SEATTLE -- In a bold return to its heritage, Eddie Bauer has joined up with a dream team of mountaineers to build a new line of outerwear and gear called First Ascent. First Ascent combines Eddie Bauer's legacy as the original expedition outfitter with the expertise of some of today's most renowned mountain guides and climbers, including Peter Whittaker, Ed Viesturs, and Dave Hahn.
"We've assembled the dream team to design and build the most significant new line of mountaineering gear in a generation," says Neil Fiske, President and CEO of Eddie Bauer. "It doesn't get any better than Whittaker, Viesturs, Hahn and team."
The First Ascent Guide Team is led by Peter Whittaker, son of acclaimed mountaineer Lou Whittaker and nephew of Jim Whittaker, who wore Eddie Bauer gear on his historic first American ascent of Everest. Also part of the team is Ed Viesturs, the only American to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks without bottled oxygen, and Dave Hahn, who has summited Everest ten times, more than any non-Sherpa. Joining Peter, Ed, and Dave are three accomplished guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), the largest guide company in the U.S.: Melissa Arnot, Seth Waterfall, and Chad Peele. Lou and Jim Whittaker have acted as advisors to the team.
"The role of the guides in the development of this line is unprecedented," says Peter Whittaker, co-owner of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. and Whittaker Mountaineering. "Combined we spend more than 1200 days a year in the high mountains. We know what gear works best out there, and what it takes to be prepared. We designed it. We built it. We live in it. And nothing goes to market until we literally sign off on every detail. We put our names on it, right down to the hangtags." The team built the line from the ground up, leading the design and development process with rigorous field tests on expeditions of Rainier in Washington state; Ecuador's Cotopaxi, one of the world's highest active volcanoes; and Aconcagua in Argentina, the tallest mountain in the Americas. The team is preparing for an Everest expedition in April.
"Our approach to First Ascent is to keep the product pure, focusing only on what you need," says Ed Viesturs. "The guiding mantra has been about simplification, functionality and performance. That's why we say it's everything you need, nothing you don't. It's that simple. And simple is better."
Nearly 80 guides around the world work for Rainier Mountaineering on the big mountains of Everest, Rainier, Denali, Cotopaxi (Ecuador), Aconcagua (Argentina), Kilimanjaro, and others. Beginning in April, all RMI guides will be outfitted in First Ascent gear, along with many of their clients.
The name of the line hearkens back to many of the first ascents outfitted by Eddie Bauer, including:
-- The First Ascent of Gasherbrum I in Pakistan (1958)
-- The First Ascent of Masherbrum in Pakistan (1960)
-- The First American Ascent of Everest (1963)
-- The First Ascent of the Everest West Ridge (1963)
-- The First Ascent of Mount Kennedy in Canada (1965)
-- The First Ascent of Vinson Massif in Antarctica (1966)
-- The First American Ascent of Dhaulagiri in Nepal (1973)
-- The First American Ascent of Peak Lenin in the Russian Pamirs (1974)
-- The First Ascent of the North Ridge of Nanda Devi in India (1976)
-- The First Ascent of Great Trango Tower in Pakistan (1977)
-- The First American Ascent of Makalu in Nepal (1980)
-- The First Ascent of the Everest East Face (1983)
"First Ascent takes inspiration not only from these great historic achievements," said Neil Fiske, "but also a timeless aspiration--to be first, to do what has never been done, to believe that anything is possible. That drive is the heart of exploration and human achievement."
The guides built the First Ascent line as a complete system--from baselayer to insulating layers to softshell and hardshell outerwear. Each piece is designed to work with every other piece in the system to ensure the best fit, comfort and performance. The result is a streamlined system so versatile that it can cover any condition on the mountain. As First Ascent Guide Melissa Arnot says, "There are a lot of dangers up there. Things we can't control. But one of the things we can control is the quality of our gear. Our lives depend on it." In addition to the garments, the First Ascent line includes backpacks, tents, knives and other essential gear.
The idea for First Ascent was born on a successful climb of Rainier, led by Peter Whittaker with Neil Fiske as a client. "It's great to re-unite two great names in American mountaineering history, Eddie Bauer and the Whittaker family," said Neil Fiske. "Eddie would be proud of what we have built."
First Ascent will be available in April 2009 at www.eddiebauer.com, www.firstascent.com, Whittaker Mountaineering and www.whittakermountaineering.com.
ABOUT THE FIRST ASCENT GUIDE TEAM
PETER WHITTAKER Peter is the Team Leader for First Ascent and co-owner of Whittaker Mountaineering and Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. Peter has been a mountain guide for more than 25 years. Born into what could rightfully be called the "first family" of American mountaineering, Peter has more than held his own. He made his first ascent of Rainier at the age of 12. In 1995, he organized and led a group of breast-cancer survivors to the summit of Aconcagua, raising $2.3 million for breast-cancer research. He hosted an Emmy-nominated adventure TV series on public television, and he continues to lead trips all over the world.
ED VIESTURS From a boy who grew up on the flatlands of Illinois, Ed has established himself as the premier high-altitude mountaineer in America. He's the first American and fifth person to summit all 14 of the world's 8000-meter peaks without use of supplemental oxygen. He moved to Seattle in 1977 to study at the University of Washington and then at Washington State University, where he received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. He began guiding on Rainier with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. in 1982 and has participated in 30 Himalayan expeditions since 1987.
DAVE HAHN Dave's ten summits of Everest are the most of any non-Sherpa in history. A guide with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. since 1986, he has twice received prestigious awards for rescue work. In 2001, he was named Denali Pro Mountaineer of the Year for his aid on Denali. That same year, the American Alpine Club gave him the David A. Sowles Memorial Award for his saves on Everest. During the winter months, Dave works as a ski patroller in Taos, New Mexico.
MELISSA ARNOT Melissa already had a career teaching wilderness medicine when she became a professional mountain guide in 2004. Two years later, she was a lead guide. Melissa's summit credits include 72 on Rainier. A native of Montana, she's a skilled rock climber and ice leader. Her passions for climbing, teaching, and taking care of others have taken her all over the world, helping people test their limits in the safest way possible while still having fun. As part of Everest Team INSPI(RED), she summited Everest in 2008 to raise awareness of (RED) and its work to help those suffering from HIV/AIDS in Africa.
CHAD PEELE Chad grew up in North Carolina and now lives in Ridgway, Colorado. He started his guiding career in Alaska in 1996 and continues to guide on remote Alaskan peaks. Although Chad owns his own guide service, Peak Ascents LLC, he works with many reputable guiding outfits throughout the U.S. When at home in Colorado, he guides and instructs ice climbing in and around the nearby Ouray Ice Park. He's also a lead guide and supervisor for Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., guiding on Rainier, in the North Cascades and on Denali. He's a certified Rock and Alpine Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association.
SETH WATERFALL Growing up in Vermont, Colorado and California, Seth learned to love the outdoors early on, thanks to the influence of his parents and grandparents. After earning a degree in mathematics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, he took a career path that followed his passion: In the summers, he guides on Rainier, Denali and Kilimanjaro. In the winters, Seth simply moves to the other side of Rainier, where he's a ski patroller at Crystal Mountain.
ABOUT EDDIE BAUER Established in 1920 in Seattle, Eddie Bauer is a specialty retailer that sells outerwear, apparel and accessories for the active outdoor lifestyle. The Eddie Bauer brand is a nationally recognized brand that stands for high quality, innovation, style and customer service. Eddie Bauer products are available at approximately 370 stores throughout the United States and Canada, through catalog sales, and online at www.eddiebauer.com.
ABOUT RAINIER MOUNTAINEERING, INC./WHITTAKER MOUNTAINEERING Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) was founded by renowned climber Lou Whittaker and his partners in 1969. Based in Ashford, Washington, on the slopes of Rainier, it is the largest professional mountain-guide service in the United States. RMI leads climbing expeditions all over the world, teaching the safe exploration of high mountains and a deep appreciation for the need to preserve this fragile alpine environment. Whittaker Mountaineering, also in Ashford, is the retail arm of the business, providing clients and other climbing enthusiasts with complete outfitting for outdoor adventures.