While the weather here in Peaklessburg is going to be sunny, 90 degrees (with and a ruthless dew point of 65), some were recently reminded that winter-esque activities can be found year round if we are willing to travel across the globe. For instance, today’s coverage of the World Cup in South Africa shows fans shivering in the stands at the brink of winter and a person who recently bought an ice axe on Ebay from me a month ago indicated he plans to use it to climb in the Andes.
However, one of the complications of preparing for an alpine adventure in Peaklessburg – during any time of year – is that the brick and mortar outfitters do not carry the specialized gear necessary and the staff’s knowledge is left entirely to hearsay advice on those topics. The local REI, for example, does not even carry one basic ice axe or a pair of crampons. What if a customer was going to climb in the Yukon Territory, where there are few-to-no places to gear-up upon arrival? Of course there is the ability to shop on the Internet, but you cannot return climbing gear for any reason because of liability issues, even if the length, fit or weight is not satisfactory. Perhaps outfitters in the south should at least have samples of alpine gear at the outfitter from which to judge comfort issues of weight and length and base making online purchases or special orders through the outfitter.
I have run into this issue with outfitters here regarding full grain leather boots and long underwear as well. Sure, full grain leather boots are hot and uncomfortable in Peaklessburg where I bought them from a salesman that thought I was 1) throwing away money, and 2) should be buying a heavily ventilated mid-top sneaker he was pushing on me. He clearly had never hiked in the Adirondacks where the Asolos I bought excel in crossing streams, traverse trails soaked by runoff and keep my feet comfortable despite the inevitable deep mud. The less expensive mid-top would have left me wet and less supported under my loaded pack. I also had difficulty obtaining long underwear for trip to Alaska, just because I was traveling in August.
Outfitters may be located in a certain region, and their staff may be most knowledgeable with the local climate and conditions, however we live in the jet age. We travel, at least sometimes, to exotic locations. As backpackers and mountaineers, the allure of what else is out there is very exciting. It is too bad the stores in flat, featureless metropolitan areas are still limited in their expectation for what their customers may want to do.