IN MARCH OF 2011, while skiing in the Tetons, Renan fell off a small cliff. His doctors said he was lucky: although he’d fractured his skull and two vertebrae, and severed a major vertebral artery, his mental acuity would not be compromised. Maybe, as Mugs might say, Ganesh, the mover of obstacles in the Hindu religion, had helped us out. But Renan would have to wear a neck brace for twelve weeks.
Conrad Anker Photos by Jimmy Chin
SOME WESTERNERS ARE DRIVEN to explore the “unknown,” believing that we will discover bliss in uncharted regions, whether we define it as riches, science or self-discovery. To the Hindus of the Gangotri, the known features of the landscape already form part of a sacred, present reality–one that can be seen, touched, heard, tasted and felt.
IN THE YEARS AFTER MUGS’ DEATH, I climbed in the style he’d imprinted on me, venturing into places where nature was still in power, where everything became simple because no falling was allowed. A new partner, Alex Lowe, joined me on expeditions to Central Asia and Antarctica. In my memory, now, it’s hard to fix a single image of him, for he was always moving, drinking coffee, bouncing on his toes. Like all his friends, I found myself caught up in that endless stream of energy, bewildered by what I could achieve while he cheered me on.
Mugs had tried the Shark’s Fin in 1986 and 1988 with various partners. He was turned back by an avalanche, a shoulder injury and heavy snow. When speaking of the peak, his voice dropped to a reverential whisper. On the back wall of his van, he tacked a tattered cover of Mountain with a photo of the Shark’s Fin framed perfectly against a blue sky. He covered the image with a weatherworn prayer flag, only sharing it with his closest friends.