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GIVING BACK: The Mountaineer hosts film event to benefit AuSable River Association

October 14, 2016
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

KEENE VALLEY - On Friday, Oct. 7, The Mountaineer hosted an event that was equal parts fundraiser and celebratory convention for many members of the hiking, climbing and adventure community in the heart of the High Peaks.

More than 100 people descended on Keene Arts at nightfall as the fabled 41-year-old outdoor specialty store hosted its annual showing of Reel Rock, a film tour that aims to bring the year's best climbing and adventure films to hubs of interested communities around the world.

This year, Reel Rock consists of five small documentaries within the full movie: "Rad Dad," "Young Guns," "Brette," "Boys in the Bugs" and "Dodo's Delight." The documentaries all center around rock climbing and mountaineering, though each told differing stories, from personal profiles to unique team expeditions to talented progressive youth climbers.

Article Photos

The Mountaineer owner Vinny McClelland, right, and the organizer of the Reel Rock documentary film fundraising event Dustin Ulrich stand outside the store on state Route 73 in Keene Valley.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

The Mountaineer was one of more than 500 locations across the globe that showed the documentaries and, amongst friends, event organizer Dustin Ulrich said in its fifth year Reel Rock was another night of climbing camaraderie in Keene Valley.

"The event went from 6:30 p.m. until about 10 o'clock, the movie itself was probably two hours and it's about getting people together," he said. "Hanging out, having a beer, and you do get some people from out of town too, but would say probably 50 percent of the people there are the local climbing community."

The event is more than just a film screening for the niche climbing community, though, as annually The Mountaineer works with sponsors and other community members to raffle off prize giveaways in a festive atmosphere, all while raising money for a good cause.

This year, The Mountaineer signed on to raise funds for the AuSable River Association in its effort to provide restroom facilities at some of the most used hiking locations in the Adirondacks.

This summer, through the Volunteer Stewardship Agreement led by the AuSable River Association portable toilets were placed at the trailhead to Cascade Mountain, the Roaring Brook Falls trailhead, Chapel Pond, the Giant Ridge trailhead, the Flume trailhead in Wilmington, and Monument Falls, among other locations. The porta-johns remained through the popular hiking weekend of Columbus Day and Canadian Thanksgiving.

The Association's Science and Stewardship Director Brendan Wiltse said earlier this summer that the facilities this year came at a cost of $550 at each location. Speaking at The Mountaineer this week, the shop's owner Vinny McClelland said proceeds from Friday night's Reel Rock showing will go toward helping out the porta-john program.

Ulrich, who works for Whiteface Mountain along with The Mountaineer, said its events like these in the High Peaks area that can help to educate people on Leave No Trace principles. Ulrich said people filtered in as early as two hours before the 7:30 p.m. screening to enjoy the climbing camaraderie and the beer they brought themselves in the laid back environment, for many after a long day of hiking or climbing.

"It raises awareness, it's huge," Ulrich said. "We talk about the issue, and we make people more aware of what's going on and encourage them to support the river association. And one of the cool things about these events is we get people from out of town who may not know about these issues. For them, it's education."

The event charged $15 at the door and raffled off more than $2,000 worth of donated equipment and gear from sponsors such as Sterling Rope, Mammut Spots and Camp USA. Local businesses made donations as well, including The Brew Castle and Mountain Tomboy.

The shop also hosts its Adirondack International Mountaineering Festival on Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend in January of each year, which draws as many as 400 people including some of the most famous mountaineers in the world, and the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival in December.

McClelland, who helped to build the shop at 1866 state Route 73 in Keene Valley along with his father, said he and others who work at The Mountaineer are concerned about what kind of shape portions of the High Peaks have been left in after an estimated 65 percent increase in use of trail over the past five years.

McClelland and The Mountaineer have had a 25-year relationship with the river association that started when it was still just the Boquet River Association. He said The Mountaineer originally was concerned with the sedimentation of the watershed resulting from the over-salting of roads. The store helped the association to eventually put sediment traps in the river.

"They endeared themselves to us, and we did to them," he said.

In the ensuing years as the AuSable River Association was conceived, the shop started hosting its annual Great Adirondack Trail Run, which will be in its 13th year next June. The charity event supports the AuSable and Boquet River Associations and also serves as an educational opportunity area river ecosystems. The event consists of two runs: the main race, a 11.5-mile, 2,900-foot of vertical elevation gain challenge up the back side of Hopkins Mountain and down to Keene Valley, and the 3.5-mile "fun run" from Baxter Mountain Tavern on Route 9N to Keene Valley.

McClelland said over the past two decades the shop has helped to raise more than $130,000 total for local causes including Keene Central School District, local fire departments, The Nature Conservancy, North Country Hospice, Life Flight, local feed pantries and local individuals and families who are struggling.

"There is so much need," McClelland said. "You look in our area, it's not hard to identify some really worthy causes. And it's the entire staff here, everybody here gets behind these events. It's a cumulative effort, and it's amazing how many volunteers we get from our community, how many of our customers and participants that not really embrace these causes, but also help to put them on."



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