Among all the old skis, crampons and historical ice axes hanging on the walls at Neptune Mountaineering sits a small transparent medical jar.

Inside that jar resides a hard, blackened toe.

"That's just the end of it," said Gary Neptune. "It's not that big. We have a better one here. A customer just donated this last year.

"That's a toe. That's an entire toe."

The frostbitten appendages, one of which belonged to climber Malcolm Daly before he donated it to Neptune Mountaineering's museum, is among the many climbing, skiing and mountaineering artifacts that Neptune has accumulated over the years.

Neptune, the store's former owner, has taken on a new role as official museum curator since selling his 40-year-old business to Texas-based outdoor retail chain Backwoods in January.

This month, Neptune has been redesigning the museum to make it more centrally located. In the past, artifacts had been scattered on walls throughout the store.

"It didn't really tell a story very well," Neptune said, as he strolled barefoot — his custom in the store — into the new museum space.

Now Neptune has a dedicated space on the west side of the store for wall displays and floating exhibits in the middle of the room. Many Neptune Mountaineering patrons know the space as the area where Neptune hosts various speakers, climbers and mountaineers several times a month.

Each space in the museum is a timeline of events and advancements in gear, but also tell unique stories about the gear's users. The equipment, posters, photographs and other artifacts range from the mid-1800s to the last half of the 20th century. Neptune has also created a quiz of climbing pioneers, gear and mountaineering history.

Some are items that Neptune himself used during his decades-long, ongoing career as a mountaineer and outdoorsman. Many items were donated to the museum, along with handwritten notes, because of Neptune's personal relationships with mountaineers and climbers.

"They just offered," he said. "I've been fortunate to meet some of these old climbers, and they show me their gear and talk to me about what they did."

Gary Neptune of Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder works on his climbing, skiing and outdoor adventure museum in his story on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.
Gary Neptune of Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder works on his climbing, skiing and outdoor adventure museum in his story on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. (Paul Aiken)

Beth Dryden and Steve Parkin, both from St. Augustine, Fla., were passing through the store and museum on their way home from a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon.

"My stove is in the museum?" said Parkin, pointing to an exhibit. "That's my stove."

For Dryden, seeing all the ice climbing and extreme cold weather gear made her thankful for the warm weather during their recent trip to Arizona.

"It makes me not have any desire to do anything more extreme than what we just did," Dryden said, laughing.

Contact Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kuta@coloradodaily.com