Trailblazer Interviews Conrad Anker

Conrad Anker was awesome enough to take the time away from his busy schedule to answer some of our personal questions.

He’s also coming to New Haven this week for his personal presentation with the North Face Speaker Series this Wednesday, October 17th, entitled “Return to Meru”.

When did you start climbing? I started at age 14 in the Sierra Mountains of California. My first El Cap route was in 85.

 Even more than a career this seems to be your lifestyle. Could you ever retire from it? I enjoy it too much to ever quit. 

Did you decide to pursue mountaineering as a career? Or did life just unravel that way? Probably the latter. The high school aptitude test did not steer me this direction. The test suggested I become a teacher.  Which, in a way, is what I do. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? What is your degree on? I had no idea. Maybe at some point I wanted to be a vet or fireman, but it was never a set goal. My degree is from the University of Utah, in Parks and Recreation.

How did it feel to be part of the expedition to find George Mallory’s body? From what I read about the expedition it seems that the search was initially focused more on Andrew Irvine. Why is that? What did you learn from that experience? Pretty humbling.  It was a once in a lifetime experience. Lore was that the English dead found by the Chinese in 75 was Irvine. We based our expedition on this expectation. I learned respect.

You survived an avalanche and had to deal with a great tragedy after that. Have tragedies ever been a deterrent to what you do? I think of them as I climb and live life. Life is risky and involves suffering. Once we accept this we can get on with living.

Do you have a favorite expedition? Middle Triple Peak, Kichatnas, Alaska ‘90 – Rakekniven, Antarctica ‘97 – Meru, 2008 & 2011

What do you do in preparation for an expedition in the days or weeks before it? Make sure all the paperwork is dialed in.

Climbing is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. What do you do to train your mind? Ski with out gloves in cold weather and ignore the pain.

How significant to your career was it to achieve Meru’s Shark Fin climb? Twas nice to have closure on a peak that I spent 8 years and 3 expeditions trying to climb.

Do you have a favorite spot in the world? Which is it? Where I am at the moment you ask the question. Life is amazing.

What are you looking forward to most this year? Our Everest expedition. Education, science and the chance to hammer hard.

What The North Face piece of equipment or gear is always with you? Most of the time my Surge pack / brief case.

How intense is the process of testing new products before they are ready to go to the market? Important. People are depending upon the product to exceed their expectations.

Do you follow a strict diet? If so can you elaborate? Eat healthy at home and lots of olive oil while on expedition.

Ever think about taking someone on an expedition that may not be as experienced as you, like a friend, family member? Or is that too dangerous? To share the joy of climbing is one of life’s greatest gifts. All the time! Risk is associated with ability and terrain. Adjust for these two and there are tons of adventures to be had.




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