Outdoor sports are one of the biggest reasons to live in Utah. People come from all over the world to ski, mountain bike, rock climb, and pursue a plethora of other adrenaline addictions that bring them face-to-face with raw nature.
The geographic wrinkles that rise up all around us in this beautiful state, sculpted and carved by wind and water, offer a view from just about any vantage point, to inspire even the most cynical artist or poet. The views never get old, as the colors, features, and highlights change with each season. It is a beauty we don’t just admire, but one that infuses itself into us over time.
Humans are capable of adventures and survival methods that would have been incomprehensible to the first pioneers that arrived here, or to the Native Americans that preceded them, due to modern breakthroughs in materials and equipment.
The first places people often go to buy gear are those with the largest marketing dollars ― maybe a big box outdoor retailer or an online giant. Still, in these days of concern about supporting economic juggernauts versus the loss of the small-time ma and pa business, we end up weighing the pros and cons. What do we really gain for ourselves when we search out and shop from the little guy? If your outdoor sport is rock climbing, you probably already know the answer. You go to Darren Knezek.
If you are a rock climber that has moved beyond the weekend warrior stage, you likely already know who Darren is. You’ve seen his posts on social media, or you have searched him out for beta about a climb, or you’ve seen his name associated with a climb you’re working on. If he didn’t bolt the climb you’re doing, then he is friends with whoever did.
When I asked Darren about his history of putting up climbs, he said: “When I first moved here in the late eighties, there were only fifty-five routes in Rock Canyon, and it wasn’t long before I realized that if I was going to climb more routes, then I was going to have to put them up myself.”
Along with Jeff Pederson, Darren is a partner in the ownership of Mountainworks Outdoor Equipment, a small retail shop built into the Quarry rock climbing gym in Provo, Utah. The first thing you’ll notice is that while its footprint isn’t huge, its impact is, because each item in there is carefully selected by rock climbers, for rock climbers. Every shoe, every cam, every backpack leaves you choosing from the best available items for the job.
After standing in the doorway, taking a mental inventory of how much you can put onto your credit card without your spouse demanding a divorce, you will see Darren, usually standing in the middle of the store, waiting to help you. He won’t have a particularly imposing stature, but something will stand out about him. His hair will be thin but still messed up and spikey, a la Albert Einstein. His eyes reflect decades of experience in every aspect of his craft. He likely remembers exactly which size cam fits into the crux of that obscure climb you think you just discovered. Then there is the smile that makes you feel both welcome and comfortable, yet still amped up for the adventure you’re here to gear up for.
Darren is why it’s better to shop the little guy. You don’t just come in and buy shoes or a harness. You get an understanding of what you really need and what each manufacturer provides that rivals the equipment designers themselves. You get geographical knowledge that goes far beyond what Google Maps could ever offer. You will know where to go to get a good weather climb in the hottest part of summer or the dead of winter. And Darren instills a sense of confidence you didn’t know you had.
Darren is why it’s worth driving to Provo from wherever you live, because when you attack your dream climb, you will have precisely what you need to have the best experience possible. All stores offer gear, but Darren gives you the benefit of a lifetime’s worth of insight along with your receipt.
Mountainworks Outdoor Equipment Store 2494 N University Pkwy, Provo, UT 84604 801-371-0223