How quit­ting pro­fes­sional foot­ball launched Mugs Stump’s climb­ing ca­reer

Climbing - - CONTENTS - By Nick Aiello-Popeo Il­lus­tra­tions by Elaine Prof­fitt

How quit­ting pro­fes­sional foot­ball launched Mugs Stump’s climb­ing ca­reer.

If you pull on some­thing hard enough, it breaks. For the late, leg­endary alpin­ist Mugs Stump, who al­most be­came an Nfl foot­ball player, that thing was the body it­self— in his case the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment, or ACL. When strained by 485 pounds of force, the ACL is stretched twice as tight as a pi­ano string. Slowly, at first, the lig­a­ment’s mil­lions of tiny col­la­gen fibers be­gin to fray. The in­di­vid­ual break­ages in­crease ex­po­nen­tially un­til the lig­a­ment ex­plodes with an au­di­ble “snap.”

THE TOWN OF GLENRIO, sit­ting astride the boundary of Texas and New Mex­ico, is a model of con­flic­tion. With a sur­veyor’s mis­take in 1859, Glenrio was cleaved down the mid­dle by the bor­der. Even its name is a pas­tiche of half English, half Span­ish that means “val­ley river.” But unas­sum­ing Glenrio (pop. 30)—or a nearby bor­der town, de­pend­ing on which of Stump’s con­tem­po­raries you ask—was the scene of a sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment in Amer­i­can alpin­ism. On a raw spring day in 1972, Terry “Mugs” Stump pulled his Ford panel van off the road, his bald tires paw­ing for trac­tion. The day prior, he’d de­parted As­pen, Colorado, af­ter a win­ter of ski bum­ming. Just over the hori­zon, crews were lay­ing the black­top for In­ter­state 40, which, in by­pass­ing the un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­nity, would re­duce Glenrio to a ghost town by year’s end. Stump, a mus­cu­lar 23-year-old with shaggy, dark hair, climbed stiffly from the driver’s seat, bent at the waist, and mas­saged both knees. Af­ter a long night’s drive, it was time for cof­fee—and to make a decision.

Mugs Stump would be­come one of Amer­ica’s most vi­sion­ary clim­bers, spear­head­ing a fast-and-light ap­proach to alpin­ism dur­ing the 1970s and 1980s when siege-style ex­pe­di­tions were still the norm. His style was a form of artis­tic ex­pres­sion: He

sought pu­rity through sim­plic­ity. Ex­am­ples in­clude the first as­cent of Mt. Rob­son’s Em­peror Face, a break­through climb on Mt. Hunter’s

Moon­flower But­tress, and a speed solo of the Cassin Ridge on Denali ( see “The Big Four,” p.58). This kind of ide­al­is­tic vi­sion, com­bined with rest­less de­ter­mi­na­tion, let Stump ac­com­plish much in a brief ca­reer. Though he made sig­nif­i­cant achiev­ments in the moun­tains, Stump de­scribed his life not as a cal­cu­lated rise to great­ness but as a “dream­like wan­der­ing.” Th­ese pere­gri­na­tions took him from the grid­iron to the moun­tains—foot­ball, in fact, was Stump’s first pas­sion.

As he sat in that nearly empty café, lis­ten­ing to the West Texas wind rat­tling the grimy win­dows, Stump pon­dered his next move. He was head­ing east, to try out for the Dal­las Cow­boys, closer to re­al­iz­ing a boy­hood dream than he’d ever been. But the re­treat­ing Rocky Moun­tains tugged at his heart as well, with their prom­ise of ski­ing and climb­ing. As he sat in that nowhere diner, Stump drank cup af­ter cup of cof­fee, try­ing to de­cide in which di­rec­tion his path lay.

Sum­mer 1978: The cold metal of John Barstow’s cam­era stung his face as he tried to steady it in the he­li­copter. Barstow— a climber and photographer— had vol­un­teered for a res­cue on Mount Rob­son, high in the Cana­dian Rock­ies. De­spite the se­ri­ous­ness of their mis­sion, Barstow could not help but raise his cam­era when the chop­per swung around a ridge and the Plex­i­glas wind­screen filled with a fore­bod­ing, ice- clad, 8,000- foot face. A few weeks later, a manila en­ve­lope from Barstow ar­rived un­ex­pect­edly at the home of the Amer­i­can alpin­ist Jamie Lo­gan ( then Jim). Lo­gan opened it to find an ex­quis­ite 8x10 of Rob­son’s Em­peror Face, an Eiger- like wall— only big­ger— that had re­buffed her sev­eral times. She traced a sin­u­ous line up the cliff, then called her friend Mugs.

ON AU­GUST 28, 1949, ghostly plumes of fog rose from the streets of Ju­ni­ata County, Penn­syl­va­nia, as thick sheets of rain beat down on the hot as­phalt. Inside the lo­cal hospi­tal, Florence Stump strug­gled to de­liver her third son. Her baby had not been planned. Early in the preg­nancy, she nearly suf­fered a mis­car­riage. And now, her eight-anda-half-pound child was lodged side­ways across the birth canal. Terry Man­beck Stump was care­fully coaxed into this world in a de­liv­ery that Florence would later de­scribe as “stormy.”

Stump would have an ac­tive and ram­bunc­tious child­hood amid the rolling fields and shady forests of cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia in the farm­ing com­mu­nity of Mif­flintown. It was the kind of place where a busi­ness is passed from fa­ther to son—where Stump’s fa­ther, War­ren, re­turned to his old job in his fa­ther-in-law’s ware­house af­ter serv­ing in World War II. War­ren and Florence en­forced or­der, and of­ten herded young Terry and his three brothers into the town’s Pres­by­te­rian church. But the Stump boys were also free spir­its who roamed the streets and woods in search of ad­ven­ture. “We lived at the edge of this small town,” re­counts the youngest of Terry’s sib­lings, Thad. Of­ten, Thad and his brothers would “come home from school, grab a shot­gun, and go down to a lime­stone quarry and meadow that was be­hind the house.” Fre­quent prac­tice with their firearms helped to keep the boys sharp be­tween hunt­ing sea­sons.

Much of what we know about Terry Stump’s child­hood comes from an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal es­say as­sign­ment that he wrote his se­nior year of high school. In his telling, Terry had al­ways felt cor­ralled in school, chaf­ing at the struc­ture, act­ing out and clash­ing with teach­ers. His first-grade teacher, he wrote, “got so sick of me cry­ing she put me in the cor­ner be­hind the screen and slugged me with her Ping-Pong pad­dle.” But it was also in school that he dis­cov­ered “the most en­joy­able thing in my life: ath­let­ics.” “Terry was just a nat­u­ral ath­lete,” Thad says. “Pretty much any­thing he picked up, he could do well.” His mother played soft­ball and field hockey dur­ing her teen and col­lege years, and his fa­ther had been re­cruited to play baseball and foot­ball by sev­eral col­leges. But War­ren Stump never made it into the col­lege sta­dium; at age 18, both of his par­ents died within a year of each other. War­ren and his older sis­ter were left to care for seven younger sib­lings. His only sig­nif­i­cant time away from Ju­ni­ata County was his ser­vice in the Army quar­ter­mas­ter corps, en­list­ing on May 16, 1942.

In first grade, foot­ball be­gan to take root with Terry. He would prac­tice in ad hoc scrim­mages at re­cess, and then take part in games with his sib­lings and their friends af­ter school. De­spite be­ing the youngest on the field, Stump stood out for his speed and agility, ac­cord­ing to a bi­og­ra­phy com­piled by Florence af­ter Terry’s death. In his high school au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Terry wrote, “I can re­mem­ber how a dream was be­ing formed.” Foot­ball be­came more than a pas­time—to Stump, it was some­thing very real and chal­leng­ing. It also made him feel pow­er­ful, es­pe­cially when matched against older and big­ger play­ers. Stump wrote: “I re­mem­ber the time in fifth grade, dur­ing a noon-time re­cess. The score was 60 to zero and I had scored all 60 points … That was the day I was sure I wanted to be an ath­lete.”

In high school, Stump drove him­self to ex­cel, go­ing be­yond the reg­u­lar train­ing reg­i­mens of his team­mates. Many morn­ings, he would sit in class drip­ping sweat, hav­ing al­ready run 50 laps around the school. School con­tin­ued, how­ever, to be a source of grief: Stump was trou­bled not only by the stric­tures of in­sti­tu­tional learn­ing, but the so­cial niches en­forced by peers. De­spite be­ing a star ath­lete—Thad re­mem­bers him be­ing start­ing quar­ter­back all four high school years—Stump was an out­sider, with his clos­est friends al­most all girls.

“He was, in some ways, a pro­to­typ­i­cal jock,” says Thad. “He had the swag­ger; he had the at­ti­tude.” Yet he also had lit­tle pa­tience for bul­lies. Florence wrote that Stump felt “com­pas­sion for any­one be­ing hu­mil­i­ated”—even a teacher. At age 15, he com­plained to her, “There are a cou­ple of guys in our home­room I would like to beat up on, be­cause of the way they treat [the home­room teacher] Duffy.”

Low on the Em­peror Face, downslop­ing ledges of snow and rub­ble stri­ate the shat­tered shale. It’s mid-July 1978, and Stump bal­ances on a shelf, slot­ting a knifeblade into a brit­tle, dis­con­tin­u­ous crack. He taps the piton with his ice tool, mea­sur­ing his blows to avoid los­ing his bal­ance. When he doesn’t dare strike the pin any harder, he clips the piece and con­tin­ues. With a gloved hand paw­ing on a flat hold, he man­tels and stretches, reach­ing un­til his axe hooks a slop­ing ledge. Just as he moves his other hand up, his front­points slip. Stump’s boots swing away from the over­hang­ing wall, caus­ing his pick to skate across the ledge be­fore it flies off in a shower of sparks. It’s over in an in­stant, and Stump finds him­self hang­ing from the rope, star­ing down at the glacier 2,000 feet below. A wide grin breaks across his face. “How hard do you think this is, Lo­gan? 5.9?”

IN 1961, fu­ture Su­per Bowl win­ner and Hall of Fame player Joe Na­math was a high school quar­ter­back, cho­sen to rep­re­sent Penn­syl­va­nia in the Big 33 Foot­ball Clas­sic, the “Su­per­bowl of High School Foot­ball.” Six years later, it was Stump, now a high school se­nior, who walked out un­der the lights of Her­shey­park Sta­dium to lead the hud­dle for the state team. Be­fore the game, Stump told a re­porter, “I guess I have con­fi­dence be­cause I called al­most all the plays for my high school team in the three years as quar­ter­back.” But the game was a bit­ter em­bar­rass­ment: The Penn­syl­va­nia Coal Crack­ers were routed by the Texas All Stars that night, los­ing 45 to 14. Stump threw three in­ter­cep­tions, each re­turned for a touch­down.

Later that same year, in the fifth game of the sea­son as Stump dropped back to pass, a de­fen­sive tackle broke through the pha­lanx of line­men, de­liv­er­ing a crush­ing blow to Stump’s knee, tear­ing car­ti­lage and snap­ping lig­a­ments, in­clud­ing his ACL. In a trau­matic im­pact, the ACL, which joins the fe­mur to the tibia, can rup­ture with a sharp pop. The knee quickly swells, and, lack­ing the sta­bil­ity cre­ated by the ACL, the lower leg may wob­ble when weighted. The dam­age can be so se­vere that the knee it­self may feel hot, as bleed­ing from deep within the joint seeps to­ward the skin. But in the face of what most would con­sider a crip­pling in­jury, Stump con­tin­ued to play foot­ball—still able to pass and hand off, he fin­ished the sea­son. “I think that [in­jury] was what spurred him to do a lot of work­ing out,” re­mem­bers Thad.

Later that year, on the day af­ter Christ­mas 1966, Stump was wheeled into the op­er­at­ing room. Af­ter surgery, his leg was im­mo­bi­lized in a cast and he en­dured “the most mis­er­able win­ter I’ve ever spent,” not­ing that “noth­ing seemed to be of much im­por­tance.” Whether in school or

rest­ing at home, he was locked away from the world, gaz­ing through ici­cle-barred win­dows, a hi­ber­nat­ing bear wait­ing for spring.

“Stump is a do-ev­ery­thing type of player, sought by nu­mer­ous big name col­leges,” de­clared the lo­cal paper. The spring of 1967 was a dry one in ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia, with the pale-pink moun­tain lau­rel slow to bud on the hill­sides. For the third time since the snow had melted from the yard, a man in a sim­ple suit climbed the creaky stairs to the Stump house­hold. De­spite Stump’s in­jury, col­lege re­cruiters had been com­ing to Mif­flintown to im­press, ca­jole, and flat­ter him into play­ing foot­ball for them.

In the end, Stump wouldn’t have to go far. He at­tended Penn­syl­va­nia State Univer­sity where in his first year he was quar­ter­back on the fresh­man team. On his first night in the dorms, Stump was do­ing sit-ups, pushups, and leg raises in his tiny bed. “He was de­ter­mined to be a great foot­ball player,” re­calls his room­mate, Fran Gan­ter. Fear­ing a flair-up of his knee in­jury, Stump strove to strengthen the sta­bi­liz­ing mus­cles of his lower body. In his only let­ter home that year, Terry would tell his par­ents, “This is all I want now, but then it’s the one thing I’ve al­ways wanted.” Af­ter a fu­ri­ous few min­utes of cal­is­then- ics, Gan­ter says, Terry knelt by his bed, caught his breath, and prayed.

Though Stump’s spir­i­tu­al­ity shifted from the Chris­tian­ity of his up­bring­ing to a more Eastern phi­los­o­phy later in life, he al­ways felt a con­nec­tion be­tween phys­i­cal ex­er­tion and a higher power. “Be­ing an ath­lete and reach­ing my highs (com­mu­ni­cat­ing with God) through finely tun­ing my mind and body, I have found the ul­ti­mate way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with Na­ture (God),” he wrote his par­ents. “Ev­ery­thing is brought down to the sim­plest level—me and the earth—but is height­ened to an ul­ti­mate level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Stump’s white jer­sey sig­ni­fied his rank as a mem­ber of the fresh­man foot­ball squad, where new play­ers try to prove them­selves to the coach­ing staff. Part­way through the year, Stump was asked to host a high school player whom the team hoped to re­cruit. When Eric Bass walked into his host’s cramped room in fall 1967, it was Stump’s in­tense, wel­com­ing face that struck him. “Hi! I’m Terry,” Stump said, pulling open a dresser drawer filled with rotgut Fire­bird wine. He tossed a bot­tle at Eric, and a week­end of par­ty­ing be­gan. “I was sick for a week,” Bass re­calls, 51 years later. And yet, by the fol­low­ing sea­son, Bass would be play­ing along­side Stump at Penn State.

Stump’s fall was soon for­got­ten as he and Lo­gan swarmed up the Em­peror Face. They’d climbed the height of El Cap­i­tan when they stopped for their first bivy. The pair bal­anced on tiny seats they’d chopped into a 70- de­gree rib of snow. But each time they drifted off, spin­drift would pile be­hind their backs, act­ing as a frigid wedge. The moon­light caused Berg Lake, stud­ded with its epony­mous ice­bergs 4,000 feet below, to shim­mer like mer­cury. Be­yond, the frozen Cana­dian wilder­ness stretched un­in­ter­rupted.

AF­TER HIS FRESH­MAN YEAR, Stump was el­i­gi­ble for var­sity. No longer clois­tered among fresh­man, he found it harder to be no­ticed. Chuck Burkhart, a quar­ter­back one year older than Stump, was lead­ing Penn State to back-to-back un­de­feated sea­sons. Mean­while, one of the most con­spic­u­ous ath­letes in the locker room was Mike Cooper, in the run­ning to be­come the first African-Amer­i­can quar­ter­back for the Nit­tany Li­ons. Though it was 1968 and Amer­ica was wit­ness­ing the changes wrought by Civil Rights, the school and sur­round­ing com­mu­nity still ex­pe­ri­enced a mea­sure of dis­com­fort with the as­cen­sion of a black player to a lead­er­ship role only a gen­er­a­tion af­ter the univer­sity first be­gan en­rolling African-Amer­i­cans. Re­flect­ing the nov­elty and cu­rios­ity sur­round­ing Cooper, a univer­sity press re­lease mailed specif­i­cally to The New York Times de­scribed his sum­mer at home as a re­turn “to the ghetto area [where] he was raised.”

But Cooper was a stand­out quar­ter­back, and coach Joe Paterno was an early pro­po­nent of mi­nor­ity col­le­giate ath­letes. While Stump felt eclipsed by the shad­ows of Burkhart and Cooper, it was Cooper, fa­mous for dol­ing out nick­names, who would be­stow upon Stump his en­dur­ing moniker. Af­ter a day’s work­out in late 1969, Cooper walked past Stump and no­ticed his moon­like face framed by wide ears, with that moun­tain of a nose perched above an out­sized grin. “I’m gonna call you ‘Mugsie,’” he de­creed. The nick­name stuck, later short­ened to “Mugs.”

Armed with his new name, Mugs sought to be re­born with a new po­si­tion. Though he’d trained as a quar­ter­back for five years, Stump was hum­ble enough to re­al­ize he’d never beat out Burkhart or Cooper, and so set out to re­brand him­self as a de­fen­sive player. He ap­proached Paterno—an au­thor­i­tar­ian for whom he never felt much re­gard. “You’re not gonna play over there [on de­fense],” Paterno ad­mon­ished, ac­cord­ing to Gan­ter, who heard the story from Mugs. “You’ve got a bum knee and we’ve got good peo­ple. You think about that for a cou­ple days. If you de­cide to make the change, you’re gonna be fourth-string.”

Still, Stump per­sisted. Not soon af­ter, Gan­ter was on the prac­tice field with a few fel­low var­sity sopho­mores when he no­ticed Mugs jog­ging out in a lowly white jer­sey—the color for fresh­men and those too far down the ros­ter to be as­signed to the var­sity or JV squads. “I felt so bad for him,” re­calls Gan­ter, “but he bounced onto the field… and worked his way up.” Per­haps as a re­ac­tion to Paterno’s doubt­ing, Stump dou­bled down on his great­est strength, his work ethic, be­com­ing a nearly con­stant pres­ence in the weight room and at prac­tice.

Col­lege was also the birth­place of the famed “Mugs-mo­bile.” This was not one ve­hi­cle, but rather the first in a long se­ries of beat-up panel vans in which Stump criss­crossed North Amer­ica. Each van was beloved, un­til a blown head gas­ket or trashed trans­mis­sion ne­ces­si­tated the pur­chase of the next. Peggy Simok rented an apart­ment ad­ja­cent to Stump, near cam­pus. The two had a short ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship, and then re­mained close friends for decades. “He was al­ways, when I knew him, just a laid­back, free spirit,” she re­calls. Simok helped cre­ate one of the orig­i­nal Mugs-mo­biles: “My room­mate and I sewed. We dec­o­rated one of his mul­ti­col­ored vans with cush­ions and cur­tains.” She and Mugs went to a fab­ric shop one day, where he eyed a bolt of orange, pais­ley polyester cloth.

“He just car­ried the bolt out of the store,” says Simok, “and didn’t pay for it! He was just so easy­go­ing and mis­chievous.”

Stump, Simok, and sev­eral other friends car­a­vanned in two vans to the Ken­tucky Derby that May. “His van never made it,” Simok re­calls. Mugs and his friends, she says, “Were smok­ing dope, driv­ing down the wrong side of the high­way, and got stopped [by the po­lice]. He wrapped him­self in an Amer­i­can flag and jumped out of the van… He would do what you least ex­pected him to do, or what the av­er­age per­son would never think of do­ing.”

Stump spins in the breeze, un­able to reach the over­hang­ing rock that guards the top of the Em­peror Face like a gar­goyle. He slides his worn yel­low Ju­mar up a rope that Lo­gan has fixed, test­ing to make sure it grips. He doesn’t dare look down. Af­ter a seem­ingly end­less rep­e­ti­tion of this process, he reaches Lo­gan, shiv­er­ing

at a two- piton be­lay. Lo­gan’s hol­low stare re­veals how nerve-wrack­ing the pitch has been— it’s taken her nearly the en­tire day. Qui­etly, Mugs or­ga­nizes the gear: a few pitons and dulled ice screws. To his de­light, the steep rock quickly gives way to mod­er­ate snow. Lo­gan, to­tally spent, leaves their fi­nal an­chor in the rock. ( Forty years on, Lo­gan was asked why, with a 7,000-ver­ti­cal- foot on­sight de­scent ahead, they aban­doned th­ese two pre­cious pitons. “Be­cause I was so tired,” she said, be­fore adding “and maybe there was a lit­tle bit of, ‘ Fuck you, we were here … We just did this amaz­ing thing.’”) A few hours later, af­ter tun­nel­ing through a cor­nice to gain a ridge, the two ex­hausted clim­bers cel­e­brate by climb­ing into sleep­ing bags that have frozen stiff.

BY HIS SE­NIOR year of col­lege, Stump’s hair had grown to shoul­der-length. De­spite on­go­ing knee is­sues and a pen­chant for par­ty­ing, he’d done the one thing ev­ery­one had thought im­pos­si­ble: “He was just de­ter­mined, and he sur­prised ev­ery­body,” re­mem­bers Gan­ter. “He proved the coaches wrong and ended up as a start­ing safety … When a run­ning back breaks through the line, that’s your last re­sort.” On the field, Gan­ter says, Mugs “was reck­less, and he was tough.”

When Stump re­turned home dur­ing school breaks, his fa­ther would de­mand that he get a hair­cut. Stump de­clined, happy to be be­rated as he lounged around the house. Other chances to es­cape the cam­pus were spent ski­ing in Ver­mont. Though he wasn’t in­tro­duced to down­hill ski­ing un­til his later teenage years, Stump was a quick study.

As Stump’s fi­nal sea­son with Penn State drew to a close, he had suc­ceeded in pro­duc­ing the fairy­tale sto­ry­line that had so painfully eluded him in high school. But now, there would be no re­cruiters: Stump had a smaller build than most NFL safeties, and was “half a step slow” for the pro game, ac­cord­ing to a team­mate. So, as a hand­ful of his clos­est friends packed for their NFL train­ing camps, Stump spent the spring ski­ing and hik­ing in As­pen, Colorado.

By sum­mer 1971, Stump had signed with the Nor­folk Nep­tunes, a semi-pro team in Nor­folk, Vir­ginia. This tightknit group of play­ers was united in their de­sire to make an NFL team, but also by the un­der­stand­ing that, in any given week, they could lose their jobs, which many did to make room for guys just cut from the big league and in search of a pay­check. With this sense of im­per­ma­nence came a cul­ture of liv­ing in the mo­ment. The house on Vir­ginia Beach that Stump shared with sev­eral other play­ers hosted rau­cous par­ties, and their

couch was fre­quently oc­cu­pied by the team’s most re­cent ad­di­tion.

House­mate Greg Berger re­calls the lengths Stump would go to when­ever he needed gas money. Re­lax­ing with other play­ers in front of the house one day, apro­pos of noth­ing, Stump in­ter­rupted: “How much would you give me if I run down At­lantic Av­enue naked? Will ya’ each give me five bucks?” “Sure, Terry, we’ll give you five bucks.” Be­fore the agree­ment was even reached, Stump stripped and ran down the road in 4 o’clock traf­fic. His team­mates never paid.

Most of the Nep­tunes worked other jobs, re­port­ing to prac­tice ev­ery evening. Games were gru­el­ing, with play­ers try­ing to make an im­pres­sion on any NFL scouts in the au­di­ence. The third Satur­day of Au­gust 1971 was hot and sticky in Nor­folk. In the fourth quar­ter, the Nep­tunes were dom­i­nat­ing the Malden Sub­ur­ban Colts, 84 to 0. Stump, the sec­ond-string de­fen­sive back, was put in to re­lieve Berger. A light-footed Colts run­ning back man­aged to dart be­tween the scrum of lineback­ers with a sharp pivot. As Stump bore down on him, the run­ning back an­gled off to­ward the side­line. Ex­pect­ing Stump to make a wild, div­ing tackle, the run­ning back braced for im­pact. But the crush­ing hit never came—the run­ner gained two ex­tra yards be­fore bump­ing up against Stump on the boundary line.

As Stump jogged back over to the hud­dle, a team­mate grabbed him vi­o­lently by the face­mask. With the bars of their hel­mets locked to­gether, flecks of spit­tle splat­tered on Stump’s face.

“You gotta want it!” Stump’s team­mate shouted. “You coulda hit him. You didn’t hit him.” Stump was no longer a spry teenager, and the thought of risk­ing his al­ready-dam­aged body weighed heav­ily.

Once the sea­son ended, Mugs re­turned to Colorado, ski­ing and dwelling in a moun­tain­side cave above the town of Basalt, though he was still de­ter­mined to make it in the NFL. Some of his re­luc­tance to give up on his goal may have stemmed from fa­mil­ial pres­sure. “From [our] dad’s per­spec­tive, it was like, ‘When are you go­ing to get a real job?’” Thad Stump says. “He couldn’t un­der­stand” Terry’s bo­hemian life­style.

Whether he was in­vited or not re­mains un­clear, but af­ter a few months as a ski bum, Stump de­cided to at­tend try­outs for the Dal­las

Cow­boys. But then, as he drove to­ward the bar­ren plains of West Texas and the moun­tains re­ceded in his rearview mir­ror, he fi­nally con­sid­ered let­ting go of his dream. That win­ter in As­pen, he had tasted a de­gree of free­dom never yet ex­pe­ri­enced. Did he re­ally want to re­turn to the struc­tured, high-in­ten­sity life of foot­ball, not to men­tion face big­ger, harder-hit­ting play­ers? Leav­ing the diner on the Texas bor­der, he pointed his rick­ety van back west. With a turn of the steer­ing wheel, Mugs Stump headed in­stead into the an­nals of alpine climb­ing lore.

The slight respite pro­vided by icy sleep­ing bags lasts only un­til the first rays of sun­light hit Lo­gan and Stump. They are out of food and fuel— and thus wa­ter. The duo briefly dis­cusses whether to con­tinue to Rob­son’s sum­mit, at nearly 13,000 feet. Do­ing so will com­mit them to descend­ing the com­plex, cor­niced ridge above the Kain Face, as well as de­posit them on the op­po­site side of the moun­tain, far from their base­camp. Al­ready ex­hausted, they in­stead de­cide to drop onto the then- un­climbed south face.

“I was way more beat up than Mugs,” re­counted Lo­gan re­cently. “He was a strong guy, and he didn’t have to lead that stupid [ crux] pitch.” Near the bot­tom of the face, the clim­bers cir­cle around to the north­west­ern as­pect of Rob­son, search­ing for a way through a large cliff band. Their rack, al­ready ane­mic to be­gin with, was thinned fur­ther dur­ing the as­cent. Nei­ther climber wants to rap­pel a large, un­ex­plored cliff with only their re­main­ing eight pitons. For­tu­itously, the pair soon finds a nar­row chim­ney they are able to shinny down, palms braced against its walls. The slot splits the en­tire cliff band and lands them just a stone’s throw from base­camp.

BY 1973, Stump was itin­er­ant. “I’ve been liv­ing in my truck all sum­mer and camp­ing out,” he wrote his mother. “It saves the rent money but is a lit­tle in­con­ve­nient and heck-tick [sic].” Stump even­tu­ally landed in Utah, where he worked as a jan­i­tor at the Mid- Gad restau­rant, part­way up the ski slopes of Snow­bird. This job, at what friend Randy Trover called “the haven for out­laws,” came with a ma­jor perk: The man­ager al­lowed him to sleep in the build­ing each night. Be­fore long, Stump was tak­ing part in freestyle ski­ing com­pe­ti­tions. But it was back­coun­try ski­ing that Mugs found most mag­netic. He would ven­ture out into the quiet cor­ners of the Wasatch, mak­ing early de­scents of un­tracked lines. “No lift lines, no peo­ple, no cut trails, just un­tracked snow ev­ery­where you turn,” he wrote.

Ski­ing and hik­ing only whet­ted Stump’s ap­petite for the moun­tains. By the mid-1970s, he be­gan paraglid­ing, soar­ing on up­drafts in Utah and Colorado. In spring 1975, Stump would ex­pe­ri­ence his first roped climbs. With fel­low neo­phyte Bill MacIl­moyl, Stump climbed Open

Book on Lone Peak, a 600-foot 5.8 in the Wasatch Range. The men wore leather boots and are said to have climbed with a clothes­line. “Rock climb­ing is the ul­ti­mate spir­i­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our cen­ter—God!” he wrote his mother.

Stump would go on to ex­cel in al­most ev­ery realm of climb­ing and moun­taineer­ing. With each new dis­ci­pline, he rapidly be­came pro­fi­cient. Dur­ing an early as­cent of Bri­dalveil Falls, a 350-foot WI5 out­side Tel­luride, Colorado, Stump was dis­patched by part­ners Jon Turk and Lo­gan to lead the crux, third pitch. How­ever, Stump had only a hand­ful of days of wa­ter-ice ex­pe­ri­ence, and the pitch had formed into an es­pe­cially fri­able, over­hang­ing pil­lar. Us­ing the rudi­men­tary tools and cram­pons of the day, Mugs gar­dened away bad ice while cling­ing to the pil­lar with un­flag­ging en­durance, at one point dis­lodg­ing a large chunk that cracked his hel­met and blood­ied his face. “He didn’t even slow down,” re­calls Turk.

Later that win­ter, Stump and Turk at­tempted a win­ter as­cent of the Di­a­mond on Longs Peak via D7. Bat­tling dif­fi­cult aid in frigid con­di­tions, the clim­bers pro­gressed slowly up the route’s thin cracks. Without bivy ham­mocks, the pair de­cided to re­treat. Af­ter many rap­pels, they set­tled in for the long, dark slog back to the road. Sud­denly, Stump’s head­lamp swung around, cut­ting through the inky night. He grabbed Turk by the jacket and pulled him to­ward him, un­til the two were eye­ball to eye­ball.

With a pierc­ing in­ten­sity in his eyes, Stump de­clared, “We acted like geeks up there, Jon. We acted like geeks, but we’re not geeks. Let’s go to the Val­ley and get good.” With that, he re­leased Turk and turned away, walk­ing down a dark­ened path, sure in the knowl­edge of where he was go­ing. NICK AIELLO-POPEO IS A CLIMBER AND GUIDE BASED IN CON­WAY, NEW HAMP­SHIRE. HIS HOME­TOWN’S EX­CEP­TIONAL ICE AND ROCK ARE HIS TRAIN­ING GROUND FOR EX­PE­DI­TIONS TO PLACES LIKE THE ALASKA RANGE AND THE HI­MALAYA.

Mugs Stump i n full Penn State re­galia dur­ing his time on the Nit­tany Li­ons.

1. Stump en route to Gasher­brum I V ( 26,001 feet), Pak­istan, i n 1983. He and Michael Kennedy would reach 22,500 feet on the West Face ( the “Shin­ing Wall”) i n a 9- day alpine- style push, even­tu­ally re­treat­ing due to avalanche dan­ger. On the route, they topped the no­to­ri­ous Black Tow­ers, with Stump l ead­ing a “spec­tac­u­lar and dif­fi­cult dou­ble pen­du­lum” pitch ( AAJ 1984).

2. Stump at his and Kennedy’s bivy site below the Black Tow­ers, Gasher­brum I V.

The i mpos­ing Em­peror Face of Mount Rob­son, Canada.

Stump on the West Face of Gasher­brum I V. Af­ter five feet of snow fell, pin­ning him and Michael Kennedy at their bivy site below the Black Tow­ers, and with dwin­dling food stores, the clim­bers re­treated. I n July 1985, Wo­j­ciech Kur­tyka and Robert Schauer made the first as­cent of the wall.

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