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Ed Viesturs Speaks the Guide Truth on Five Years of First Ascent
Posted on October 30, 2014

Ed V on Everest in 2009; photo: Jake Norton

Ed Viesturs is the first American to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. When Ed signed on to the First Ascent effort as one of the original six alpine guides, his presence instantly added serious high-altitude cred to the  development effort.  Along the way, the longtime Seattle native and Seahawks 12th man flag-raiser provided unfiltered perspective on what works and what doesn’t in the mountains. His words and books of alpine knowledge also provided inspiration and encouragement for any climber training for a summit—including more than a few folks here at HQ. We sat down with Ed V. on Mt. Rainier a few months back to get his take on the significance of First Ascent hitting the five year mark and his perspective on the Guide-Built process.

Five years ago we had a mission: draw on our brand’s heritage of technical innovation and alpine exploration to launch Eddie Bauer First Ascent and set a new standard for gear in the alpine realm. Five years after First Ascent launched, our record speaks volumes: 13 industry best-in-class awards, 53 pioneering testing expeditions, and a series of innovative technical gear that has enabled personal adventures, big and small, around the globe.

For the next month we’ll be celebrating First Ascent hitting the five-year mark with success and style. From expedition rewind coverage, guide interviews, Instagram behind-the-scenes images and a head-to-toe anniversary microsite on, we’re giving the First Ascent accomplishment one serious high five. This is our second guide Q and A in a series of nine. Stay tuned for the behind-the-scenes story of the Guide Built process, favorite moments from the past five years, and the ten most epic First Ascent adventures of all time. —LYA Editor

Ed Viesturs on Process

Since you were one of the original guides to field test and design First Ascent products, what are some of the things that have changed from then to now and what are some of the things that have stayed the same?

The cool part for us five years ago was that we, as a team of climbers and guides, were invited to help build this First Ascent product line. It’s the stuff we climb in, the stuff we use all the time, and to sit down with designers that actually listen to our needs was great. It was very hands-on — with a blank piece of paper, we created a jacket, a tent, a backpack, and we worked through the whole design process, the fabric choices, and the prototyping. It’s a little bit different now. We don’t get together as a group as much. We do a lot of it online. We see pictures and drawings and prototypes. We do some conference calls, so it’s not as intimate, but we still do gather together as guides and designers to work to build the line.

How has it evolved over the first five years and where do you see it going from here?

I think the biggest way that this First Ascent line has evolved was five years ago, we had zero. We started with absolutely nothing other than a bunch of ideas, and we built that product line out. Everything we have is great. It works. It’s functional. Now, we’re trying to cherry pick new fabrics, new design ideas, and refine the products that we have. It’s a continuous process of improving. We never say, “this is perfect, it can’t get any better,” because there’s always new stuff around the corner. New things are being designed, new fabrics, and so we’re willing to be flexible and say, “this is good but how can we make it better?”

What is the one piece or product that you’re most proud of?

I’d say the product that I wear the most is the Rainier Storm Shell. It’s a really durable parka. It’s waterproof. It’s breathable. It’s bomber. If it’s snowing and blowing and cold and windy, that thing will protect me. We had a hand in designing it. It’s not too light, it’s not too heavy, and it’s probably that one thing in my pack that I really want to make sure I have when I go climbing.

Has there ever been an elusive product that you wish came to market but never did?

When we first came out, we had a base layer called the Paradise. It was this kind of buttery, soft, beautiful fabric. It felt great. It didn’t function quite as well as we were hoping as far as drying out when you want it to, not being too cold and clammy, but believe it or not, I still have mine and I still like it. A lot of the guides that wore them early on liked it as well, and it’d be cool if we could somehow bring that product back because the fabric was so nice to wear right next to your skin.

What’s your favorite piece of MicroTherm gear and why?

The MicroTherm is beautiful, it’s like a down sweater. On a cooler day, you can wear it alone. It’s very lightweight. I like the down without the hood because it acts more like a sweater and I can wear it as a under-layer and it won’t get in the way of something that’s going on top.


Ed V Bio



Author: - Thursday, October 30th, 2014

  1. Suzanne Sheldon

    My husband & I were so disappointed when we opened the new Eddie Bauer catalog that arrived a few days go. Your company has certainly embraced the down industry. We wonder if you have ever bothered to investigate where those down feathers have come from & how they are ‘harvested’. If the owners, employees, designers & customers had seen the videos of this cruel & horrific industry, I think you may have gone with a kinder material that doesn’t require the exploitation & suffering of innocent & defenseless fowl. We no longer purchase anything made with down or fur. We won’t even buy ‘faux’ fur, because it sends the wrong message & sometimes it is actually cat or dog fur, ripped from live animals in China. If you don’t believe me, research it yourself. As far as I’m concerned, if you absolutely need down filled or fur outerwear to travel to the coldest regions, then simply make the right choice & don’t go there. Exploiting any animal to the point of any suffering or death is speciesism. Eddie Bauer is showing an utter lack of compassion by trying to profit big from the suffering of others.

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