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Conrad Anker Q&A

Fresh off his third summit of Mt. Everest this past spring, Conrad Anker sat down with SNEWS before the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to talk about the famed mountain, advocacy and gear ideas.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 2-5. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

This SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Summer Market recap is brought to you by Cordura:

Conrad Anker is fresh off his third summit of Mt. Everest, ascending the South Col with a National Geographic and The North Face team earlier this spring. The mountaineer has climbed peaks pretty much everywhere, from the Himalayas to South America; from Alaska to Antarctica.

He’s now descended to the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show floor, where he tackles the carpeted concrete floor aisles. The sponsored TNF athlete provides critical feedback to the brand’s top product lines, including the Himalaya Suit.

With us, he shares his feedback on a deadly year on Everest, some ideas for gear improvement and how to get more youth involved in the outdoors.

Congratulations on summiting Mt. Everest for the third time. There have been a greater number than usual of fatalities (more than 10) on the mountain this year. Has Everest become too much of an attraction? Should anything be done, or is it just the risk of climbing mountains and Everest gets all the media attention?

Everest, by default of being the highest peak, will always attract humans out for an adventure. The downside is all who are drawn to the peak are not experts. Probably 20 percent of those seeking the badge of the summit do not have the requisite background skills. Regarding safety: If Nepal instituted a three expeditions or 8,000 meters rule for the prospective climbers, it would weed out the novices who show up with no background. It would also benefit the tourism economy. A secondary level to increase safety would be to have all Nepali people working on the mountain take one of the three training courses. Basic climbing skills are required regardless of what one is looking to accomplish. The media is on Everest every spring, especially after the ’96 tragedy. My estimate is that it is not as bad as the press makes it out to be. I’m basically over journalists who have never been to Nepal or experienced Himalayan climbing deeming Everest irrelevant. I’m familiar with golf, yet I would not be worthy to comment on the game.

What’s some your feedback to The North Face and others of what gear improvements you need in the field for the future?

Necessity is the mother of invention. While this is a much-used adage, it rings true. If you are not out in a climate that necessitates survival or are pushing your body to levels that are on the edge, you’ll never know what needs to be improved. Having worked with TNF since ’83, the product development cycle is a part of who I am. Thoughts are always welcome and now that I have a mini recorder in my phone I can capture them with greater ease. Some improvements in gear that I would like to see include a fully integrated boot-to-pant set up for altitude climbing and a similar concept with the glove to arm closure. In the long-range sci-fi wishlist — a fabric that collects UV energy during the sunny time of the day and stores it for evening use. This might be a few years out.

What are your goals and objectives when you attend O.R.?

One: Catch up with friends, make new friends. This is our tribe. Two: Recruit new members to the Conservation Alliance. Three: Key meetings with designers and strategic partners (i.e.: American Alpine Club, Access Fund and Blue Sign). Four: Finalize speaking / appearance schedule for the next six months. Five: Look around for innovative ideas and spot trends. Six: Exercise every day and figure out a way to keep my lower back from getting worked by the concrete.

Are there any events you’re part of at the show?

The North Face hosted dealer hike and cook-out the day before the show in Mill Creek Canyon. I will also be at the Baladeo Knife booth (#8026) helping to sell knives with my life motto and signature to benefit the Khumbu Climbing Center, a vocational training program for high-altitude workers in Nepal.

You’re a father to three sons. How can we best get more youth involved in the outdoors?

Build outdoor boulders! I’m biased as a climber, yet these small additions to parks are a great “conveyor belt” to the outdoors. The appeal to all ages and abilities and are very low maintenance. In Bozeman, Mont. we have constructed five boulders.

From an athlete’s point of view, where would you like to see the trade show located beyond 2014?

Salt Lake is easy and convenient, which is hard to beat. The disconnect between the outdoor industry and the state politics are a bit of a challenge. The first priority is to have a culture of outdoor activities. Having the show in Toledo doesn’t make much sense. Having it in the West benefits our colleagues from Asia, having in the East benefits our European colleagues. Seattle could be nice, as would Denver. Orlando is too far for the western companies.

David Clucas