Earlier this week, I saw that the Mugs Stump Grant recipients for 2012 were announced. News like this is more than a headline; it’s a chance for us to live vicariously through some current, bold alpinists. Seven projects were awarded but the Alaskan expeditions drew my attention.
One recipient is a team focused on Golgotha in the Revelation Mountains. Clint Helander, Scotty Vincik, and Mark Westman will tackle its east face. The other recipient is a team heading to the Saint Elias Range to climb the west face of Middle Peak. That team is composed of Dave Burdick, John Frieh and Zac West. Their objective doesn’t have as dramatic a name as Golgotha, but that really doesn’t matter either; it’s challenge more than makes up for its utilitarian name.
Mountaineering is an amazing sport (yes, it is a sport,) and as the long list of 2012 grant recipients shows, the scope is literally global. North America is my home and Alaska (and to some extent British Colombia and Alberta) are my favorite, mountain-wise. Living in an urban area where everyone craves the beaches of southern Florida, Alaska is plenty exotic. I love the history of the Alaska Range, the rugged, remote allure of the Revelations and the wilderness of the Saint Elias Range.
The Revelations were first visited by one of the Harvard Mountaineering Club veterans and writer, David Roberts. He and his team chose biblical end-of-times inspired names for the mountains they saw, such as The Angel and, of course, the unclimbed Golgotha. Roberts recently said in a recent issue of Climbing that he had been saving it on his personal tick list, and only recently did he feel comfortable telling everyone else about it. I wonder if this inspired this expedition? It made me contemplate grabbing my crampons and buying a plane ticket.
The Saint Elias Range was a blank on the Alaskan/Canadian map until National Geographic sent Bradford Washburn and a team of climbers to draw one up the old fashioned way — getting down on the ground, walking the glaciers and finding what lay between the peaks. Despite it being mapped — like everywhere else these days (sigh) — it’s the experience of the hike, the climb, the conditions our responses and our mental state that really create the explorer’s world today.
I wish the teams very good luck!
Sources: 1) Alpinist Newswire; 2) Roberts, David, On the Ridge Between Life and Death, Simon and Schuster, 2005; 3) Roberts, David, The Last of His Kind, HarperCollins, 2009.