver" Johnson said in his trip report.

A day later, the pair joined John Dickey on an attempt to climb a 5086-meter spire near Seerdengpu. The climbers bailed just 25m from the summit when they ran into a steep, "unprotectable" arete well after dark.

Johnson and Kellogg also roped up together in 2008 for the first ascent of Siguniang's southwest ridge (5.11 A2, 2000m) and the second ascent of a nearby 5670-meter peak in the Changping Valley. For more on these climbs, see the October 15, 2008 NewsWire.

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