Conrad Anker is the most successful U.S. mountaineer climbing today, with more than 40 international expeditions on his resume and scores of first ascents to his name. Even at 53 years old, he puts up four or five new routes each year. He survived an avalanche in 1999 attempting to ski Shishapangma in Tibet while his best friend Alex Lowe and cameraman David Bridges were killed. Climbing the most technically challenging terrain in the world is Conrad’s specialty and having the right gear is critical to his success.
Conrad and some fellow Smartwool athletes began discussing a new sock design around a fireplace in a small log cabin in Montana’s Hyalite Canyon after a day of ice climbing in freezing weather. There were no mountain socks available with graduated calf compression which aids in preventing leg fatigue, wicks moisture from the toes and arch, and facilitates insulation where you need it. Anker collaborated with John Ramsey, development director from Smartwool. Conrad’s attention to detail, years of experience, and on-mountain field testing helped Smartwool and our team at Renfro’s Cleveland, Tennessee factory to create the most technical mountaineering socks ever made. These socks needed to have aggressive venting, reduced bulk, heel compression and targeted high-density cushioning.
Anker took design ideas to the Smartwool and Cleveland, Tennessee teams at the design lab at Renfro’s Cleveland, Tennessee factory where Smartwool’s socks are made. There they used cutting-edge computerized knitting machinery to build the complex sock with graduated compression and toe and heel insulation that differ in thickness by degrees of millimeters. This new sock was the PhD® Outdoor Mountaineer, delivering extraordinary comfort and durability so people can do what they do longer, while keeping that lush feeling only merino wool can provide.
The PhD® Outdoor Mountaineer was recognized by The Gear Junkie with a “Best in Show” Award at this past Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City.