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!)

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