February 8th, 2010
It was somewhere back in the 1990’s, probably on some gray, wet Seattle day, when I picked up a back issue of Climbing Magazine and read about Mugs Stump and his unfortunate death in Alaska. I was a retail climbing shop lackey, an apathetic employee of Feathered Friends steadily making his way through the shop’s library of climbing literature. (Fortunately, today’s staff at the shop are more energetic than I was). As I read, using my new-found climbing vocabulary, I saw that for all the pioneering hard climbing he had done, it was something simple and basic to mountaineering that got him. Climbing, simply put, is risky…and that makes it attractive.
At that time I was still coming to understand what “the climbing life” really was, an all-consuming lifestyle with a level of commitment rarely found in anything else. When I think of the moments I have pushed myself to the edge, when the only thing keeping me from collapsing, giving up, or possibly falling to serious or fatal injury, I realize it was my mind. It was my will. I put myself there, and I got myself out, and for this I feel a sense of personal accomplishment. With a climbing partner, it built camaraderie through shared experience; shared suffering, shared success, and shared failure.
Then I look at these friends of mine, Colin Haley, Dylan Johnson, Joe Puryear, David Gottlieb, Jesse Huey, Kate Rutherford, who have pushed even further. Some, to contrast the sport’s all-consuming reputation, even pursue professional lives and maintain relationships and marriages. They and their climbing partners have the vision, the will, and the skill to challenge themselves in the mountains; pushing the limits of the sport, and lifestyle, that much further. For this, the Mugs Stump Award recognizes them. I wish them success and the best of luck. That, and to come home alive.
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