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Transcendance Peak

[Brief] Spellchecking Santana
Published 11-29-2021 | Last updated 11-19-2021
61.221, -149.056

[Unofficial name, no GNIS Entry]

“Hello, I'm back again
To share with you
My heart and soul
Are you surprised?
I said I would
So here I am
It's time for us
To say goodbye
So until we meet again
Keep smilin'”[1]

This name is usually interpreted as the more generic noun ‘Transcendence,’ perhaps especially because of the character of nearby Transcendance Pass: a steep, scrambly, narrow slot in the ridge which leads from the vegetated, colorful Peters Creek valley onto the dazzling white snowfields of the Eklutna Glacier.

The peak was named first, however, by Steve and Barb Johnson of Eagle River after Steve made the first recorded ascent of the peak in 1988. Their homage was hinted at in a 1990 trip report by Joel Babb (“Carlos Santana lives in the Chugach!”[2]), and they have since elaborated on the musical link:

“We both love Santana. Carlos played at one of Steve’s high school dances in Los Altos, CA, and he never stopped following his music. When Steve and I met in Colorado, “our song” became, and still is, Samba Pa Ti. We both like the song Transcendance and the play on words for such a beautiful area of the Chugach in our backyard...”[3]

There is an interesting possibility that Transcendance Peak is not the most famous Santana-related alpine feature in Alaska. The Moonflower Buttress on Mt. Hunter in the Alaska Range was attempted by teams of climbers starting in 1980,[4] three years after the release of Santana’s Moonflower album which included Transcendance as a track. The naming of the buttress is often attributed to renowned climber Mugs Stump although some questions remain regarding its origin. Local mountaineering historian Steve Gruhn notes that Stump did not use the term in his 1982 American Alpine Journal article describing his attempt.[5][6] Todd Bibler, a member of the party to first complete the route, likewise did not use the name in a 1984 write-up.[7] The inspiration behind the name is equally uncertain, with the resemblance of wind-sculpted snow features along the route to the white petals of the desert moonflower (Ipomoea alba) being a distinct alternative possibility.[8]

With gratitude to Steve and Barb Johnson, and Steve Gruhn. Also thanks to Mark Westman and Jon Waterman for details on the Moonflower Buttress.


[1] Santana. 1977. “Transcendance.” Track D2 on Moonflower. CBS Inc., vinyl record.

[2] Babb, Joel. “Pichler’s to Peters Creek.” The Scree, Mountaineering Club of Alaska, October 1990.

[3] Johnson, Barb, in discussion with Steve Gruhn. June 2020.

[4] Helander, Clint. “The Moonflower Buttress (Bibler/Klewin).” Mountain Project. Recreational Equipment, Inc., 2013.

[5] Gruhn, Steve, in discussion with the author. April 2021.

[6] Stump, Mugs. American Alpine Journal, American Alpine Club, 1982.

[7] Bibler, Todd. “Mount Hunter, North Buttress.” American Alpine Journal, American Alpine Club, 1984.

[8] Westman, Mark, in discussion with the author. April 2021.