Cassin Speed Ascent

Posted on: June 7, 2011

Denali (20,320'), showing the upper West Buttress (numerous lines, from ca. 2,500' to 3,500' and up to 5.9 85 degrees) on the left skyline and the Cassin Ridge (Alaska Grade 5: 5.8 AI4 65 degrees, 9,000'), the prominent line that runs up the photo's center, Denali National Park, Alaska. Following other tragedies on the mountain this season, two climbers—James Nasti of Naperville, IL and Pungkas Tri Baruno of Jakarta, Indonesia—collapsed, unexpectedly and fatally, in separate incidents early this July. [Photo] NPS collection

In early May, British mountaineers Jonathan Griffith and Will Sim climbed Cassin Ridge in 14 hours and 40 minutes. This is the fastest speed ascent of the iconic ridge to date, but only just. In 1991, Mugs Stump — a renowned American Alpinist who perished in 1992 — also climbed the Cassin Ridge in an alpine fashion. And in just 15 hours (only 20 minutes slower than the current and recently established record), Stump peaked out.

While the two had not intended or expected to break Stump's speed record up the ridge, Sim said in his blog that the climb was worthwhile simply for its own sake. "It was also great to just climb this uber alpine test piece," he said, "which is arguably one of the most famous alpine routes in the world."


Sources: David Walter Falt,, Jon Griffith -,,

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Reading Colin Haley's blog, are we Bldrjacl?

2011-06-29 08:12:22

Well, technically neither Mug's ascent nor this latest ascent have gone to the summit of Denali. So really neither are records

This is like Uli Steck soloing the Eiger north face route and stopping the stopwatch when he comes off the summit ice field and steps onto the Mitteligi Rdige.. Both are great climbing but neither is a record unless they get to the summit.

2011-06-28 23:55:33

I would like to mention here the seemingly unknown record of Martine Roekasch-s solo ascent in 2001, the summer of all summers in the Ak Range. She came from Latvia in early April, I think it was when I met her in Trapper Creek, and she had just skied out/walked out down the Kahiltna . She was very quiet, with a two week old beard, and after a brew or two at the Roadhouse, I found out that she had intended to solo the upper West Rib but had accidentally started the Cassin proper and summitted in approximatly 13 hours and a twenty minutes. She told me in broken english that she was not too much "on top of making a record", but hasd said the climb was relatively easy compared to her other little known record solo ascents in her home Latvia, eastern european peaks in Slovakia and 7000 meter peaks in Krygizstan. Though she does not or has not ever maintained a "Blogg", she does maintain, what is known in westcentral latvia as a " Flogg", where the relatively small alpine climbing community caches ascent times and so forth on bathroom stalls in Kebab restaurants.

2011-06-08 12:18:54

Did they even have stopwatches back in 1991? Likewise Mugs was probably baked which would have undoubtedly made the ascent time seem longer than it was. Was it really 15 hours or did it just seem like 15 hours?

2011-06-08 07:13:20
andy kirkpatrick

Have they been drug tested? I heard that many of the top Brits are as dopped up at yankee pro cyclists most of the time (perhaps it's just thoes famous ones who hang out in the valley?)

2011-06-08 04:22:57

Well I too am conflicted.

The Brits ascent was likely longer by at least ~100 meters Due to glacial base-level lowering due to the regional trend in overall glacial melting (Molina, 2007).

If one assumes a starting ascent rate of 5 meters/minute the ascent time would be a equivalent which is reasonable considering the acceleration speed for most modern climbers is slow to middling.

On the flip side Terrance (aka Mugs) would have been climbing with dull sub-standard gear borrowed from the Talkeenta rescue cache (personal communication Ranger Roger) and was truly solo, breaking all trail. The additional weight of his older style gear would have also decreased his ascent rate by .157 minutes/foot calibrated by assuming standard atmos pressure for 2500 meters and so on.

I call it wash and declare both the winner.

2011-06-07 22:59:55

OK I admit I'm biased being Swedish but its worth mentioning that Swedish alpinists Magnus Kastengren and Andreas Fransson did the same route in 33 h round trip including a 9h bivy. This only a day or so after Fransson had skied a huge part of the South Face.

2011-06-07 02:58:03
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