Friday, December 4, 2009

November and December - great months for sunrise and sunset

Here are some recent pictures of sunrises and a few sunsets across the Ozarks. Be sure to dress warm and dry using layering systems available at the Alpine Shop. You don't need to get up to early or stay up late to witness these beautiful events and often the moon is quite clear in cold weather compared to hot hazy summer weather. Taken with a Canon 5D MK II and a 1D Full Frame with 200mm f 2.8 lens. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Give Thanks. Then Give the Gift of Warmth.

Recently, I was thinking back to a winter paddle/camp trip I took down the Huzzah River. Yes, it was cold out–maybe above freezing during the day, but nowhere near the 50's if that helps narrow it down a bit–and yes, we were paddling on a spring-fed river so the water wasn't warm to say the slightest. But all of us on that trip were well prepared for the drizzly weather and the temperature. None of us were cold. All of us had a great time. (Well all of us except for the one person who woke up with a stye in her eye and could barely see; but that's a different story.)

For those of us who love skiing, snowboarding, camping, hiking, paddling or (enter your favorite winter sport here), we always tell those people who think we're nuts: "As long as you have the right gear, you're fine." And that's true.

But what about those who don't have the right gear for the winter months but have to face the cold on a daily basis anyway? What about those who can't even afford a coat?

For them, winter is not a time to enjoy the great outdoors. For them, winter is about simply surviving. And that's why we're hoping you'll help us help them.

Alpine Shop has teamed up with One Warm Coat to hold a coat drive at all of our stores from November 30 through December 13. For every gently used coat or sweater you donate, we'll give you a coupon for 10% off of one item throughout our store. AND, if we reach our goal of 300 coats or sweaters in two weeks, we'll draw the names of five of our generous donors and present them with $100 gift certificates for our stores.

We've already been able to donate close to 300 coats over the past few months thanks to our "Cash for Clunkers" program and our Winter Swap. As we get into the true winter months, we're hoping you can help us give some more.

This Thanksgiving weekend, please take a couple of minutes to go through your closets and see if there is even one gently used coat that someone in need could wear this winter. And give thanks that you could provide that warmth to someone who needs it.

Thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Alpine Shop.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Skiing Icon Helps Women Skiers Find Perfect Fit in St. Louis

Jeannie Thoren didn’t set out to revolutionize the skiing industry. She just wanted to ski better. Now, she has become the driving force behind women-specific models of skis and ski boots. On Friday, October 30, Thoren will visit Alpine Shop in Kirkwood to offer her expertise in fit and function to women skiers in the St. Louis area. For the rest of the weekend, she will sit down for private appointments with individuals to help them find the right fit for them.

Named “One of the 100 Most Influential Skiers of the Century” by SKI Magazine, Thoren spent over 30 years observing and analyzing the way women ski. The result of that research was “The Thoren Theory” - simple remedies that could radically improve women’s techniques.

“It seems so obvious now,” she says, “but when I started, biology wasn’t even in the equation. Now it rules because we’ve realized that women are built differently than men. They have a lower center of gravity and it’s harder for them to get enough weight forward onto the tips of their skis to turn efficiently. A little fine tuning can open up a whole new world of fun!”

Thoren will begin her weekend at Alpine Shop with a free presentation on Friday evening, Oct. 30, at 7 pm. As part of her “Get Winterized” Tour, she will explain The Thoren Theory and how she can help nearly every woman skier.

“Our Get Winterized seminars are all about fine-tuning your equipment,” says Thoren. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an occasional recreational skier, a weekend racer or an Olympic hopeful, your equipment can make or break your experience.”

Following the free presentation, women can sign up for free private consultations on either Saturday, Oct. 31 or Sun., November 1. During these personal appointments, Thoren individually analyzes each participant’s technique, pinpoints the problems and offers on-the-spot solutions. It may mean a minor adjustment to existing equipment or a complete replacement of outdated boots or skis; but the results are the same: ladies who join us for these appointments end up skiing in control and end up knowing every day on the slopes will be fabulous fun.

Jeannie Thoren’s Women’s Get Winterized Tour
What: Ski Icon Jeannie Thoren helps women skiers get a better fit from their equipment
Where: Alpine Shop Kirkwood, 440 North Kirkwood Rd.
When: Seminar and Reception on Friday, Oct. 30 from 7 pm – 9 pm
FREE Private Fit Appointments on Saturday, Oct. 31 and Sunday, November 1
Call to book appointments at 314-962-7715

For more information visit or

About Jeannie Thoren
Named one of the “100 Most Influential Skiers of the Century” by SKI Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Skiers of the Last 25 Years” Skiing Magazine, Jeannie Thoren is a crusader for women skiers everywhere. She is the recipient of the prestigious Carson White Golden Quill Award in 2003 for her “Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Snowsports.” Thoren’s research and experience on the slopes led to the development of women’s specific skis and boots from nearly every major manufacturer. She was named one of the top 100 Ski Instructors in the country for 2000, ‘01, and ‘02 by SKI Magazine and she is a Veteran Women’s Ski and Boot tester for SKI and Skiing magazines.

About The Alpine Shop

The Alpine Shop began life in 1973 as a small climbing shop. Today, through its three locations in Kirkwood, Chesterfield and Columbia, Mo., it serves almost every type of outdoor enthusiast—be they backpackers, campers, cyclists, hikers, paddlers, skiers, snowboarders or climbers—with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, cutting edge products and a wide variety of how-to clinics for all activity levels. Alpine Shop is the only SKI Magazine Gold Medal Ski Shop in the state of Missouri and has earned that distinction each of the past three years. The Shop has also been named one of Outdoor Magazine’s Top 25 Independent Outdoor Specialty Retailers for the past two years. Alpine Shop is the only retailer in the country to earn both honors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Alpine Shop Swap Festival Helps Customers and Charities

During the fall of 1992, Alpine Shop owner Russell Hollenbeck created an event to help area families sell the outdoor gear and clothing they no longer used. Sixteen years later, Alpine Shop’s Swap Festivals continue to give area families that same opportunity while also helping the store provide tens of thousands of dollars to worthwhile organizations.

The Winter Swap Festival is a consignment-based sale the Alpine Shop hosts each October. Anyone is invited to bring in used winter clothing, skis and snowboards to sell for two and a half days in a 10,000 square foot tent Alpine Shop pitches on the South parking lot of its Kirkwood location.

“Everyone is looking for the least expensive way to keep their families warm this winter. Especially for their kids,” says Hollenbeck. ”With as quickly as they grow out of everything, chances are the jacket they wore last year won’t fit them today. At least with the Swap, they can sell that old coat and find a different one for this year.”

Sixteen years ago, the first Swap was held in a 20’ by 20’ tent in the small parking lot of Alpine Shop’s old Webster Groves location. The tent has grown to more than five times that size now and the line has grown as long as up to 1000 people for the first Friday night of Swap.

The first night of the Swap festival is also the main fundraising effort of the weekend. Everyone 13 years or older pays $5 to get into the tent. Every penny of that money goes to a particular charity. This year that organization is the Gateway Disabled Ski Program – a not-for-profit recreational ski program for children and adults with disabilities. Not only do they work with the physically disabled, visually and hearing impaired, mentally challenged, developmentally disabled and behaviorally challenged athletes, they also work with such worthy programs as the Special Olympics and with wounded veterans and recovering active duty soldiers. Alpine Shop is proud to assist them in their efforts through the Swap.

Customers continue to bring in their used outdoor winter clothing and gear each year. Alpine Shop accepts an average of over 2,500 items into the Swap tent for each Winter Swap. It takes a full-time staff just to keep track of it all, especially making sure every item is correctly accounted for at the cash registers and then getting the consignment payment into the seller’s hands.

The items that find new homes during Swap are not only a few extra dollars for the seller, but also a few pounds of gear that are saved from filling up our junkyards. Even gear that doesn’t sell has a chance to make a difference instead of just being pitched. Participants can mark on their consignment contracts that they would like Alpine Shop to donate the gear to the charity of Alpine Shop’s choosing if the item doesn’t sell.

Alpine Shop’s 16th Annual Winter Swap begins Friday, October 23 at 7 pm at Alpine Shop’s Kirkwood location and continues through Sunday, October 25. Customers can begin bringing their used gear to sell on Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the Kirkwood Alpine Shop only.

For more information visit

Friday, August 21, 2009

Team Alpine Shop Wins St. Louis Urban Assault Ride

August 16th 2009

David Frei and I (Jeff Sona) – members of Team Alpine Shop - signed up for the New Belgium Brewing Urban Assault Ride a week before the race. This is a scavenger hunt bike race starting in Forest Park in St. Louis to checkpoints across the city with various challenges at each one.

Five checkpoints were given to us via the web prior to the event with one mystery checkpoint revealed via a word scramble clue 2 days before the race. That clue was:antarctic granola limbo dens”. That turns out to be “Botanical Gardens Climatron”.

A trivia quiz promoting race sponsors and cycling was e-mailed out on the Wednesday before the race and based on the score on the quiz, teams started in three heats, two and a half minutes apart. Our trusty team secretary, aka my wife Carrie – also a member of Team Alpine Shop, scored a second wave start for our team, two and a half minutes back at the start.

After the word scramble, the known checkpoints going into the race were the Botanical Gardens Climatron, Tower Grove Park (Gus Fogt Picnic Area), BicycleWORKS, City Museum, Big Shark and Mesa Cycles. We would collect a bead to put on a chain at each checkpoint. Our route had us going to the Botanical Gardens first and then continuing on to the others with the plan to go to a second mystery checkpoint whenever it made the most sense with our planned route.

175 teams lined up at the start for a 200 yard run to the bikes. 150 seconds after the first heat took off, we ran to our bikes. We were pushing hard to make up the time and starting passing teams; so much so in fact, that we arrived at the Botanical Gardens in first place. Unfortunately, no one at the Gardens had any clue what to do with this until a lady finally came out and had us go around to the side just as other teams were getting there. Once directed, we ran around the side to the Climatron. There we were shown the picture below as Mystery Checkpoint 2:

David said “I know exactly where that is. “ Back on the bikes for a quick trip to Tower Grove. We were the first team to Tower Grove Park in South St. Louis where we faced our first challenge. We both put one foot in a pair of shoes with left and right reversed with a Frisbee attaching them at the top holding 3 tennis balls. We had to walk about 50 feet to a series of cones while balancing the balls. We dropped them a couple times.

As we were heading out other teams showed up. Off to BicycleWORKS for the best challenge of the day: adult Big Wheels on a serpentine course. We probably lost a little time spinning out around the tight corners but what a hoot! Instead of putting the beads on the necklace, David was putting them in a pack and kept saying, “I hope this doesn’t have a hole in it!”

A long ride to City Museum followed with us pushing hard with a little tailwind, mostly green lights and light traffic. At the City Museum, other teams were already in the midst of the challenge: climb 10 flights of stairs to the roof, up three more flights to a tower with a ramp encircling it to the tip top of the tower. The view from the top was absolutely beautiful. Another bead and a slide ride down to the rooftop and then 10 flights back down. From David’s Wild Onion Adventure Racing days he can fly down the steps and beat me down. He ran out, got his bike and had my bike up and ready to go.

From there on to Big Shark. Because teams had their choice of route it was hard to know where we were in the pack. At Big Shark the challenge was for both of us to get on a skateboard together with a plunger and use the plunger as an oar while picking up cans of 3 different colors from buckets at the end of the parking lot. There were five buckets set up and you could only get a single can from each bucket. David was in the front with the plunger and I was getting cans. Got a red one first and rolled past the second bucket and grabbed a blue one; but I overturned the bucket and had to stop on a downhill and pick everything up. We then had to go back uphill and I took the plunger to the back and pushed us up. Another bead and on to Mesa.

At Mesa we did the wet sponge toss to a laundry basket on David’s head. We had to catch three. We got three in a row but they didn’t see the “swoosh” laid down on shot number 2 so we did one more. One more bead and to the last checkpoint which was Roxy Paine's 56-foot-tall stainless steel tree outside the St. Louis Art Museum. When we got there we were the first team there and we realized it looked like we would win because it was our last checkpoint. We picked up our seventh and final bead, placed it with the rest that were luckily all in the pack, strung them and had a short trip back to the finish.

We came in to the parking lot where Carrie was cheering and happy to see us in first place. We pulled our bikes into the field, took off our bike shoes and went through the blow up obstacle course. Taking the the kids to Bounce U had me done before David and we handed them our beads with a winning time of 1:23 and went to check out our new cruiser bikes!

Excellent after party. Many teams had great costumes and there was a bike limbo and other games and frivolity. Do this race next year! You won’t regret it.

Link to results and photos

Other photos:

Riverfront Times

STL today

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Missouri's North Fork of the White River

Missouri and Illinois are home to some of the nicest float streams in the country. Most people from the St. Louis and the Columbia metro areas head south-southwest to the Gasconade, Meramec, Big Piney, Current and Jacks Fork rivers for a day or a weekend of leisurely paddling. There is little doubt that the Current an Jacks Fork are very special streams, and nationally recognized as "scenic".

If you have not tried it, add a trip to the North Fork of the White River, in far southern Missouri to your future plans. Sections of this river, in my opinion, rank near the top of all Missouri or Arkansas streams for recreational value and for scenery.

The North Fork arises just south of Cabool, Missouri (near Highway 63) and is fed by Indian Creek and numerous springs to make it a beautiful float stream. It enter Norfork lake just north of the Arkansas border. In the springtime, it is floatable from above Missouri Highway 76 downstream; as the spring wears on the highest put-in point is Topaz (an old ghost town with a water mill, 6 miles downstream. Finally by late summer, unless you are interested in wade fishing, Twin Bridges becomes the highest practical put-in point. Even in near drought years the river is even floatable from Rainbow Springs downstream to Dawt Mill, a long one day float.

This river has many Class 2 stretches at the spring water levels; but is fun even in late summer. The bedrock along this stream creates ledges which produce large standing waves (they will enter the canoe or kayak) all summer long. The volume of flow is high and constant due to the large springs. The water is crystal to blueish in color and very cold (due to the influence of the large springs along the way).

Because of the water temperature below Rainbow Springs (aka. Double Springs), the Missouri Department manages a fantastic "Blue Ribbon" trout fishery. Rainbows reproduce naturally in this stream and in great numbers, and frequently reach a length of 22" or more. In addition, Brown trout are stocked several times per year, and reach weights of up to 15 pounds. If you are planning to fish below the springs, check the regulations.

The upper section of the river is a very good smallmouth bass fishery; with plenty of 20+ inches in length.

The scenery is magnificent to near wilderness from Hammond Camp to Kelly Ford. Black bears are becoming more common in that section. the bird life along this river is phenomenal; with a hundred species of wood warblers, vireos, shorebirds, swallows, and a nice population of nesting Bald eagles.

Spanish Moss hangs from many old cedars on the top of bluffs. Maidenhair ferns cling to the rocks at water level on the same bluff.

If you are planning to camp along the way, gravel bars are nard to find, so begin looking for a suitable location early in the evening. Because of the spring-fed nature of this stream, it is also ideal for wintertime float trips. Call the Alpine Shop for detailed particulars on put-in, take-out points. outfitters, fishing regulations, etc.

You will not be sorry you made the 3 1/2 hour trip to the North Fork.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Team Alpine Shop Takes Dusk to Dawn Adventure Racing Title

On the evening of July 25 into the morning of July 26, Team Alpine Shop was hard at work in the Bonk Hard Racing Dusk To Dawn Adventure Race. Nine hours after their start, our team consisting of Carrie and Jeff Sona, David Frei and Doug Nishimura, have another win in the books.

Here's Carrie's account:
Doug, Jeff, David and myself headed to Lake Perry for D2D. We have done this race all 4 years and love the format. Race mantra- “Start at dusk and finish at dawn- racin’ in the cool of the night”.

The pre-race meeting was at 7:30 pm and we got the maps. With all of us relegated to reading glasses except our youngster Doug, at 40, we were happy to see that all the controls were marked and we didn’t have to plot. The race start was moved up to 8:30. We went back to the TA and got busy route planning. We would start on foot and then we would come back to the TA once early and then not til the finish. The start was moved to 8:45 and we lined up. Jason held up the flag, played the national anthem and then shouted go. Fast and furious start as usual. About a mile road run to 3 controls in the woods that could be obtained in any order. Mass crowd to CP 1 and 2 and then on the way to 3 some teams cut off at a pond that didn’t seem far enough to David so we kept going. We were in and out of 3 at the front and headed back to the TA. We were happy that the 3rd control was a little challenging to separate the field. Total mileage of the first O section was at 4 miles. A couple of solo racers got back ahead of us by a couple of minutes. Next up was heading out on bike and then to a bike drop. Exciting event for 1st section- Doug lost his shoe in thick mud twice.

A few miles ride to get out of the park to a bikewhack to the road. We saw Phil (soloist) taking the hill to the left of where we went up. We got up the road farther and saw a 2 guy team ahead and passed them. Then we saw Eric (soloist) and were feeling good as we were in the lead with them. Phil and Eric stuck with us until we got to the paddle. Few uneventful controls on the bike before the bike drop. 22.5 miles to the bike drop followed by the second trek section that looked like straight forward follow the trail type stuff to the paddle put in. We were disappointed that the nav was easy but it turned out to be more challenging than we thought. Staying on the trail was difficult. David didn’t want to give up on it and just head south as finding it again when it petered out could prove tough. He was right so we pace-counted and stayed focused to keep track of where we were on the map closely. With his careful nav we went right to everything and got to the canoe. Second trek ~ 4 miles. Gear check with some nice identical twin sisters at the canoe and then we started paddling. Exciting event for section 2- I went down hard on my left hip on the gravel skidding to a stop at one of the controls. I have a big bruise there now as a result.

At the paddle, Eric and Phil got to paddle their kayaks while we had lovely aluminum canoes. We chose to take only 1 kayak paddle (for me) but the paddle was twice as long as we thought as we didn’t realize we were going to paddle to our bikes and then put them in the canoes with us and take them to the paddle take out. The paddle was beautiful with a crescent moon and perfect temperature. We paddled to the bike drop to load up our 50 + pounds of expensive weight and secured them in the boats and headed out. The soloists had their bikes moved for them as they were in kayaks so they got to keep moving and we got behind them and never could catch them again. Bushwackers was the closest team to us and we knew they took kayak paddles so were worried. We saw the Bushwackers glow sticks as we headed out of the CP. Jeff was bumming he didn’t have a kayak paddle and was moving his little canoe paddle like crazy. We paddled to the take out and kept looking back but we never saw Bushwackers. Paddle 9.2 miles. Exciting event- lake so shallow in the middle of the lake that Jeff got out and pushed at one point.

At the boat take out we unloaded our bikes and had a 3 point O section. As we headed out we saw Eric finishing the O. We had a little problem with one on the shoreline that took a few minutes but no major deal. When we got back to head out for the last bike section we saw Bushwackers coming in from the paddle. O section 3 miles.

Last bike was ~ 20 miles with 6-7 of it a rocky, single track section. First section of single track was fun but by the end I was losing my sense of humor with the rocks and ready to get to the finish! There was a night trail run on the same trail that night and there were pink ribbons and glow sticks adorning our route but the prettiest sight were the jugs and igloo coolers full of water at the CP in the middle of the single track. We were all at the end of our water so we guzzled, filled up some bottles and headed for the finish. Crossed the line just before 6 am. Exciting event- 1st place finish!

Results/splits Good race all the way around. Well organized, fun format, CP’s spot on. Sadly, Jason says this is the last year for D2D at Lake Perry but we’re hoping he finds another spot for this great race. Thanks to Jason, Laura, Kelly Sumner (course designer) and all the volunteers.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Alpine Shop Short Track Dirt Crit Series - First Week Results

Alpine Shop, Lone Wolf Coffee, Wapiti and Velo Force Racing Team hosted the first Short Track Dirt Crit Series Mountain Bike Races on Thursday, July 2 at Castlewood State Park.

Complete results and photos from the race are available through a link here.

Chris Ploch of DRJ Racing (and an Alpine Shop Bike Technician) took over the lead from fellow Alpine Shop employee John Mathews just after the first lap and never looked back. Ploch built a sizable lead throughout the first 45 minutes of racing and established the early lead for the series championship.

Ralph Pfremmer- course designer, racer and owner of Lone Wolf Coffee and Wapiti- established a tight winding course through the start/finish line for each lap in the meadow just past the entrance to the park; but nowhere on the course was as difficult as the crossing over Keifer Creek. Continually stopping riders in their tracks as they had to navigate the water and then immediately climb the steep bank, only a few of the top riders could power up the slope without losing an obvious amount of speed.

Besides Ploch, Josh Johnson (Big Shark), Bob Arnold (DRJ), Mathews and Greg Sandknop (Seagal) rounded out the top five finishers for the A division (Category 1 racers and experts).

In the B Race (Cat 2 racers & Sport level), Jeff Powell (Ballwin Cycles) took home the cash prize for first place followed by Justin Bouwen, Todd Holtman (Ghisallo), Craig Hoeflinger and Craig Thrasher (Velo Force).

The final race of the night for the C Division (Category 3 racers and beginners), Jax Powell (Ballwin Cycles) crossed the finish line in first followed by Caleb Lambiner, Kevin Bonney, Andy Runty (Ghisallo) and Ben Tiefenbrun (Dogfish).

The Alpine Shop Short Track Dirt Crit Series continues this Thursday, July 9 at Castlewood State Park once again. Alpine Shop will also have Gary Fisher mountain bikes available for racers or spectators to demo throughout the evening.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Black Wolf near Yellowstone

This is reported and pictures submitted by a long time Alpine Shop customer, Tom Piotter.

Here is the picture of the Black Wolf that crossed the road and came by our car as we were turning around about 15-20 feet away. We were on our way to the Old Faithful Lodge from the Mammoth Springs Lodge. Most of the Wolf population in Yellowstone is in the Slough Creek area were they were released. This one came out of the small fir trees right were I was standing only minutes before.

Click to enlarge.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alpine Shop Announces Early Open for "On Your Way Saturdays"

If there's one thing you can count on when you're ready to leave for a day (or a week) of adventure, it's that you'll realize you're missing something right before you leave.

Alpine Shop has a solution with our new early morning hours each Saturday at our Kirkwood location. Starting June 21, we’ll open the doors each and every Saturday at 8 am and we’ll have coffee and donuts waiting for you when you come in. PLEASE NOTE: "ON YOUR WAY SATURDAYS" ARE AT OUR KIRKWOOD LOCATION ONLY. That way, you can grab the gear you need... and fuel up with some energy at the same time.

On Your Way Saturdays: Alpine Shop Kirkwood now opens at 8 am every Saturday morning.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Amazing Tanagers

Most of us spend a great deal of time outdoors in the months April-October in Missouri and Illinois. For the most part, we are casual bird-watches (birders). In the Past three years I have gained a profound interest in our beautiful summer migrating birds; especially tanagers and wood warblers.

Two-three weeks ago I spent about some time on the North Fork of the White River in southern Missouri, hiking, flyfishing, and photographing migratory birds. I was astounded at the colors that the tanagers presented. Some were still in their mating season molt, and had multiple combinations of colored feathers; all with some red and yellow. The mature male birds, that had arrived weeks earlier, had the full red feathering. They migrate every spring from South America to Missouri and Illinois and points north to breed.

There are two types of tanagers that breed in Missouri, the Summer Tanager, and the Scarlet Tanager, both primarily red. The females of both species are primarily yellow-orange with some green hues. They nest high up in Oaks and hickories and do not mind Missouri mixed pine forests. They feed primarily on insects, and spend their summer in our tree canopy.

A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope brings them in close enough to examine. However, in early - mid May they are building nests and come to ground for grass. Usually the female picks up the grass for the nest, and the male stands guard on a low branch or fence, to watch and guard for her.

The Summer Tanager (more common) is so bright and rosy, that red over-saturation is a photography issue; the Scarlet Tanager, which can be identified by his black wings, requires a larger territory (about 5-10 acres for forest), so there a fewer to see. The Summer Tanager requires only about 1 acre of territory.

They are common in Forest Park, Shaw's Garden, Kirkwood Park, and can be seen just about anywhere there is a grove of trees, in St. Louis. Tanagers are about the size of a cardinal (only slightly smaller). The next time you think you see a cardinal, especially if it is more than ten feet or higher in a tree, look again you might have spotted an immigrant from South America.

If you decide to hike and photograph birds, do not forget to look at the full line of Mountainsmith shoulder bag called the "camera tote" at the Alpine Shop stores in St. Louis and Columbia. You can carry your camera and maybe an extra lens or two, without stashing it on your back. These bags are so easy to use and allow you to quickly draw your camera from your side.

Pictures taken by me with a Canon 5d MK II and a Canon 300 mm f2.8L IS lens with 1.4X teleconverter. Handheld. Click to enlarge.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The old bridges of the Meramec Basin

For older paddlers that floated the Meramec, Huzzah, or Courtois during the 1970's or earlier; you will remember these old Hog-trough bridges.

Prior to the Hog-trough bridge prevalence, there was about 10 years of Corduroy bridges (during the 1920's-1930's) at local fords (crossings that required you to drive through the river on gravel beds). Corduroy bridges where made by placing and nailing logs perpendicular to the banks to create two rails; after that was completed, eight foot logs or railroad ties were spiked to the rails one after another parallel to the current. These were a great improvement over the fords until they became slick with algae and the spikes were exposed; usually the third year. At that point it was not unusual to be pushed off the bridge by current, or get multiple flat tires.

Then about 1930 the hog-trough came into play and the concept lasted almost 45 years. They were most common on the Courtois, Huzzah, and Upper Meramec Rivers, however there were a two on the Current River at Montauk Springs and at Cedar Grove.

During the early 1970's most were replaced by low water concrete bridges or planked over to make it easier for "city folk" to drive across. Eventually, the planking was also covered with concrete.

Finally by the mid-1980's they were all replaced by concrete bridges.

To my knowledge, there was a hog-trough at each of the following locations;

on the Huzzah Creek;

Huzzah Post Office
Harper Ford
Kenner's below Highway 8

on the Courtois Creek;

Hazel Creek
Blount's Ford
Moutrays Place

on the Meramec River;

Cooks Station
Scotts Ford
Blue Springs Creek

Examples below;

(some shots courtesy our Customers; click to enlarge)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Climbing with Conrad Anker

Working at the Alpine Shop has presented many cool opportunities over the years. However, today’s “opportunity” really just about takes the cake!
As advertised, Conrad Anker is in St. Louis tonight to host the movie, EVEREST, and to give his own multimedia presentation on his career and his latest first ascent. He is a world-class climber and as such I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that he wanted to get a “work out” in before his afternoon of presenting and talking about his climbing experiences. Upper Limits, the local climbing gym, agreed to let him climb this morning, before their regular opening time of noon. This arrangement is super cool on Upper Limits’ part, and then to top it off they decided to invite Alpine Shop employees to join in!! I can only begin to describe how cool this morning was to all of us!! We had the entire gym to ourselves!

Conrad Anker has climbed all over the world and helps to draw attention and funding to a charitable foundation in his deceased partner’s name. I won’t go into his list of accomplishments, but you can find out lots more information about his life and mission at his website or at the website of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation’s website.

So, on to the really cool stuff from this morning!! We got there about 10am, and in total there were 5 of us from the shop (3 from the Kirkwood store, and 2 from the Chesterfield store). We actually got there about a half hour earlier than Conrad and Brian Masewicz, the North Face rep who was helping to make all of the day’s events possible. Since we were there, we decided to go ahead and start climbing. I think we were all a little intimidated by the idea of climbing with someone who was so much more experienced than all of us, which meant that the warm up time was greatly appreciated. It was also really nice to swap belays with my coworkers, instead of having to talk about work!

After Conrad and Brian showed up, we continued to climb and Conrad joined the group. Of course, when he was climbing everyone paid a little more attention to what route he was doing and what move. It is really amazing to see confident climbers do their thing: so much grace and pose in their moves! On a side note, it was fun to see that even someone of Conrad’s abilities does a warm up route of a 5.6.

Although this entire event had developed from Conrad wanting to get his own work out in, he was very relaxed and took the time to give everyone else a belay or tips on their climbing. He came over to watch me on a route that was slightly above my ability level. I was ¾ of the way up, had finally fallen, and was taking a rest. All I could think was that he HAD to come over to watch when I was pumped and hanging on the rope! This was actually a good thing though, since you can’t wuss out with such an experienced climber watching you, so I got back on the route and with a cheating hold or two, was able to make it up the rest of the route. By the time I came down, Conrad had moved onto a climb of his own, and my belayer decided to take a turn at the same route I had been on. She also had problems at the same spot and Conrad came over and offered to climb the route to help us troubleshoot the area. Watching him climb a route that I had fresh in my mind was really interesting. Of course his strength and ability were far better, but it was neat to see that many of his moves were the same. When it came to the troublesome section, he moved left on the wall, where both myself and my coworker had started to go right. This left him in a very different position about 2 feet higher up, and completely changed the sequence of holds that were used for this section. After he came down, we talked about the route for a little bit and then he went on to another route. Another two coworkers came over to work this route and after seeing another two examples of how the route was done, I decided to give it another try. I still fell in the troublesome section, but I got a lot farther into it and was almost through when I fell. I rested briefly and then finished the route, without any cheating holds this time! Just another example of how watching and learning from other climbers is such an important component to climbing!

At noon, Upper Limits opens to the public, and a few regular customers came in. We finished up and then posed for a group picture. It had been a really fun morning! This afternoon there is going to be a Meet and Greet event for Conrad to talk one on one with some of our customers, and then of course the big event is the Everest movie at the IMAX tonight at 7pm! What a great day of climbing and movie watching!!

(more, AND better, pictures to follow, when I get them from the North Face Rep!)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Alpine Shop Welcomes Conrad Anker to St. Louis

One of the most acclaimed mountaineers of recent history, Conrad Anker has climbed some of the most technically challenging terrain in the world. This quest has taken him from the mountains of Alaska and Antarctica to the big walls of Patagonia and Baffin Island and the massive peaks of the Himalaya. In May of 1999, as a member of the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition, Conrad discovered the body of George Mallory, the preeminent Everest explorer of the 1920s. The disappearance of Mallory and Sandy Irvine on their summit bid in June 1924 is one of climbing’s great mysteries, and Conrad’s discovery and analysis of the find has shed new light on the pioneering climbs of the early expeditions.

Alpine Shop, in cooperation with The North Face and the St. Louis Science Center would like to invite you to experience the majesty of the Himalayas and the dangers they pose through two special presentations. First: an exclusive showing of the OMNIMAX film EVEREST followed by an even rarer chance to see this majestic region of the world through Anker's eyes through a mulitmedia presentation immediately following one of his expeditions to those very mountains.

Make plans to join us on Thursday, May 14 at 7 pm for Conrad Anker: A Night of Summits and Support. General admission tickets are just $5 for the whole night and will be available in advance starting Friday, May 1 at 7 pm (as part of our Swap Friday Night First Choice Night) at all Alpine Shop locations.

Want to make a dramatic night even more memorable?A very limited number of exclusive engagement passes will be sold on a first come-first served basis. These passes will include tickets to the show with preferred seating as well as an invitation to a private reception at Culpepper's in Kirkwood before the show. Along with food and drink (also provided with the ticket cost), you'll have a chance to meet and talk with Anker about his adventures. We will sell only 30 of these exclusive passes at a cost of $35. Again this package includes a pass to the private reception at Culpepper's with Conrad Anker, all food and drinks at the reception, and preferred seating at the show.

All proceeds from tickets sold to this event will benefit the Khumbu Climbing School Program, part of the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.

The Night's Agenda:
4 - 6 pm: Meet & Greet Reception at Culpepper's in Kirkwood (premium ticket required)

7 - 7:45 pm: EVEREST Film on the OMNIMAX screen

7:45 - 8 pm: Intermission

8 - 9 pm: FEATURED Presentation - Conrad Anker

Saturday, May 9, 2009

You Can Paddle Day Photos

Photos from today's You Can Paddle Day are up on our Facebook fan page at

Thanks to everyone for joining us on a gorgeous, if occasionally chilly day on the water. Thanks to all our reps who made it in for the event and helped give our customers a chance to paddle some of the newest and best craft on the market. If you couldn't make it out this year, make plans to join us next year.

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Live Reports from You Can Paddle Day @ Creve Coeur Lake

Paddling starts at 11 am this morning at Creve Coeur Lake. We're down at the Taco Bell Shelter on the South side of the Lake. Everything's free! All you need to do is sign in with us at the beach and we'll get you out on the water.

Alpine Shop hopes to see you today! Come out and paddle the kayak or canoe of your dreams today.

Photos to come soon!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Climbing at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch

The end of April is always a great time for climbing trips! Several friends and I headed to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas for the weekend of the 23rd and 24th. We left after work on Friday, to make the 5.5 hour drive from St. Louis, which means we pulled into camp around 11pm. As expected, the campground was packed, but luckily we had another friend get there earlier in order to grab a campsite. Even so, the place was really busy and we ended up sharing our campfire with two other groups over the course of the weekend.

Saturday morning we started our climbing at the area called Confederate Cracks where we hoped to find fewer climbers than on some of the more popular walls. Overall we got 4 ropes up in the morning before an early afternoon break (though not everyone climbed each route). My personal favorite was Treebeard, which was a 5.8 crack climb.

We had a couple kids with us on this trip (7 years and 10 months), so for the afternoon some of us went back to camp early to hang out and relax, while two of the other climbers went on to climb into the late afternoon. While on a short afternoon hike with the 7 year old, I found this neat area about 20 feet across where down trees had been gathered and then burned. There were several really neat rocks with charred wood wrapped around them in interesting ways. After the hike we set about making a great fire so that we could have hot coals for cooking with a Dutch oven. To make things simpler, we made one meal for our group. We tired out a new goulash recipe that fed 5 adults and which ended up having enough left over to feed another 2 or 3 adults. This was the first time we had used this particular recipe and we weren’t disappointed, we found it online at a site called Bryon’s Dutch Oven Recipes. For a green side dish, we also made two foil packs of Asparagus and Peppers, YUMMY! After this meal, we were so full we didn’t even get to the Chocolate Cake (don’t worry, we ate it Sunday after we were done climbing)! The rest of the evening was spent around the campfire, chatting with our camp mates.

On Sunday morning, we knew we had a limited amount of time available before we had to leave so we stayed relatively close to the campground. We started at Prophesy Wall, where we found a neat chalk wall drawing left by someone else. It was also here that I captured a great picture of my friend “catching some air” on a hard route. Next we headed to the Titanic boulder, and yes it does kinda look like a ship! The Titanic boulder was a neat place just to hang out and we soon discovered that voices carried very easily “through” the rock, as there is a crack on both sides that is part of the same split of the rock. While in this area we also got several great views of a near-flying turkey vulture. Unfortunately I was so dumb struck by how close he was that I didn’t get the camera out until he was farther away! On the way back to St. Louis, we stopped for Mexican and devoured our meal, which tends to happen after climbing.

Overall, it was another great weekend climbing in Arkansas!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Take a look at one of our Columbia Manager's Trip Reports from this past weekend

This trip report was originally posted on our Columbia store's blog at: Check it out yourself!

We showed up for a great saturday on the Saint Francis river near Fredericktown, Mo to find bridge-level water, great friends and amazing weather. We got in a quick first run down from millstream gardens, and then followed it up with a second run of the same stretch. It had been a while, so the water felt great. The Saint is quite a gem tucked away in the Ozarks. We really do have some amazing stuff here in Missouri.

Some views from the put-in

Big Drop

Ran into a lot of fellow paddlers at Double Drop

Cats Paw

Cats Paw