The last time acclaimed North Face climber Conrad Anker spoke in front of a crowd in Breckenridge, he’d fallen just 100 meters short of achieving one of his biggest life goals: being a part of the first team to successfully summit the famed Shark’s Fin of India’s 20,700-foot Mount Meru. On Saturday night at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center, in front of a crowd of around 720, he told a very different story.
Where around 15 other expeditions and 30 total climbers had previously failed, he and fellow climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk finally succeeded in 2011. Anker told his story, soon to be a feature documentary film, to a captive crowd.
“It became this big prize,” Anker said in an interview with the Daily. “It’s the culmination of all the skills I’ve put into it. It had the perfect blend of everything I like in climbing.”
Accompanied by video footage from his fellow climbers, Anker told the story of their 12 days on the face of what is considered one of the world’s toughest climbs.
In his third attempt at the climb, his team met with a number of challenges that threatened to derail their goal. He credits their dedication and perseverance for their eventual success.
The talk was part of The North Face Never Stop Exploring Speaker Series, now in its fifth year in Breckenridge and sponsored locally by The North Face Breckenridge store.
The event has also become a fundraiser for the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), which helps run adaptive sports programs in Summit County.
“It’s something I really like to raise money for,” said Steve Lapinsohn, owner of The North Face Breckenridge Store. “People come out of the woodwork to give us something.”
He said last year’s event raised around $1,000 for the BOEC. With a strong turn out this year, Lapinsohn expects to more than double that.
For the first time, this year’s event included a charity raffle with a number of North Face items and prizes donated by other area companies.
“This is hands down the biggest event we’ve ever had,” North Face speaker series manager Brandon Friese said of Saturday’s crowd.
While Meru is Anker’s biggest personal achievement, he is also known for discovering the body of early Mount Everest explorer George Mallory who went missing in 1924. Anker and a team of climbers found his body in 1999. The 2010 documentary “The Wildest Dream” tells Anker’s Everest story.
His fellow climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk are currently working on a documentary of their 2011 Shark’s Fin expedition. Anker said he hopes it will be completed and in theaters next year. It will be titled simply, “Meru.”