Ballard's Ascent Outdoors specializes in technical gear for rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, and backcountry skiing.

Image: Truc Allen

Where were you when Ascent Outdoors closed? If you were anywhere near a Seattle hiker, climber, skier, or cyclist, you remember their despondent wail when the trio of outdoor businesses—Ballard and Redmond stores, plus a cycle shop—abruptly went out of business in late April. Brace yourself for a citywide fist-pump, because Ascent Outdoors is back. Like, as soon as next week.

Sandeep Nain was as bummed as anyone when he heard the news, even though he was a competitor; his Miyar Adventures, a guide company that leads clients up peaks from Mount Baker to Kilimanjaro, operates a gear store in Redmond. But given that he'd already planned to move Miyar to a larger space in Woodinville, he began looking into buying the bankrupt biz. After placing a bid with the liquidation company handling the store's bankruptcy, he found himself the new holder of a Ballard Avenue lease, a storeful of hiking gear, and the affection of dirtbags across Western Washington.

Born as Second Bounce in 1993, the outdoor recreation store became Second Ascent before it was sold and rebranded as Ascent Outdoors in 2014. From its well-trafficked perch in Ballard, it became the kind of retail hub that doubles as a community hangout, hosting fundraisers and slide presentations of adventurers bragging about their climbs. Besides the hanging racks of sleeping bags and piles of climbing rope, it was known for expert boot fitting and racks of used clothing. The shop had just expanded to the Eastside a year before the abrupt end, which came as a shock even to employees on their final shift; the Seattle Times reported that owner Solon Scott was overextended by the expansion.

Nain began calling former Ascent Outdoors employees even before his bid was accepted. "I knew people really loved working there, but I'm happily surprised with how eager they were to come back," he says; most quickly gave notice at their new gigs and flocked back to their old posts. (Acolytes of the shop's boot-fitting guru, Brennan Halterman, will be relieved to hear he's planning to return, too.) Things are moving so quickly, Nain expects a soft reopening by early July.

Besides guiding around the world, Indian-born Nain volunteers with Everett Mountain Rescue and instructs through the Mountaineers.

As for the short-lived Redmond shop, it's already empty and off the table. Nain's purchase did include the Ballard Ascent Cycles business, but as of today's announcement, the bike shop reopening is on hold as he focuses on the main Ballard storefront. Two of the store's mainstays, rentals and used gear sales, will return. As for the store credit Ascent Outdoors owed customers who sold them used items, Nain notes its not legally his responsibility, but an issue he says he'll address with a mind to the store's loyal customer base. 

One question remains: The name. Nain is considering a return to its 'original' moniker (actually its second name), Second Ascent. Not only does the current resurrection give it new meaning, some loyalists never acknowledged the title change to Ascent Outdoors in the first place. And after all, it's those old-timers that helped make it more than a mere gear shop. "People think of it as a community," Nain says. "It was a place that people felt welcome."

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