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Rumors! Hearsay! Lies!

Submitted by j_ung on 2009-02-01 | Last Modified on 2009-02-08

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by J. Young

By J. Young

The Outdoor Retailer winter and summer shows are not exclusively for gear makers, journalists and retail buyers. A little known fact is that guests are also allowed (as are dogs, but I don’t mean anything by that). To be a guest, all one really needs is an invitation from either a gear company or a retailer. So, yeah, you kind of have to know somebody, but considering the tens of thousands of people in attendance and the measly six degrees separating you from all of them, it shouldn’t be too hard to finagle.

If you do ever manage to come to an OR show, there are a few things you should not miss and one or two you should be willing to fight to avoid. At the top of the avoid list is any men’s room between the hours of 9 and 11 AM. Outdoor professionals tend to be healthy and tend even more to love coffee and fiber, so you should view the can during that two-hour window as a militarized zone, bombs blazing and all.

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Bad luck or good? Joshua Tree Salve ended up with a booth spot that was literally partially blocking the entrance to this men’s room. The flip side is that foot traffic past their booth was quite good.
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Toaster’s interior. If there’s a Heaven, they surely serve Illy coffee and tomato-avocado bagel sandwhiches.

You’ll eventually get hungry. If you can pry yourself away from unlimited free energy-bar samples, free espresso shots and biscotti at the La Sportiva booth and the ubiquitous Utah-beer happy hours on the show floor, check out Toasters coffee and bagel shop (across the street south of the Salt Palace) and Murphy’s, one of the best little Irish pubs this side of Boston, which serves up a huge and mighty tasty black and tan alongside beer-battered fish and chips.

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A step down in social clubs – my kinda dive.

But, I digress. This is not a travel magazine and I am not a food critic. Today, I’m a gossip columnist.

The climbing industry is a bit like a soap opera, if instead of sex and breakups, you have hirings and firings. Everybody knows Chris Sharma left FiveTen and shacked up with EVOLV, but not everybody knows that such goings on, while they don’t always involve the biggest names in the industry, are pretty much commonplace. Thursday’s Mountain Hardwear rep could be Friday’s Gore Sales Manager. (It’s not that bad, but you get the point.) Put most of the role players into the same huge room with each other and the rumors flit to and fro like moths looking for flames. Even more so when I and my tape recorder encourage it.

Okay, okay… let’s play it straight. Journalists and rumors go together like a liar’s middle and index fingers. Add a tape recorder to the mix, however, and it’s a little more difficult. In order to get the following tidbits of info, I had to make unsavory promises involving anonymity… blanket, unyielding anonymity. Therefore, while I think you’ll get a kick out of these, you won’t get names – not of people, nor even of companies (well, maybe one or two). Many of you, however, will be able to guess who I’m writing about. Speculate at will. But as you do so, be mindful. Few of these are substantiated. All of them involve hearsay, some of them might constitute libel, if I had named names, and I’m reasonably certain at least two of them are outright lies.

In no particular order…

Rumor: Word is Paul Wolfowitz (oops, a name!) interviewed for the sales manager position with a hard-goods manufacturer we all know and love after leaving the World Bank. I saw evidence of this, though to be honest, it was not irrefutable evidence. The company’s owner had a rather surprising picture of himself and Wolfowtz looking chummy. I begged to be allowed to publish the photo, even with the face of the company owner blacked out, but no use. Wolfowitz did not get the job. Status: rumor, substantiated but unconfirmed.

Rumor, possible fact: A large European shoe maker partnered with a large European hard-goods maker to design and bring to market an entirely new system for attaching crampons to boots. But when the shoe maker had the boot ready to go, the gear maker bailed and left them holding the bag. The system they were working on is pretty slick (I saw drawings of it) and thankfully, the boot maker owns the patent, so they can find somebody else who isn’t quite so stupid. Status: confirmed, but not supposed to be public yet. Bonus rumor: The shoe company is already talking to another company and things are going well. Status: completely unsubstantiated.

Rumor: Wild Country and DMM’s distributor in the US, Excalibur, doesn’t really seem to care much for the press. On day two of the show, John Wilder (vegastradguy) came about a hair shy of being kicked out of their booth when he dropped by for a rundown of gear. All he got was a promised March release date for the coveted Offsets before he was summarily dismissed. I have to say that my own experience, both through this website and other news agencies has been similar. When I do manage to get a comment from Excalibur, it is either, “No,” or “You’ll have to talk to somebody else.” Status: confirmed.

Rumor: Wenger, the company that makes Swiss Army knives is branching into climbing shoes. They had a huge wall of footwear at the show this year, and while I didn’t see any pure climbing shoes, I did see something that looked suspiciously like an approach shoe. I was strapped for time, and they seemed to be so, too, so no confirmation. Status: rumor, substantiated but unconfirmed.

Rumor: I ate dinner one night with a friend who publishes an outdoor industry mag, and with us were two PR folks from a major (MAJOR) outer-wear company. They hinted that they were about to buy Gore, the company that makes Gore-Tex. Interestingly, none of their products currently include Gore-Tex. Notably, however, there was a lot of warm Saki involved and I couldn’t have swung a dead cat without hitting an empty beer bottle. Still… Status: rumor, unsubstantiated, probably a lie.

Rumor: A few years ago at ISPO, Outdoor Retailer’s European trade-show counterpart, the principal owner of a major climbing-gear company slugged the Sales Manager or another major company in the heat of a beer (excuse me… bier) fueled argument over, coincidentally, rumors and slander. (Status: confirmed.) The recipient of the blow was laid flat. However, the two have since discussed their differences. The giver of the blow swears he didn’t mean to hurt the recipient, but acknowledges that it was not a cool thing to do. However, if the general populace of the climbing gear industry is to be believed, the guy who brought the pain is also involved in several other nefarious and unethical deeds. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. What I will say is that, when researching this article, I heard more than one whopper told in joke fashion, and most of those involved the giver of the punch. Many were outrageous and spoken through an obvious curtain of animosity.

In response, he had this to say: “There’s players and there’s player haters. I don’t really have anything bad to say about anybody here at the show, but I’m sure some those people fall into one of those two categories.”

Rumor: Scram Media, the company that owns Urban Climber and Climbing Magazine has also recently purchased a small western-US-based mountaineering publication in an effort to dominate reading material for all disciplines of climbing. Status: rumor, unsubstantiated.

A well known climbing clothing company is expanding into undergarments with a purchase of Victoria Secret. Status: pretty sure this one’s BS, too, especially since, if anything, it would be the other way around. I blame Liz Claibourne.

I’ve heard once or twice in the past from different sources that Metolius is trying to sell itself. Now the rumor is that it’s about to happen or has happened, but hasn’t been announced yet. Status: rumor, unsubstantiated, but shreds of anecdotal evidence exist.

Rumor: Eastern Mountain Sports may be about to bid adieu to the outdoor world forever. Word is that they’ve been “aging… unable to pay their bills.” Status: rumor, unsubstantiated.

Not all the rumors I heard are modern… or even about sane subjects. Bizarre stories flit around the show like flies. Verbatim, from a man who is himself a Yosemite legend: “Supposedly, in the late 1800s some miners were messing around at the base of Bridal Veil, and found rocks stacked against the wall in a brick-like fashion. They thought they’d tripped upon somebody’s gold stash, ‘cause this was the gold-rush days and all that. They dug the rocks away and there was this mummy. It was this 8-foot-tall mummy, a lady with a baby. And Ripley’s Believe It or Not bought the mummy and owns it. If you look at the old Ahwahneechee legends, they told of these bigger Indians that lived down by Cascade Falls, who would raid them every once in a while and eat some of them. I was asking [a buddy who shall remain unnamed], and he said, ‘Yeah, there are legends like that, and Cascade Falls is an evil place.’” Status: I don’t know about Cascade Falls being an evil place, but the 8-foot mummy part is substantiated. Google “Yosemite mummy.”

Another: “So these guys were walking back from the Lodge to Camp 4 – they’re not really drunk or anything – but they hear some rattling and some noise and they look over, and there’s some dude messing with a dumpster, trying to open it. They first thought it was a bear, but the thing looks over and sees them. They’re like about 150’ from him. They look at it, and the thing stands up, and it’s HUGE. It’s way bigger than a human, and it ain’t no bear. There’s kind of a light at the back of the Lodge and they can kind of see it. And the thing looks at them and it goes, ‘Rowr?’ And they go ‘Fuuuuuuuuck!’ and start sprinting toward Camp 4 as fast as they can. They’re obviously freaked and this ain’t no bear. The thing's looking right at them, and it’s HUGE. It’s like a hairy human, but it’s not a human. They sprint to the first tree – it’s a few hundred feet more – and hide behind it. They look out from behind this tree, and the thing’s still standing there looking at them. And it turns, walks across the street toward Swan Slab with these giant strides and goes into the trees.”

And lastly… overheard on the OR-show floor: “If I can’t climb, I want to be trundling. I have trundling projects. Go to Grand Junction and drive directly east. Look up to the north and you will see a pillar that’s just waiting.”

There you have it – all the news that isn’t quite news from the floor of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. If you manage to make it into one, make sure you look past all the shininess to the dirt, because sometimes, it’s just as interesting.

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Free espresso shots at the La Sportiva booth. Can you guess who the fingers belong to?

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14 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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5 out of 5 stars Ahhh, excellent stuff Jay! This is exactly what I missed most from not being there this year.
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Malcolm's fingers.
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Rumor: Women enjoy coffee just as much as men and they go to the bathroom in large groups.
Status: not sure about the women at the show but sources reveal substantial evidence.
- Nice take on all this jazz you hear at the show…. Loved it – punkin.
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4 out of 5 stars Rumor: Later the same day after my visit to DMM's booth, someone's dog decided to do a little business in their booth, while they were meeting with a retailer.....karmic retribution? Status: rumor, unconfirmed as no evidence was left by the perpetrator....
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If the certain "small western-US-based mountaineering publication" typically has a column with morse code on the last page, then Scram media has already acquired them, and the change in ownership is complete. My roommate delivers said publication, and his paychecks already have a different person signing them.
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What do you get when you cross Victoria's Secret with a climbing clothing maker? Pink lace manpris?
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Fred Beckey's fingers. Did you know Fred Beckey doesn't T-bag, he potato sacks?
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Re. your Gore/GoreTex rumor: Warm sake is bad sake. Try the cold premium stuff. Ginjo, or better yet, Daiginjo. You won't be sorry.
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Alright, thanks for the tip. I've always had the warm stuff, but I'll take your advice next time.
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I beg to differ: They are not complete fingers. Surely, the question should be "can you guess who the fingers used to belong to?"
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Speaking of rumors, we're still waiting to hear about Grivel. I have a pink helmet they made (so does Sungam) so with any luck, maybe Vickie's will buy 'em up and put them back on the scene, and we can get back to climbing w/ fresh picks.
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I can neither confirm nor deny that Grivel may or may not be the hard-goods company mentioned or alluded to or not in the second rumor... or not.
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"What do you get when you cross Victoria's Secret with a climbing clothing maker? Pink lace manpris?"

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4 out of 5 stars on the off chance anyone took my comment seriously, one should appreciate that i wrote that in jest, and much like jay's article, it should not be taken too seriously.

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