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Interview with Mountain Climber Conrad Anker

The climber on IMAX in the mountains, the beauty of exposed rock and always putting his left foot first.

Conrad Anker

Hometown Big Oak Flat, California
Home base Bozeman, Montana
Claim to fame Climbing over 50 different peaks around the world, including Everest (three times)
Current projects Appearing as a guide and parks ambassador in the IMAX documentary National Parks Adventure, released this month in conjunction with the United States National Park Service’s 100th anniversary
Favourite Souvenir A rope made of yak wool from a Tibetan. “I traded my North Face jacket for it.”

Tell us about your role in National Parks Adventure.
I’m the lead character and act as mentor to fellow climbers Max Lowe and Rachel Pohl. We climbed places like the Three Penguins in Utah’s Arches National Park, and they’d never done anything of that calibre before. This sport requires so much equipment – you literally have to show people the ropes – so making a connection with other climbers is key.

What was the difference between filming for IMAX and your other documentaries?
The visuals are what carry the film, and I like motivating people to go climbing through that. Also, the camera is about the size of a dishwasher, so moving it from location to location is a bit more work.

How do you choose your next climb?
The beauty of the sport is that wherever there’s exposed rock on the planet, it’s of interest to climbers. But when I’m evaluating a proposed route, it’s about safety and beauty. We shot in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. The water, the cliffs, the forest… and we had no idea we’d have that level of beauty.

Any tips for people who want to get into climbing?
Start at a climbing gym and then look for a group to climb with. Joe Rockhead’s in Toronto has done a tremendous job – I like how varied their routes are. Wherever I travel, I meet someone who climbs, and I’m connected to this internal tribe.

As you begin a climb, is there a particular ritual you have?
I put my left shoe on first. It’s about going counter-clockwise, the way the world spins. Or maybe it’s just a chance for my non-dominant side to go first.



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