Mini Trip Report: Outdoor Retailer + Utah Adventures

For the past three years, the final stretch of summer has been marked by one event: Outdoor Retailer’s summer market in Salt Lake City. I’ve attended for the past three years, and it’s become one of my favorite weekends. OR Show is the perfect cacophony of business mixing with pleasure, free beer interrupting meetings, reuniting with old friends, and partying with the industry.

I road-tripped out to Salt Lake City with Laurie from Outdoor Women’s Alliance – we took the Wyoming route on the way out, and the southern path along I-70 on the way back (to accommodate some much needed camping after the convention). The first night celebrated old friends with a dinner hosted by Columbia Sportswear, and then it was time to get down to the dirty work on Thursday with meetings and coffee dates. Broke up the hustle of appointments with free tacos and shirt screen-printing at the annual outdoor mini-festival held by Keen – and then it was quickly back to work.

A quick photo with the folks from Moja Gear at Outdoor Retailer.

On Thursday evening, one of my favorite people in the industry, (the man, the myth, the legend) Billy Brown surprised me with an extra pass to the advanced screening of Reel Rock’s Valley Uprising film. Spoiler alert: it was awesome. I’m one of the first people to get all crotchety and jaded about Yosemite Valley, but this film was so powerful it actually made me want to return to the park to climb. Definitely a must-see when the final cut is released!

By mid-morning on Friday, I was totally over the convention center. I didn’t schedule any appointments that afternoon, so my dear friend Adriana scooped me from the Salt Palace to go do a little climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon with new friends Mary (go check out her photography right now), and her boyfriend Carlo Traversi.

But first, behold Adriana and Steven’s epic climbing set-up in their garage:

The most epic home climbing wall ever, belonging to Steven Jeffery.

When Adriana and I tossed crash pads on our back and headed towards the trail, I realized something really not okay: this was the first time I had been bouldering outside since my trip ended in late January. Whoa, dude. Never again! I foolishly left my climbing shoes behind, and borrowed a pair of rentals from the climbing gym that were not up to par – oops. Thankfully, Mary lent me her Dragons (which I am now totally in love with).

There were no sends for me that day, but just being back in a boulder field sussing out beta and cheering on my fellow climbers felt oh-so-good. We projected a sweet V4 called Twisted for a few hours before everyone had to retreat back to the convention center downtown.Five Ten Dragons, my dream climbing shoe. One day!

Mary Mecklenburg and I climbing Twisted (V4) at Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah.

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First outdoor ascents, an epic OR Show crew, and climbing at American Fork Canyon in Utah

It’s been well over a week, and yet I am still reeling from the sights, sounds, and excitement of the Outdoor Retailer summer show in Salt Lake City. It was my first OR Show experience, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to check out some outstanding gear, meet with some potential sponsors for the big 2013 trip, and hang out with some of my favorite folks in the outdoor industry.

As wonderful as my four days spent scuttling around the Salt Palace were, the undeniable highlight of my excursion out to Utah was the day I spent climbing at American Fork Canyon in the company of a crew of adventurers I had only actually met (in person) the night before. We had all known each other for what felt like a lifetime through our weekly conversations during #ClimbChat on Twitter, but it wasn’t until Millet hosted a tweet-up that we all actually became “friends in real life.” The connection between our crew was instant, and I was thrilled when my buddy Josh offered to come scoop me from my hotel the next morning to head up into the mountains.

I spent the drive up to the canyon with my face pressed against the car window, soaking up all the splendor of the mountainous Wasatch scenery that surrounded me – I’m a Florida gal, so even the slightest shifts in elevation get me giddy.

We winded through the thickly forested mountains for a few miles, and then parked along the side of the road before saddling up with gear and trekking towards the canyon walls to the Hard Rock crag with fellow climbers Josh Riggins and Kristie Salzman.

The highlight of my day came early – I got to witness Kristie’s first outdoor climb ever. The amount of stoke that was pouring out of her was infectious, and it was a blast to photograph her while Josh belayed her up Rockapella, a classic 5.7 slab with a groovy little roof at the end.

Kristie totally rocked her first climb, and came down from her ascent with an enormous smile plastered across her pretty face. It was too cool to be there for her inaugural climb, and judging by how amped she was, I think it’s safe to say she’s 100% hooked.

After I took my turn on Rockapella to warm up and get used to the unfamiliar feel of polished limestone, the rest of our group slowly made their way up the steep trail and joined us. We shifted a few yards over to a more shaded wall, and the climbing really picked up – we had about four ropes slung up the wall in a row.

Each member in our crew took turns dominating the various 5.8-5.10b routes that lined the canyon area, including Gas Boost (5.8) and Treehugger (5.10b). As much fun as the climbing was, the experience of hanging out at the crag with some fantastic folks who shared my love for the sport was even more inspiring.

I really enjoyed the change of pace from my usual climbing pursuits. I typically head to the crag with a collection of strictly-male cohorts; if I’m lucky there may be one or two fellow females along on the adventure. It was great to have a day of climbing dominated by the ladies, and the relaxed vibes of the afternoon created a truly enjoyable experience. I’m used to climbing in a way more competitive environment, where the pressure is pretty high for me to perform my best. On this occasion, however, it was all about having fun – I led a few routes, but mostly just enjoyed myself. So refreshing!

My personal highlight came when our clan switched down the crag towards what instantly became one of my favorite climbs of all time – Suicide Blonde (5.11b). Clocking in at a stout 40 feet and 5 bolts, with a bit of an overhang and strong moves to fairly solid holds, this line was a beautiful showcase of classic climbing. I watched as Steve of The Most Epic Trip led the route in a seemingly effortless manner, then decided to give it a go – quickly realizing that Steve made it look much easier than it really was.

The first bolt was the most difficult section for me; the bottom portion of the limestone rock was impossibly polished, so I had to resort to a funky heel hook to prop myself up to the first big move. After a few failed attempts, I stuck it, and took a nice rest at the ledge before the second bolt. I took three or four falls during the climb, but was really impressed by the fact that I actually finished the route – especially given the last segment.

If you know me, you know that slabs and slopers are my least favorite things to climb – and the area between the fourth and final bolts on Suicide Blonde are nothing but desperate slopers arranged along a big slab. Somehow, I managed to propel myself towards the anchors through this section without taking an falls. Victory!

I’m totally already scheming up ways to return to American Fork Canyon to tackle the red-point of this beautiful route.

As the group dispersed, I made my way down the steep, rocky trail with Josh, Steve, Kristie, Gina, and Haley’s awesome little family (did I mention how cool it was to hang out with two kids at the crag?) – and in true Katie fashion, I totally ate it while descending the trail. Oops.

Once the climbing crew dwindled down to just Josh and I, we retreated to Taylorsville to refuel with some awesome jalapeno sushi before I headed to the airport and wistfully left the gorgeous Utah landscapes. I honestly could have happily stayed out there for another few weeks, but Florida was beckoning, and I had to return home.

Utah, we shall meet again. 

A guide to the Outdoor Retailer summer show with #ATQA

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or so I hear. The annual Outdoor Retailer show is gearing up to begin its popular summer event, and I’m gearing up for my first ever attendance at this legendary gathering of outdoor brands, reps, and industry enthusiasts.

So what can you expect from the OR Show? Well, frankly, I haven’t a clue. Fortunately, last week’s #ATQA Adventure Travel chat took an in-depth look at the event – and in lieu of the standard chat recap, I thought it would be much more fruitful to turn our conversation into a mini guide to Outdoor Retailer’s summer show.

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