Anchored in the heart of the Hollywood district at 1510 N.E. 37th Ave. in the iconic, milk-bottle-shaped Steigerwald Dairy Building, The Mountain Shop – arguably the oldest mountaineering shop in the United States, and maybe the entire continent – will celebrate 80 years of business this winter.
Everett and Ida Darr began the business in 1937 as the Nestle Down Outdoor Shop at 628 N.E. Broadway – now a Pizza Schmizza location in the Lloyd district. That same year, the Works Progress Administration completed construction of Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and the world’s first ski lift opened at Sun Valley Resort in Idaho.
“Everett and Ida Darr were elite climbers who became leaders in the climbing and skiing community, exploring the Cascade Mountain Range – and beyond,” said General Manager Guy Trombley, who has been with the shop for seven years. “The Mountain Shop actually built some of the first gear specially designed for mountaineering, skiing and backpacking. Being one of two producers in the country, the Department of Defense contracted with the Mountain Shop to design and outfit gear for the Tenth Mountain Division, who fought against Nazi Germany during World War II.”
The Darrs passion and skill for the sport, as well as their membership in fledgling mountaineering organizations like the Mazamas and the Wy’east Climbers, put them in the company of some of the greatest skiers and climbers of their day. Everett Darr completed the first ascent of a Wy’east Route on Mt. Hood in 1932 and the Klickitat Glacier Route on Mt. Adams in 1933.
Offering “everything for the mountaineer,” including iron crampons, pitons and alpenstocks, the “Nestle Down” name was a nod to the custom sleeping bags the Darrs designed and manufactured. As the sleeping bag business slowed during the Great Depression, the Darrs changed the name of their store to The Mountain Shop in 1940.
Successive owners of the store have included Olympic hopeful Kenny Van Dyke (who launched the annual Sniagrab sale – “bargains” spelled backwards – which ran for 23 years), Peter Hoff and Wayne Jackson. Current owner Dave Pietka purchased the business in 2007 and moved it to its new location in 2011.
“The Mountain Shop offers the best camping, climbing, hiking and skiing equipment available,” said Pietka. “We make it easy for customers to enjoy their time outdoors. We offer full rental packages, high-end demos, expert equipment repair and a knowledgeable staff that can custom-fit you for just the right equipment.”
“Stewarding the oldest shop in the country toward modernization has increased the quality of our service and expanded the range of our products,” said Trombley. “Our performance demo and rental department is a gateway to exploring the mountains in the best possible gear available. We have a curated collection of highly-specialized gear for every human-powered mountain discipline. Our staff is made up of mountaineering guides, climbing instructors, ski patrollers, Nordic ski instructors, competitive ultra-marathon trail runners, engineers and even a few PhDs. Our staff record for who can make it to the top of Mt Hood and back to Timberline Lodge is now two hours and 12 minutes. We try to break that record every year.”
The Mountain Shop team has assembled an impressive “wall of history” and display case to honor their legacy, with artifacts from their own collection and objects on loan from the Mazama Library and Historical Collection. A celebration of the anniversary, or possibly multiple celebrations, are in the works for late January or early February.
Parking for the shop is available across the street at the Banfield Motel, and evenings and weekends in the MBank lot on the corner of Broadway and 37th Ave. For more information, call 503-288-6768 or visit www.mountainshop.net.