Mugs Stump was one of this country's most prolific and visionary climbers until his death in a crevasse fall in Alaska in May 1992. Mugs had a great spirit and presence. He was a strong man and had a great vision. In many ways his friends felt that if he had one wish it would be to be young and fit forever and never stop exploring or looking at new projects in new places. Best known for his first ascent of the Emperor Face on Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies and his triptych of brilliant Alaskan climbs—the East Face of the Moose's Tooth, the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, and a one-day solo of Denali's Cassin Ridge—Mugs was the complete climber, adept at all forms of the game. Both a dedicated athlete and a seeker after a higher truth beyond the physical manifestations of his sport, he saw climbing as a celebration of boldness, purity and simplicity.
Mugs Stump: A Legacy by Doug Heinrich
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 proficiency 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.”
Doug Heinrich has put up more routes in the Utah area that most of us can hope to climb in a lifetime. Quite simply, this guy gets after it! He’s also set speed-climbing records in Zion, competed in ice comps and put up some of Utah’s hardest mixed lines. These days you’ll find Doug developing products for Nordic Trac and putting his energy to good use running up the trails of the Wasatch. After working as a product manager for Black Diamond for many years, Doug continues to use and test BD products in his climbing pursuits. We miss you round here Doug!
Mugs Stump: What If? by Kennan Harvey
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 campfire or stove with our friends.
Kennan Harvey’s initial ice climbing experience involved the first two pitches of Bridal Veil Falls while on a college ski vacation. “I figured I was a good carpenter and would also be a fine ice climber.” Kennan recalls. “On the descent I tripped on my crampon straps and fell into the back of my partner, knocking us both down the gully. Not exactly like carpentry.” Now I’m branching into all facets of adventure photography – even “family camping, a far cry from previous years when I spent more time on a portaledge than a bed.” Presently you’ll find Kennan in his self-built, 100-percent solar-powered home in Durango, Colorado.