Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 71

2010s

Outdoor Retailer 35th Anniversary
THE 2015 FEATURE-LENGTH FILM MERU WAS
the greatest athlete-driven brand vehicle in
the history of the outdoor industry. The North
Face's logo appears in nearly every scene of the
Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary, which features a trio of TNF-branded
athletes-Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan
Ozturk-struggling to complete a new route
on the Shark Fin of Nepal's 21,000-foot Meru.
The climbing is gripping and real, but the film's
heart and soul, and the reason it connected with
audiences, is its portrayal of Conrad Anker.
Anker's biography-his gradual emergence as an icon amongst triumph and tragedy-is well known in the outdoor community
but was new to the general public. He discovered George Mallory's body on Everest in 1999
and then was nearly felled by the same avalanche that claimed the life of his best friend,
Alex Lowe, on Shishapangma that same year.
Though first ascents across the globe followed,
Anker was probably less known for his climbing
than for his domestic life. In their shared grief,
he and Lowe's widow Jennifer fell in love, married, and raised Lowe's three sons.
That Meru tells that story, and that of the other loss at the heart of the film-Anker's mentor
Mugs Stump-is typical. "Conrad has a level of
humility that is rare with other outdoor icons,"
says Scott McGuire, president of marketing
consultancy The Mountain Lab, who worked
with Anker for years as TNF's director of equipment. "He wears his heart on his sleeve."
The public loves him for it. Reinhold Messner
is gruff, Dean Potter was a tragic meteor out of
a Kerouac novel, Uli Steck was a machine, and
Alex Honnold is virtually an extraterrestrial.
Conrad Anker is climbing's most human icon.
(It may be less ironic than it seems that he suffered that heart attack. Earlier in 2015, he had
helped carry Alex Lowe's body down off the
mountain that killed him. "It was super emotional-processing the survivor's guilt. I felt my
heart," he says.)
Another of Meru's themes is a symptom
of Anker's humanity-his desire to mentor.
Anker's addition of relatively unknown Ozturk
to the Meru team raised eyebrows, especially
after Ozturk had nearly died in a ski accident
months before their second attempt, but it was
a function of Anker's desire to develop the TNF
athlete team. Even on the climb, Anker handed off the lead of the route's final, triumphant

pitches to Jimmy Chin, a symbolic passing of
the torch. "He's a mentor to me; he's a mentor to
a lot of people," says Chin.
Anker has been mentoring the TNF team for
years, whether it's recruiting 25-year-old David
Lama to the 2016 expedition where he suffered
the heart attack, or helping select athletes to
the team and coaching them on developing a
public persona and outreach. "I love working
with phenoms like Daniel Woods and Margo
Hayes and helping them grow into who they
are," he says. "Everyone has a story. That's what
makes them successful ambassadors. Our success isn't based on metrics-we're not running
the 100-meter dash. It's based on storytelling."
Ultimately, each athlete follows the Anker
blueprint. They complete a noteworthy expedition or project, like Honnold's infamous
free-solo of El Cap in June ("He called me from
the summit," says Anker.), and capitalize on
the publicity with press or even better, film.

TNF's brand, he says, whether in the brand
ambassadors and athletes or the design process-where Anker is famously proficient-to
the creation of media. It goes right to the top,
too. "When Steve Rendle was president (he
has since been promoted to CEO of VF, TNF's
parent company), Conrad had his ear," says
McGuire. "He could call Steve. He has that
gravitas. He was the compass of the company."
In that way Anker did not just change the culture at TNF, he ushered in a shift in how athletes
interact with brands. Outdoor Retailer used to
be a place where climbers simply looked for
sponsorship dollars, or even just swag. That
still happens of course, but top athletes do more
than find funding with brands now: They drive
the image and philosophy of brands. That's
Anker's influence.
The role of TNF brand lodestone is one that
Anker can easily continue, "without having to
climb 7,000-foot granite walls at altitude," he

"I'm still the captain of the athlete team,"
he says. "I just don't have to say I'm a
professional climber anymore. I'm a
mid-level marketing guy."
"A feature-length film is the holy grail," says
McGuire, "but there's a tremendous appetite
for shorter films like those shown at the Banff
and Mountainfilm festivals."

IT'S PROBABLY NOTA COINCIDENCE THATAS
Anker's career has flourished, so have the fortunes of TNF. For a few years at the turn of the
millennia, as it was rapidly expanding out of
specialty shops and into big box stores, the company seemed to have lost its soul. As Anker settled into the core of the team, though, the brand
reclaimed its identity, both with cutting-edge
expeditions and the accompanying media, and
by becoming more accessible and open. "He's
got time for everyone, both our professional
athletes, and some kid at a trade show," says
Andy Coutant, TNF's senior director of product. "No one is ever bothering him."
"When you think about Conrad, you think
about honesty, integrity, and pursuit of excellence," says McGuire. That has rubbed off on

says. "I've been talking to the company about
planning for the next 12 years (bringing him to
the retirement age of 65). I've been with them
since 1983-that's a ton of institutional knowledge." In addition to the athlete team, he works
with the company's corporate social responsibility initiatives, such as those championing
public lands and condemning Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
Anker will certainly continue his usual appearances in the halls of Outdoor Retailer, but
he still plans to be in the field, too, though his
expeditions won't be as glamorous. His fitness
is rounding into form. "I climbed El Cap in June
and felt pretty good," he says.
"I don't need the limelight anymore-that's
for the next generation like Alex Honnold," he
says. What's on the docket? A return trip to
Antarctica this winter, 20 years after an expedition he took there with Alex Lowe. "Five of us
are going to land there and kick around, climb a
few big walls, and see what happens." O.R.

35th Anniversary 2017 / OUTDOOR RETAILER 71



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Outdoor Retailer - July 2017

OUTDOOR RETAILER - JULY 2017
CONTENTS
CONTRIBUTORS
FIRST WORDS
THE TRIBE
GREG THOMSEN
YVON CHOUINARD AND GERRY LOPEZ
STEVE BARKER
THE SCENE
JEFF LOWE
PETER AND PATTY DUKE
BEAVER THEODOSAKIS
CARSON STANWOOD
CHAD GALLWITZ
JOHN MEAD
THE TORNADO
THE SCENE
SALLY MCCOY
JOHN STERLING
CASEY SHEAHAN
THE SCENE
MUSIC AND MEMORIES
PETER METCALF
SALLY JEWELL
CONRAD ANKER
JEN TAYLOR
DAN NORDSTROM
JEREMY COLLINS
JOANNA HOSHIMOTO
THE FUTURE
THE BACKSTORY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - OUTDOOR RETAILER - JULY 2017
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover2
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 1
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONTENTS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 3
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONTRIBUTORS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 5
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - FIRST WORDS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 7
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE TRIBE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 9
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 10
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 11
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - GREG THOMSEN
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 13
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 14
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 15
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - YVON CHOUINARD AND GERRY LOPEZ
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 17
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 18
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 19
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - STEVE BARKER
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 21
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 22
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 23
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 25
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 26
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 27
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEFF LOWE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 29
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - PETER AND PATTY DUKE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 31
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - BEAVER THEODOSAKIS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 33
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CARSON STANWOOD
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 35
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CHAD GALLWITZ
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 37
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOHN MEAD
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 39
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE TORNADO
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 41
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 42
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 44
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 45
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 46
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 47
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - SALLY MCCOY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 49
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 50
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 51
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOHN STERLING
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 53
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CASEY SHEAHAN
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 55
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE SCENE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 57
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 58
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 59
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - MUSIC AND MEMORIES
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 61
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 62
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 63
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 64
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 65
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - PETER METCALF
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 67
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 68
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - SALLY JEWELL
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - CONRAD ANKER
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 71
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEN TAYLOR
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - DAN NORDSTROM
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JEREMY COLLINS
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - JOANNA HOSHIMOTO
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE FUTURE
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 77
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 78
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - 79
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - THE BACKSTORY
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover3
Outdoor Retailer - July 2017 - Cover4
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