Preparing for Mt. Rainier: The Ultimate “Suffer-Fest”

The majestic beauty of Mt. Rainier, located southeast of Seattle, Washington.
The majestic beauty of Mt. Rainier, located southeast of Seattle, Washington.

Article written by: Will Nagengast

Edited by: Chloe Tennant

“If we can make it work, I am so down for a suffer-fest!”

         That’s the sentiment my good friend Robbie expressed when I talked to him last. We were talking about a tentative schedule for climbing Mt. Rainier in Washington. Robbie lives in Olympia, Washington, which is about an hour away from Seattle and Rainier. When he’s not at school in Olympia, he’s been working as a climbing ranger on Rainier. It’s a job he loves enough to volunteer for. When he does get paid, it is just a nice bonus.

          Robbie is the one who introduced me to climbing during my sophomore year of college, near Wichita, Kansas. It immediately felt right, and I’ve been rock climbing religiously for the past five or so years. Rob, however, wasn’t content to just stay on the rock. He loves snow, mountains, ice and cold. This led him to move to Washington. I’ve never really gotten to experience the mountaineering side of the vertical world, and I’ve always been curious. I recently decided that there’s never been a better time to start than now!

          With that in mind, Rob and I began tossing around ideas about me flying out to Seattle, gearing up, and bagging Rainier. It’s a mountain that sees approximately 5,000 summits every year. Most of these occur during the summer months, however, when the weather is more predictable. During the rest of the year, Rainier’s weather typically consists of either snow, or lots of snow. The average snowfall for Rainier is 635 inches, or over 53 feet, per year. This is what Robbie was talking about when he mentioned a suffer-fest. Sure, we could try for the top in the summer. But it’d be so much more impressive, difficult, and straining to do it in the winter! To be quite honest, a suffer-fest seems like it’s exactly what I need.

The activity of Mountaineering can be as grueling as it is rewarding! Cold and wet conditions coins the term "suffer-fest"
The activity of Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing can be as grueling as it is rewarding! Cold and wet conditions coins the term “suffer-fest”


           Single pitch sport climbing in the South is SO easy. There are incredibly difficult routes, yes, and I am frequently giving 100% of what I have at that moment that I’m on the wall, but in the end the car is 15 minutes away. I’ll have brats over the fire in the evening, maybe sip a warm beer, and get a nice shower in a couple of days when I’m home again. That wouldn’t be the case with a winter ascent of Rainier. We’d be hiking uphill for miles, for several days, with heavy packs, in potentially sub-zero weather, with LOTS of snow. It would be exhausting, draining, probably one of the harder things I’ve done in my life so far. And that sounds great to me right now. I think I need to push my comfort zone, in a way I haven’t done before.

           Rob and I are still trying to figure out when might work for both of us to meet up for Rainier. We’ll probably need a week or longer, so that he can give me some tutoring on glacier and snow travel, avalanche conditions, the technical aspects of executing a multi-day ascent of a big mountain, and of course, maybe a week to do the actual climb. Rob’s schedule is always subject to change. He might be in Panama, or somewhere in South America, or in school. But if we can swing it, we’ll try and meet up, perhaps in February, and give it a shot. Hopefully the weather cooperates and allows us on the mountain, but if not, there are plenty of other things to climb in that corner of the world.

While planning ahead, I started picking up pieces of gear that I’ll need on Rainier. My first piece was the Arc’teryx Beta LT; it’s a nice, lightweight but durable, hardshell. It has pockets that are accessible even with a climbing harness on, which lends to its utility in the mountains. It’s a Gore-Tex Pro shell, so I’m not worried about getting wet or wind-blown. Last but not least, it looks pretty awesome too.

          My next target is the Black Diamond CoEfficient Hoody. It’s a lightweight fleece that has a great hood meant to fit under a helmet. I’d use this as a layering piece, with some much heavier insulating pieces, on Rainier, but I think it’ll really shine on multi-pitch alpine climbing, where the intense cold isn’t quite as much of an issue, and when I’ll really want to be wearing a helmet. The hood is the best I’ve ever seen as far as fitting snugly underneath a climbing helmet.

I’ve got many more things to look for as well. Pants are an under-appreciated part of the whole “keeping warm” system. Everyone has tons of jackets, but how many pairs of cold weather pants do you have? Poor pants just got the short stick for not being as sexy as a new, awesome jacket.  One pair of pants that is on my radar is the Arc’teryx Stingray Pant; Recco Reflector, Gore-Tex hardshell pant can do it all.  The waterproof and breathable fabric will help keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. The Recco Reflector is an awesome spec that is important while in the mountains. In the event of an avalanche the Recco Reflector within the garment becomes visible to the Recco Detector (which are used by resorts and rescue teams) making it one of the best safety features aboard a trip of this nature.  Underneath the Stingray Pants I’ll layer starting with a 260 weight Icebreaker Baselayer Legging and a pair of Patagonia Piton Pants. Both will be highly useful in staying super warm and comfortable!

       I’ll also end up borrowing and renting some of the more specialized equipment, to save on some money. Eventually though, if I discover I like mountaineering and alpine climbing, I’ll save up and get everything I need in a piecemeal fashion.  I really hope that Rob and I are able to work out a time to meet up and do something awesome. Nothing makes for better stories than the times that you were the most miserable. A suffer-fest is just what I need, and I have zero doubt that the experience of pushing my limits in that manner will be something I’ll be able to reminisce fondly of for many years to come.

MadRock Shark 2.0 Review


Assistant Manager for the Columbia store and avid climber, Ryan Gajewski, dishes out some pretty awesome hands on experience for the new MadRock Shark 2.0 climbing shoe!


Over the past four months I have been testing the new MadRock Shark 2.0 climbing shoe. What is new this year is the split sole technology. The idea is to make the shoe more aggressive which aids in over hangs. I have found this to be the first time Mad Rock has put this technology in their shoes.
First things first, where were they tested? I tried to climb in multiple areas with different rock quality in order to get a real idea of how good the new style worked under different conditions.
I started in three gyms such as Boulder Gardens (Columbia, Mo), Upper Limits (St. Louis) and So Ill (St. Louis).


Outside locations included:
-Sandstone: Sam’s Throne, AR, Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AR, Obed/Clear Creek, TN and Eldorado Canyon, CO
-Granite: Leavenworth, WA
-Limestone: Providence, Warsaw , Wilton,  and Columbia, MO

Types of routes that were climbed:
-Sport climbing & Bouldering
-Bouldering, Sport and Trad

Here is what I found.

-Price point. Every other split sole shoe retails around +$180.00 making the modest $119.00 very attractive.
-Fit. They are a very true fit, meaning you don’t have to guess and go down two shoe sizes like a lot of other bands. This makes finding your fit a lot easier and less frustrating. I found I only downsized 1/2 my street shoe.
-Comfort. Most split soles are very aggressive, this means you usually have to sacrifice comfort. The mad rocks fit very well with a super comfortable heel, and even though your toe are curled there are no pressure spots.
-Aggressive. These shoes even feel confident before you leave the ground, especially on overhanging boulders, I found they were very helpful when powering through thin lip turns and wild heel hooks.

-Heel “mowhawk” is a neat concept but it only works well on specific types of heel hooks. I found that it sometimes would pop my heel off the rock when doing very small, smearing heel hooks.
-The rubber is not as sticky as La Sportiva’s Vibram or 5.10’s stealth rubber.
-It’s pretty specialized, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but a new climber would not enjoy these because of their aggressiveness.

These shoes are the perfect buy for the climber who is ready to jump to a more aggressive shoe, but doesn’t want to blow their entire paycheck. I feel this shoe really comes alive on the boulder wall in the gym. The rubber is not as good as others, therefore I found myself reaching for my higher end Sportiva’s and Evolve’s while outside.
The Sharks are a must for the aspiring climber who wants a second more aggressive shoe but doesn’t want to break the bank. These shoes can cruise you up your 5.7 and V0 warmup and then take you to your 5.13 roof or V8 problem without a hitch. And, on a closing note, they also won editor’s choice in Climbing magazine!

Send hard,
Ryan Gajewski


Top 20 Outdoor Family Destinations Near St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri

Family Adventures Outdoors

St. Louis and Columbia are amazing locations for outdoor adventures with your children. With our two cities as your base camp, you have access to miles upon miles of wilderness featuring trails, rivers, springs, caves, forests, bluffs, rock formations, waterfalls and more. Set your sights within just two hours of our metro areas and we have more opportunities than we can possibly tell you here. Best of all, many of these locations are absolutely free for your family for a day visit. A camping trip may cost you as little as $10 for the night.

Each of the areas we have listed below have the potential to provide your children (and you) with experiences that will last a lifetime. We may not have the dramatic mountain silhouettes of the Rockies or the crashing waves of the ocean; but we do have the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, spring-fed rivers that run stunningly, perfectly clear and a vast system of caves that appeal to every child. Best of all, because of our Midwestern geography, most of our outdoor destinations are surprisingly kid-friendly.

So if you’re looking for some ideas for a new adventure for you and your kids, we’ve included a list of our top choices below. Some are nearby. Some are further away. But all of them offer families a chance to have fun and experience the great outdoors.

Camping Adventures

Meramec State Park, Sullivan, MO – The absolute gem for camping and outdoor adventures for kids. Trails, beaches on the river, and over 75 caves and numerous springs.
Onondaga Cave State Park, Leasburg, MO – Camping, cave tours, canoeing. Great place for a long weekend.
Silver Mines Recreation Area, Fredericktown, MO – One of Missouri’s unknown wonders. Explore an old dam. Watch whitewater kayakers make their way through the St. Francis River rapids. The Missouri Whitewater Championships are held upstream of this location each March.

Hiking & Exploring Adventures

Rockwoods Reservation, Eureka, MO – Trails for hikers of all ages and skill levels as well as wildlife exhibits. Plenty of picnic grounds and fields for group meals.
Powder Valley Nature Center, Kirkwood, MO – Easy to get to, incredible nature center, easy trails. Great local asset.
Amidon Conservation Area near Fredericktown, MO – The Castor River Shut-ins here is one of Missouri’s best play spots for kids both young and old. (Shhhh! It’s a secret!)
Pickle Springs Natural Area near Farmington, MO – Short length, incredible rock formations, fun for everybody!
Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, Columbia, MO –  Diverse trail network for hiking or mountain biking, or plenty of space for a nice weather picnic as well. And for a true adventure, explore Devil’s Icebox on a park-led tour.

Paddling Adventures

Simpson Lake County Park, Valley Park, MO – A local, hidden gem just off Highway 141. Bring a bird guidebook, a canoe and fishing poles.
Meramec River, Consider launching your boat near Steelville, Leasburg or Sullivan for best water quality and natural beauty. Besides the Missouri and the Mississippi, probably the most recognized river in the area – and the easiest to access.
Huzzah Creek, Leasburg, MO – (Hoo-za) More advanced young paddlers can take off on their own sit-on-top kayaks (rented through numerous outfitters) on this gorgeous clearwater gem which drains into the Meramec near Leasburg, MO
Missouri River, West and South of Columbia, MO – Experience the same river Lewis and Clark explored; offers great opportunities for experienced paddlers.

Rock Climbing Adventures

Okay, we’re cheating on some of these here. Some aren’t really outdoors. They’re climbing gyms. But, the skills learned here could very well lead to the ability to tackle the real rock walls of the area.
Center of Clayton Climbing Gym – Clatyon, MO – Geared towards kids more than any other gym in St. Louis.
Upper Limits Climbing Gym – St. Louis, MO – Best overall climbing gym in the area.
Capen Park – Columbia, MO – Close to campus and featuring some good top roping and sport routes.
University of Missouri – Columbia Climbing Wall – Columbia, MO – Open to University Students and Staff

Biking Adventures

Grant’s Trail in South County, St. Louis – Flat, easy, and even at its most crowded is still enjoyable. And now the trail starts almost in our Kirkwood store’s backyard!
Katy Trail, beginning in St. Charles, MO – One-day trips to week-long adventures on 235 miles of bike trail between St. Charles and Clinton, MO.
Lost Valley Trail in the Weldon Springs Conservation Area in St. Charles – Fabulous for  both hiking and biking with clear creeks and miles of wooded, flat trails.
Forest Park, St. Louis, MO – Local, with a myriad of opportunities for other activities.
MKT Trail, Columbia, MO – Another rails to trails project, but runs right through Columbia for some easy, family-friendly riding.

Tent Goes Up. Get Your Used Gear In. Swap Starts Friday!

Alpine Shop's Winter Swap Tent Going Up

For 17 years, Alpine Shop has always had two distinct Swap Celebrations: a Spring Swap dedicated to bikes, boats, camping gear and all warm-weather pursuits, and the Winter Swap devoted to all things done outside in the cold including skiing, snowboarding and playing in the snow. So for the 18th year, of course, we threw all of that out the window.

Welcome to the 18th Annual Winter Swap.

Bring all of that stuff in this time. If the gear meets our standards, we’ll sell it out of the Swap tent and put some cash or store credit in your pocket. (Or if you’re at our Columbia location Swap, we’ll do the same thing without the tent!)

As of Monday, October 17 at 10 am, Alpine Shop Kirkwood and Columbia are ready to accept your used items into the Swap. Bring them in early to avoid the line. If you prefer to leave things until the last minute, please note that ALL used gear registration needs to be finished by 5 pm on Friday, Oct. 21. More than likely, this means you need to be in line at 4 pm at the latest to check-in your gear. As we continue to improve the Swap to make sure our lines don’t stretch back for hours on Friday night, that same technology has forced us to make some changes in how we do some things. Check-in is one of those things.

We’ll still open the tent at 7 pm on Friday night. We’ll still have people tailgating for the tent opening hours before then. You’ll still find the tent filled with great prices on used and clearance items. (Or, you’ll still see the money coming in from the items you’re selling!)

You will find a few changes inside our stores, however. All of our new-gear sales will begin when we open our doors first thing in the morning in Kirkwood, Chesterfield and Columbia (or on-line at If you’re just interested in new gear deals, you no longer have to wait until the 7 pm starting time anymore. Also, we’ll have Early Bird and Night Owl deals on new gear on both Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 22-23 and Sat. and Sun., Oct. 29-30. You can find those limited time specials on page 3 of our on-line new-gear sale catalog here.

Used gear sales are open in Kirkwood and Columbia on Friday, Oct. 21 from 7 pm–11 pm; Sat., Oct. 22 from 9 am—9 pm and Sun., Oct. 23 from 11 am—6 pm.

See you soon!


Ambre’s Picks

Ambre Tiggs of Ginkgo Adventures recommends her favorite gear to anyone interested in camping, hiking, backpacking, climbing, and paddling.  Ambre’s Picks include basic gear that is essential for most outdoor adventures.


Ambre’s Top Picks:

Camelbak Mule

Eagle’s Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock

Jetboil Group Cooking System

McNett Aquamira Water Purification Tablets

MSR Whisperlite International Stove

Outdoor Research Coastal Sombrero

Outdoor Research Ultralight Ditty Sacks

Petzl e-lamp Headlamp



Ambre founded Ginkgo Adventures, an outdoor adventure company based in St Louis in 2006. In addition to running Ginkgo Adventures she is also an adjunct instructor at Meramec, Wildwood, and St. Charles Community Colleges teaching Backpacking/Hiking and Camping/Paddling.  Ambre is a Wilderness EMT and American Red Cross instructor in CPR, Standard First Aid, and Wilderness First Aid.  She backpacks, rock climbs, canoes, kayaks (whitewater, sea, and flat water), mountain bikes and snowboards.

Ambre Tiggs

Ginkgo Adventures



Official info on bat killing “White Nose Syndrome-WNS”

Hello all MOcavers,

I wanted to clarify some things about our WNS planning at the Missouri Department of Conservation.

WNS is not in Missouri yet. We are checking certain hibernacula this winter–actually most of that is being done by Tony Elliott, my fellow cave/bat biologist from Kirksville, and Derek Shiels, our cave biology assistant. We follow the WNS disinfection rules.

As Mick reported, we are working on our MDC WNS Action Plan, which governs the 290 MDC caves we are responsible for. Actually, we have not closed all 80 known MDC bat caves yet, but that is in the plan once a “WNS trigger” occurs, which would be WNS reliably reported or confirmed in Missouri or an adjacent state. We are working on refining our tiered approach to further triggers, in which we would further control access to other caves. So, the exact sequence of closures is not determined yet.

We did totally close Smittle Cave to permit caving recently. No more permits in the spring and fall for the forseeable future, the primary reason being that up to 500 people were going there, under permits, every year, some from out of state, and we could not adequately prevent the possible accidental introduction of the WNS fungus, Geomyces destructans, with that kind of situation. Smittle Cave is an important site for endangered gray bats year-round, and other bat species. We have seen a decline in the gray bats over the last two years too, so we were concerned about that being caused by too much visitation anyway.

Before I joined MDC in 1998 the official MDC policy was that MDC caves are closed to caving unless signed open or you had a proper permit, which could be granted by certain signs. That was widely misunderstood and ignored by many. With the threat of WNS coming, we think it is necessary to emphasize this existing rule, which is in the Missouri Wildlife Code, adopted by the Conservation Commission many years ago. One change we did make years ago was to remove cave locations from our area brochures, which I changed as MDC’s cave biologist. So, we tried to regulate cave access to three types of caves: Class 1 (open if you abide by certain rules), Class 2 (permit access), and Class 3 (closed except for research). These are the same three classes used by the other state and federal agencies in Missouri. With our new emphasis we will be changing our signs to clarify this “closed unless signed open” requirement, especially if WNS hits. But we do not plan to close all of our caves in one move unless it is warranted. We will do it in steps.

Even though we still have our old signs, we have asked our area managers to require that WNS disinfection be required to enter all MDC caves. So, we would appreciate the cooperation of organized cavers, and perhaps y’all could help by informing and teaching others who go in caves.

Some people are questioning the value of disinfecting caving gear, and say that WNS will arrive via the bats anyway. I strongly disagree with that idea. There is strong circumstantial evidence that WNS spreads via both humans and bats, and we need to give our bats the best chance we can. Six specis can be infected so far. We hope to slow the spread of WNS and buy time for our bats and caves in case researchers can come up with an effective treatment method soon. The antifungal, terbinafine, is being researched now.

Some recent news: WNS was confirmed in one bat, Myotis myotis, in a French cave. This revives a hypothesis that WNS came from Europe somehow, possibly via caving gear, and that our bats are less resistant to it. That is just one hypothesis. Other news: A recent test showed that healthy little brown bats got infected after they were introduced into a WNS-infected site in the eastern USA; the site was by then absent of bats and screened to keep the new bats from exchanging. So, once a cave is infected, bats can get WNS from the environment. Also, we recently learned that WNS-infected bats in Pennsylvania had a much higher mortality rate in a site where the cave gate was breached and humans disturbed the bats, than there was in a nondisturbed WNS site. So, human disturbance of bats is still a major factor in their demise, even more so with WNS. Therefore, you can expect to see more cave gates being built on important bat caves, and more enforcement. Those will not solve the entire WNS problem, but there is no one method that will solve the whole problem. We intend to do our part for now, hoping that brilliant scientists will figure out what we can do later on.

We established a Missouri WNS Working Group of biologists, land managers, cave owners and cavers at a meeting on Feb. 5. The purpose of the group will be to exchange information as it comes out from the Fish & Wildlife Service, eastern state agencies, scientists, and our group. I will not be sending out much information until we have completed our MDC WNS Action Plan, we hope by March, maybe later. Many agencies and landowners want to see the MDC plan and possibly follow some of the elements in it, but we do not expect them to simply adopt MDC’s approach. They have the right to adopt their own plans. However, MDC does intend to lead an effort to develop a statewide WNS plan, which will mostly be information-sharing and cooperative planning. MDC has state constitutional authority to regulate fish and wildlife in Missouri, so we take that responsibility seriously and hope to help all to work on this problem.

Cavers, master naturalists, college classes, stream teams and others qualified in caving may be able to participate in a cave stewardship program, which MDC hopes to initiate later on. We are not ready quite yet, and it is not really funded yet. Trained cave stewards could help MDC and others by learning disinfection, monitoring abnormal winter bat activity at selected cave entrances, and checking other things under MDC permits. This will not be the style of caving that everyone likes, but I know serious cavers who are already planning to get involved in this.

I would like to compliment CRF, MSS, Chouteau Grotto, Hi Lonesome Master Naturalists, Springfield Plateau Grotto, Kansas City Area Grotto and many other cavers who are preparing wholeheartedly for WNS. We still need skilled cavers to map, photograph and document caves, bats and other resources. We will all have to be more cautious about entering bat caves in the future, including common caves with eastern pipistrelles (tri-colored bats), as they are susceptible too.

Bill Elliott

Missouri Department of Conservation

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!)

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

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!!

Banff Mountain Film Festival – First Night

I’ve been hosting the Banff Mountain Film Festival for Alpine Shop in St. Louis for quite a few years now and there’s always something amazing each and every time we do this.

A lot of people think we get to see all of the films beforehand and hand pick which ones we think will work best. Well, there’s some truth to that; but the whole truth is a lot more interesting. You see, we get about two minute clips of each of the films. So, you can imagine with a film like Red Gold last night, it’s impossible for us to tell whether or not an hour-long feature film will be any good based on that clip. It’s kind of like a film critic writing reviews based on trailers instead of the actual movie. No, what’s great about Banff is that I’m seeing these films for the first time alongside everybody else. That’s not to say that there isn’t work done by a bunch of people to select which films we think will go over best; but we just never know until the lights go down each year.

The Red Helmet kicked off the show with the tale of a youn,g timid boy coming to grips with his fears after he finds a red helmet in the forest. After experiencing the lives of a number of adrenaline sport athletes (kayaker, climber, mountain biker, etc.) through the helmet, the little man faces his own fears and takes the plunge, literally. Good start to the show.

Papiroflexia (Spanish for origami) was an animated feature. Dealt with the dream to get rid of all the noise and pollution of our lives and get back to nature. Will it be the most popular animated film of the year? We’ll have to wait till tonight to see The Cable Car to find out?

Now for the most controversial topic every year at the Banff Mountain Film Festival… did the feature film live up to your expectations? Red Gold dealt with a proposed mine at the headwaters of two of the largest remaining sockeye salmon runs on the planet near Bristol Bay in Alaska. I’ll just say that I loved the film. The cinematography was gorgeous. The story resonated with me. I know there were people that thought it was too long. But I’d be interested in what some others thought. What did you think of Red Gold? (For conversation’s sake, I think the best feature we’ve ever shown was Alone Across Australia during the 2004 tour.)

The Sharp End: Eastern Europe was hands down the funniest movie of the night. “We don’t drink a lot, a lot. I mean 8-10 beers a day is standard.” That pretty much sums up this group of Checzk climbers’ philosophy. Not that this film was all drunken play. Some of the climbing was pheonmenal. A little humor never hurts, though.

One of the fascinating things about this festival is an almost 50-50 split among our audience as to why they’ve come to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Half of them come strictly for the adrenaline. The other half are there for the culture and nature. Maybe I’m generalizing that a little much, but I can tell you each year I hear from numerous people after the fact “Why didn’t you show more of this?” or “Why did you pick that?” and it always has to do with the cultural/adrenaline split. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of our audience loved Shikashika and half hated it. This was the story of a Peruvian family that climbs into the Andes, hacks enormous blocks of ice from the mountain glaciers and brings them down to the valley on the backs of mules to shave off and sell as snowcones (or as they call it- shikashika). Can you imagine the TroMo kids having to bring down the blocks of ice from the mountains to give Kirkwood it’s snowcone fix? That’s what I kept thinking anyways….

The last two films, Under the Influence and Seasons, both showcased the adrenaline rush with two of the best production groups in the business today. Teton Gravity Research’s Under the Influence had some absolutely unbelieveable powder footage from last year’s massive storm system in Jackson, Wy. Seasons comes from a group called the Collective. Every year that they have a film in the tour, I’ll pick it. They’ve been on the cutting edge with their style in all three films they’ve produced starting in 2004 with their self-titled DVD, The Collective, and continued with ROAM and now Seasons. Their work features some of the most innovative use of zip-line cinematography, super slo-mo and helicopter footage you’ll ever see. So, in the future, just so you know, don’t miss a mountain biking film from the Collective.

So that was night one. Tonight, our feature film is Journey to the Center, and we’ll move from sockeye salmon to BASE jumping. That’s Banff for you. It’s why I love the festival so much and look forward to it all year round.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did last night. All of us at Alpine Shop have loved hosting this festival for the past 20 something years and look forward to doing it in the future. Leave a comment on what you liked or hated…

By the way, funniest Banff Mountain Film Festival ever: Xtreme Tramping II: Lord of the Springs.