Better Grooming

Trusted Tools: Conrad Anker

Trusted Tools Conrad Anker
Mountaineering legend Conrad Anker invites us into his epic gear cave at his home in Montana to show off a few of the tools that keep him going.


After a few modifications (the addition of mud flaps and a basket), Conrad transformed an old Specialized “Stump Jumper” languishing in the basement into his daily “Grocery Getter.” “My Grandparents were born at the turn of the century and weathered the Great Depression in Central California. They were hypermiling before hypermiling was a thing. I try to be conscientious of how much I consume, and my Grocery Getter is perfect for its intended purpose. I’ve added only what’s necessary and only fix things when they fail, but it’s still my day-to-day ride around Bozeman.”

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Conrad told us that “the most efficient use of a woodsman’s time is spent sharpening his saw.” For him, maintaining climbing gear like his water ice tool for scaling frozen waterfalls – pictured above – is just as important. “With my Grocery Getter, something has to fail before it deserves fixing; but relative to its intended purpose, I can’t run the risk of my gear being compromised on an expedition.” Conrad has all but worked this out to an exact science: “After this many years, I have a predictable burn rate for my gear: I go through about 20 carabiners, an assortment of rock protection, 4 ropes, 2 pair of climbing shoes and a pair of mountain boots. If I am not using up gear, I’m not adventuring.”

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“In the sauna, I sweat out all of the moisture and toxins – like the sunblock that I use when climbing – to renew my skin. As part of that rejuvenation, I work on my feet with (granite and quartzite) rocks to remove those dry, crusty things on my heels. Afterwards, I take a shower and lather up my feet with lotion and then put on a pair of wool socks. I take meticulous care of my hands and feet because keeping them supple and moist helps prevent frost from entering the cracks, which makes your more susceptible to frostbite, bone spurs, and bunions.”

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“My look is clean shaven. I haven’t had a beard since ’89.” But Conrad’s enthusiasm for shaving goes beyond the bathroom. “On an expedition, beards just aren’t efficient. Sure, they can help with insulation and protection from the wind and sun, but they ice up in the cold, and thawing them out (pulling the ice off) is really uncomfortable. Also, you can be up there for a few weeks at a time and it begins to smell like food.” Conrad typically gets a straight-razor shave as part of his pre-expedition ritual. “The travel to Kathmandu, for example, can be brutal. It’s part of how I decompress and make the adjustment before heading off to base camp. At camp, I use a mirror, small scissors for trimming, and my razor to get a fresh shave in before starting the climb.”

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“I’m into fountain pens. So was my dad. I’m kind of old school that way. I write 2-3 letters a day. Mostly postcards and thank you notes, but an unpretentious fountain pen both helps my penmanship and creates something tangible for people I care about.”