What’s an OGExpert? They’re the folks that huff and puff alongside you in the skin track, give you a yell from the lift, move that pad for you at the climbing gym, share their granola at the summit, or help you change a flat tire at the bike trail head. They’re us. We’ve done it all, and used pretty much every kind of gear along the way. We live, breathe, and recreate with the community.
Giancarlo Lopes, but I go by Juanny.
What brought you here to Vermont?
I went to college in Southern Vermont and was initially attracted to the mountains and hiking offered here that my home state of Connecticut lacked. I started ice climbing in college as well and quickly realized that the Northeast has some of the best water-ice climbing in the country. Several of my college friends and I moved North to Burlington after graduating and have been here ever since. Burlington is a great central location for ice climbing as you can get to Smuggs, Lake Willoughby, the ‘Dacks, and even New Hampshire within a few hours. The summers in Vermont are also magical.
How long have you been working at Outdoor Gear Exchange?
Roughly four and a half years.
What is your role at OGE?
I work as one of the warehouse receiving department managers. Our team works behind the scenes and is responsible for intake of all the new product we sell, making sure everything is accounted for, stickering every piece of gear, then making sure it has a home in our warehouse so it’s able to be located easily by our floor staff and fulfillment team.
What would you consider your area of outdoor expertise?
Climbing ice, I’ve spent roughly the past ten years pretty much obsessed.
Tell us about any upcoming goals or trips you have.
I’d love to go to Alberta, Canada and climb some of the giant, classic ice climbs they have out there. Northern Quebec and Norway are also high on my list.
What is one piece of advice or trip recommendation you often give to people who are experiencing the outdoors for the first time?
Don’t be afraid to get dirty! Ditch the creature comforts and embrace getting smelly and wearing one set of clothes for an extended period of time. The simplicity of life when spending time in the backcountry is one its most valuable lessons for me and I think the less gear you bring, the less stressed you’ll be. We don’t get to do this in modern society so embrace it in the woods.
Favorite piece of outdoor clothing or equipment you bring on every trip?
I’m rather partial to my Patagonia R1 fleece that I’ve had since college. For ice, Cassin Blade Runner crampons were a game changer for me. I haven’t tried anything else that feels more solid for pure New England ice climbing.
What’s your favorite trail snack and local beverage?
Anything that Epic Bar makes and Halyard Nicole’s Extra ginger beer.
Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?
I like to sing.
How do you keep the stoke at 11?
I love reading old guide books and looking at pictures of legendary climbers. Also, I'm a terrible rock climber and don’t get out as much as I should, so training for ice in the off-season helps me stay stoked for the winter.
Instrument of choice for digging a cat hole?
If I don’t have a trowel? A stick will do.
How were you introduced to the outdoors?
I grew up in a pretty wooded area and would go on hikes in the woods behind my house growing up. When I was 19, I attended a NOLS course in New Zealand where I did my first lengthy backpacking trip and climbed ice for the first time. That trip solidified my love for the outdoors.
Favorite after-work shred spot/outdoor adventure?
Lake Willoughby is my favorite place to go climbing. It’s an ominous, but magical and totally unique place. Bolton Quarry is pretty sweet for post-work ice laps.
Favorite part about the OGE?
The community of folks here is amazing. Lots of fun days outside and work retreats with co-workers. Also the support we can get to pursue personal outdoor dreams/adventures is amazing.
Biggest outdoor pet-peeve?
When people act like a-holes in the outdoors, be nice.
Are you a fan of Type 2 fun?
For sure, my best memories outdoors are from those types of days.
Any sufferfests/epics you’d like to tell us about?
In 2011, my climbing mentor Dillon and I went into Panther Gorge in the ‘Dacks to climb a backcountry ice climb called Agharta. The total hiking mileage was going to be roughly 15-20ish miles, plus the climb and we aimed to get it done over two days. It was dumping snow the whole time and we ended up getting benighted while breaking trail to our lean-to. I was wearing old, plastic boots that were two sizes too big and at one point stepped through a frozen stream, filling my boot/liner with water. We finally made it to the lean-to, exhausted and wet but stoked to climb the route the following day. The next day we aimed for what we thought was the route, got lost following a streambed, postholing the whole way and after several hours we decided to call it quits. We never found the route and ended up hiking the whole way back to our car at ADK Loj with our climbing gear, defeated. Later, I ended up with pretty bad blisters and lost several toenails from hiking in my wet boot. This was one of the first ‘epics’ I’d had involving ice climbing and will certainly not be the last. Despite our failure, this experience is one of my fondest memories in the backcountry.