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.
World-renowned Everest guide Dave Hahn has summited the world’s tallest peak more times than any non-Sherpa. He’s summited Everest 15 times, climbed Denali 21 times, reached the summit of Mt. Vinson 33 times and guided the Shackleton Traverse on South Georgia Island seven times, a trip that won him Outside Magazine’s trip of the year in 2004. He summited Washington’s Mt. Rainer 275 times, then stopped counting. A guide with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. since 1986, he has twice received prestigious awards for rescue work. We sat down with Hahn to get his take on the significance of First Ascent hitting the five year mark and his perspective on the Guide Built process. In his unfiltered way, this is what Hahn had to say.
To carry on the Five Years of First Ascent celebration, we’re looking back at the top 10 (of 53) expeditions our guide team tackled in the last five years. While the list of summits and triumphs has been long, we couldn’t leave this one off the list: First Ascent guides David Morton and Melisa Arnot’s struggle to climb 8,463-meter Makalu, the fifth-tallest peak in the world. Fighting bronchial pneumonia and brutal winds on a self-supported expedition they were turned back 150 meters from the summit, but that didn’t stop this story from rating as one of the ten best epics of the past five years.
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.
For the Five Years of First Ascent celebration, we picked the top 10 missions our guide team has embarked on in the last five years. With 53 expeditions to choose from—ranging from Antarctica to the Arctic—narrowing the list to only ten was a tough task. But the one that clearly stood apart was Eddie Bauer’s return to Everest in 2009. During our triumphant return to Everest, guides Ed Viesturs, Peter Whittaker, Dave Hahn, Seth Waterfall, and Melissa Arnot returned the Eddie Bauer brand to the top of Everest 46 years after Jim Whittaker’s first American summit and the historic first ascent of the West Ridge on the Eddie Bauer-outfitted American Mount Everest Expedition in 1963. It was a triumphant return to the roof of the world for a brand that built its name in the golden age of Himalayan mountaineering.
High-altitude climber, extreme fitness disciple, and peacemaker Melissa Arnot holds the women’s world record with five summits of Mt. Everest. A guide since 2004, she recently co-founded the Juniper Fund to support Sherpa families faced with mountaineering tragedy. We sat down with her to get her take on the significance of First Ascent hitting the five year mark and her perspective on the Guide Built process.
Today is the day that we officially kick off the celebration of the five-year anniversary of First Ascent. All month long we will be publishing stories, running in-depth interviews with our guide and athlete team and spotlighting videos from expeditions to remote rivers and ranges around the globe. It’s been five memorable years of the guide-built process, expedition testing and award-winning gear. So all month we’re taking an in-depth look at where we’ve been and where we are now.