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Guide Built: Five Years of First Ascent
Posted on November 3, 2014

Every major outdoor brand sponsors a roster of pro athletes, but First Ascent took a different approach when we returned to building technical outerwear. Rather than ship existing product for validating feedback, our guide built process integrated mountain professionals into every stage of the product design cycle. The crux of what makes their intense input so integral to the gear we build is the environments that they live in and the constant expeditions that serve as a global proving ground for our First Ascent technical gear and apparel.

At every stage of the development in our Eddie Bauer First Ascent line, we integrate components that our world-renowned team of mountain and ski guides demands after testing it in locations from Everest, Denali, and Antarctica to the Andes and the Chugach. We’ve integrated feedback from 53 intense gear-testing expeditions to determine the specifics of function, fabric, and form, as well as the precise location of every seam and stitch. The result is a line of gear that has proven itself at the extremes.

To continue the five years of First Ascent celebration, we’ve picked 10 of our favorite quotes from team members who have been involved with the Guide-Built Process from early on, letting their words speak for the result. —LYA Editor

SethWaterfall on the summit of Everest

“I’m just your run-of-the-mill mountain guide and to get an opportunity to develop really outstanding product and to watch that product go from a basic lineup of functional clothing to pushing the envelope is cool stuff.” —Seth Waterfall

Reggie Crist hiking for Haines turns in 2010, in the original SEABA shell. Photo: Will Wissman

“Winning awards is great. Everyone wants to put a feather in their cap but for me the ultimate validation comes when you’re standing on top of a peak and the weather’s moving in and you’re trying to manage logistics with your client, whether its food, water, shelter, and really there’s only one constant out there: I know the last person I’m going to get to take care of is myself, so my gear has got to work. I take a lot of pride in knowing Eddie Bauer makes the best gear out there.” – Reggie Crist

Caroline George climbs The Star route (5.10+) in Barra Canyon, Jordan

“We’re giving them inputs on women-specific products and what we’re saying is really heard. And from speaking with friends who have other sponsors and attend other meetings, it’s not implemented the way it is with First Ascent.” – Caroline George

Ben Stookesberry in the Rwenzori Mountains of East Africa

“I feel like our feedback has a very significant impact on the gear itself… we can give our feedback from the other side of the world and it gets back to Seattle in a heartbeat. It’s significant and you can see it reflected in the product when it actually hits the floor of the stores.” —Ben Stookesberry

Kent McBride at the Lake Tahoe ski guides meeting in 2011. Photo: Jim Harris

“They are all ears; they want to listen to input. It feels like the First Ascent crew, they are just all about what the guides’ input is. Even if it is moving a zipper two inches, they drop everything, take a vote and then it gets checked and changed… immediate feedback and a lot of hands-on. I’ve never seen a brand get that into it.” – Kent McBride

Tom Wayes shutting 'er down in Lake Tahoe, 2010. Photo: Will Wissman

“When you listen to people who are in the field every day, those are the people who are on the front lines. Those people are the ones who are going to give you the no-shitter and the truth of what they like or don’t like. By listening to the riders and guides, you can make great products and be on the forefront, and it’s always better to be setting trends than following them.” – Tom Wayes

Ed Viesturs on Everest in 2009. Photo: Jake Norton.

“As guides, we get to help design the products that we use, that we live in, and that we rely on. It’s been an amazing journey basically starting with blank pieces of paper we built clothing, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks. We were allowed to not only test the product before it gets to you but we were able to add features that we want and take away things we feel aren’t necessary. —Ed Viesturs

Lynsey Dyer waxing up at Eagle Pass Heli in Revelstoke, 2013 Photo: Garrett Grove

“We come in every three months and have very in-depth meetings about every aspect of this process, and if we aren’t completely satisfied then things get killed, things get cut. They are acting from a local small-company perspective that listens to the community that it is representing, and I respect that.” – Lynsey Dyer

Peter Whittaker guiding en route to a summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica in 2011. Photo: Jake Norton

“This is a pure process from start to finish, conception to production. This whole platform we have here is pretty unique, we are actually sitting in there from the beginning and involved every step of the way.” – Peter Whittaker

Lel Tone in Les Lenas, 2011. Photo: Will Wissman.

“Everybody has something different to bring to the table and it’s been a really cool experience in figuring out consensus. I think with good constructive teamwork, we create the best pieces out there.” – Lel Tone

Peter Whittaker, Caroline George, Seth Waterfall, Kent Harvey and Jake Norton in Antarctica.

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 three weeks we’ll be profiling the First Ascent effort on Instagram, on the Live Your Adventure blog, at and with our YouTube playlist. Check back daily for guide-built, expedition tested and award winning product stories behind the making of First Ascent.


Author: - Monday, November 3rd, 2014

  1. John

    Just wanted to make a quick comment on the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Brand. I have been wearing Eddie Bauer merchandise for many years. When this product line launched I started testing it for myself. I have NOT found a product I didn’t like, or one that wasn’t all that it should be. I applaud the First Ascent Team on great work. Thank you for the great products!

  2. Thomas Shepard

    I have noticed that the material is not as good as past products. I have a long sleeve tee shirt that at the sleeves the material is pulling apart. This is on a tee shirt that has only been worn two or three times. I have told this to Eddie Bauer before without any comment. I am now going to try LL Bean.

  3. Marie

    Great clothing!! Love my jackets, love how they fit and feel on my skin. Love Eddie Bauer clothing and backpacks!! Where else can you go and get a lifetime guarantee??, on clothing!!! Eddie Bauer gets *****stars from me… Keep up the good ideals..

  4. John Cleveland

    I love my EB jackets and hat. Exceptional quality, exceeded my expectations on performance. The challenge will be that they will not wear out to the point where I will need to buy new EB clothing!!

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