Exped brand ambassador, Graham Zimmerman, and his climbing partners were recently honored with a Mugs Stump Award. We are excited that Exped gear will go along with him!
We sat down with Graham and asked him a few questions about the award. Here are his answers, wrapped as always with his signature thoughtful and enthusiastic attitude:
EXPED: First, who was Mugs Stump and why is there an award in his name?
GZ: To my generation Mugs Stump is a legend who pushed forward cutting edge alpinism with impeccable style and an inspiring attitude. To answer who he was though I feel like I need to reference this page from the Mugs Stump Award website. From reading the description of him and the essays about him it is clear that he pushed hard and inspired those around him. He is certainly someone whom I would have loved to have met.
EXPED: You and your climbing partners received the award for your planned July 2015 climb of the south face of K6 Central in Pakistan. Tell us a little bit about the team and the route.
GZ: Scott Bennett and I are old pals, having met in Yosemite Valley in 2008 when we were both living out of our cars and climbing full time. We've been on trips together to mountains all over the world, climb well together and more importantly get along famously when stuck in a tent together for weeks at a time.
For a number of years we have been working on going to the Pakistani Karakoram together. We've been shut down by bureaucratic red tape and the murders in Nanga Parbat basecamp in 2013. Because of this tragedy, we had decided to focus our efforts in other parts of Central Asia.
A few months ago though, I was talking with my pal Steve Swenson, and he invited me and a partner to join him and his partner on a trip to the Karakorum. Steve is part of the old guard of the American climbing community and has as much or more experience climbing in the Pakistani Karakorum than nearly anyone. He is also someone whom I trust. After some quick discussions with Scott we decided to change our plans for the summer and make another attempt at getting into the high hills of Pakistan.
Mark Richey is the fourth member of the team. And while Mark and I do not know each other, I am well aware of his reputation as being a great partner as well as a talented and smart climber.
I am super pumped to join these guys over there.
As for the objective, there are many unknowns but from what we can gather it is big, beautiful, technical and relatively free of objective hazard. Pretty much exactly what we are looking for.
EXPED: How does this project compare to other things you've done? At 7100 meters this seems like a pretty serious objective, yes?
GZ: The South Face of K6 central is certainly a movement forward in my progression as an alpinist. I've spent time climbing at altitude in the Pamirs and in the Himalaya but have never been above 6000m.
It is going to be a serious challenge, but one which I feel strongly I can prepare myself for well. It will take a lot of patience and hard work.
EXPED: Wasn't it just last year that you were a finalist for the Piolet d'Or award? You seem to be at the top of your game right now - and getting noticed by the climbing community. How's that working for you?
GZ: I have worked hard over the years to make sure that my goals in climbing are my own and are not focused around recognition from the community or industry. That said it is certainly enjoyable that my progressions in alpinism have allowed me to attend events such as the Piolet d'Or and to celebrate such great climbs with a group of such amazing folks.
What is really working is my ability to share stories. I very much enjoy the ability to share my experiences in the mountains in order to inspire others. Any recognition that I have gained in the community has certainly helped with my goals in that realm.
EXPED: Michael Kennedy recently said this about the 2015 Mugs Stump Award: "This was perhaps the strongest group of applications we've ever seen..." Wow! What's going on in the sport to prompt Mr. Kennedy to say such a thing?
GZ: Well, I think that simply stated, there are many more incredible objectives to be sent around the world and people are as inspired by those objectives as ever. We have a vibrant and motivated alpine climbing community and we live in a world that while well known, certainly has some hidden corners that still need exploring. This gets me incredibly psyched.
EXPED: How are you training for this one? Running more? Have you changed anything in your diet? Eating more chia seeds? Tell us your secret!
GZ: The training question is a big one... but in short, I am tuning up my cardio training while still making sure that I am as powerful as possible for the coming expedition season.
EXPED: You blew your knee up last year in a crevasse fall and then had ACL surgery. How's your recovery going and what have you learned from being injured? You were pretty seriously injured in the past weren't you?
GZ: I've worked hard through the years to show that climbing hard in the mountains is not synonymous with doing things that are absurdly dangerous. I am a strong believer in trying big hard objectives multiple times if needed in order to make sure that smart, informed decisions can be made.
Despite this I have had a few bouts of poor luck that have put me on the injured list. Most recently I tore my right ACL. Recovery from this is going very well and it looks like I'll be back stronger than ever for the spring Alaska season. Very pumped! :)