Photo: Courtesy of The North Face

I Never Leave Without… My Bamboo Fork | Conrad Anker, Mountaineering Legend

The climber shows us the essentials he keeps with him on his every expedition

by Conrad Anker; as told to Kieran Morris
Dec 12 2019, 12:57pm

Photo: Courtesy of The North Face

We all have them: Those few items that, whatever the circumstances, however short the trip or however small your suitcase, you’d never dream of leaving behind. This series takes a snoop inside the suitcases of some of our favourite globetrotters – photographers, adventurers, chefs, models, directors and all-round interesting people – and asks what they take with them everywhere, and why.

Conrad Anker is a climber without parallel. Arguably the highest profile member of The North Face’s star-studded climbing team, and a man who’s reached first ascents on three continents, Anker stands alone in a field jam-packed with brave, free-spirited individuals.

He has conquered Everest three times - once without the assistance of supplementary oxygen - as well as achieving a record much closer to home, as the first man to climb the Continental Drift route up the southeastern face of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park. Being a child of Big Oak Flat, California, (“40 minutes from the entrance to Yosemite”, in his words) this feat had particular personal resonance.

"Some of my bamboo forks have sentimental value - until I lose them"

Anker also solved one of climbing history’s greatest mysteries, leading the team that discovered the body of the iconic British mountaineer George Mallory, who had been frozen on Everest for three-quarters of a century, in 1999. He now spends his time in his adopted home of Bozeman, Montana, with his wife Jennifer, and three sons: Max, Sam, and Isaac, but found some time to speak to us about the essentials which he holds dearest on his innumerable expeditions.

Climbing is so complex that it’s hard to choose just one item that bring with me, but if I had to, I’d bring a rope. You really can do a lot with a rope. The rope has helped me out of a lot of close scrapes - imagine if you're adrift in a sea of gravity when you're climbing a big wall; your ropes are your connectivity there, so if you drop your ropes on a big wall in the middle of nowhere... it's a tough thing. All that climbing really is, is rope & rope work.

It’s always good to keep eating utensils with you. No matter where you are in the world, be it Yosemite or Tibet, you can’t take it for granted that you’ll have something to eat with. I always carry bamboo cutlery; you don’t want to be using and disposing of plastic. Some of my bamboo forks have sentimental value - until I lose them, which I always seem to do. They haven’t ever got me out of a jam, but sometimes, when you’re the only one with cutlery, offering it out to others can build yourself some goodwill, so maybe that’s a preventative measure!

I couldn’t go anywhere without the VE 25 - the seminal expedition tent. It’s been on my trips to Alaska, the Himalayas, all over the world: that particular design has been my home from home in places wild & underneath the stars. It even braced Antarctica with me, and even though it doesn’t get dark there when you’re climbing during the austral summer, it actually allows you to sleep! It even survived some of the roughest winds I’ve ever encountered; the breeze was so strong that the tent flattened against my chest and bounced back out again. That night we were holding on for dear life.

For everyday use, on-the-go travelling, and everywhere, The North Face Ventrix jacket is my new favourite thing. It’s lightweight, it compresses well, and has synthetic insulation to bat off particularly vicious temperatures. I had to head out to Montana, ice-climbing in the winter, to put it to the test, and it held up. It can stand up to anything and anywhere - even Antarctica.

Conrad Anker is a mountaineer and Brand Ambassador for The North Face. Keep up with him on Twitter or Instagram.

Read more about our favourite globetrotter’s travel essentials in our series, I Never Leave Without…

i never leave without