But the 52-year-old’s latest feat landed him in an unlikely place far from that high-altitude home: the silver screen.
Anker was the leader of the now-renowned climbing expedition up the Shark Fin of India’s legendary peak, Meru. The climb was captured in a film of the same title, a documentary that won the prestigious Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and kicked off a maelstrom of media attention that had the crew appearing everywhere from morning talk shows to online film critique site Rotten Tomatoes.
The mainstream attention was uncharted territory for action sports, and an eye-opening experience for the unassuming Anker. GrindTV caught up with the Bozeman, Montana, native when he stopped through Seattle recently to present his newest project, The Other Way, as part of The North Face Speaker Series to find out how he’s been handling the additional limelight and what keeps bringing the sport’s greatest back to the mountains.
You’ve had a busy year with the release of Meru. What has it been like for a mountain man like you being in the middle of a place like the Sundance Film Festival?
It was good. At the beginning, people definitely thought I was some kind of ski-lift operator because I had a beard and all that at the time. By the end, though, people were coming up and asking for my autograph. It was all really good.
How does your The Other Way presentation differ from what audiences saw on the silver screen this year?
Well, first of all, it’s live and it’s just one person, just me. This is far from a polished movie, but it’s also a real look at some of the things I’ve dealt with over my career and the people I’ve shared that with.
How has something like Meru been important for action sports?
It gave people a sense of capability, of what is possible. Just look at Renan [Ozturk]’s recovery: It’s just remarkable what we as humans can do.
Why was it important in general?
I like to think that some housewife in Ohio can relate to the movie as well as the experienced climber. It covers a lot for a lot of people.
Just keeping it safe is the bottom line. It’s what I do. If I played football, I’d have half a brain by now, but climbing is something I can still participate in. I’m not the cutting edge, but I’m still part of this sport. It’s truly a participant sport.
What keeps you coming back to the mountains?
Being there with people, understanding that I have this incredible group of friends that shares what I do. Having humans interact with humans is a great thing. There are a lot of messages in sharing time in the mountains.
When you get back from being in the outdoors, you have a new appreciation for everyday life.
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