We recently had the pleasure – or shall we say challenge – of going ice climbing for the first time in Ouray, Colorado. Our fearless and skilled leader in our climb was Eddie Bauer First Ascent Team‘s Chad Peele, who is beyond impressive in his climbing feats.
90 Seconds with Chad Peele — his favorite climbs, scariest climb, and what’s his top three mountains he’s dying to climb:
Chad grew up in North Carolina and lives now in Ridgway, Colorado (where the movie True Grit was filmed) and works with San Juan Mountain Guides in Ouray. 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 RMI, guiding on Rainier, in the North Cascades, and on Denali, and is a certified Rock and Alpine Guide through the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA).
“Climbing is more than standing on top. It’s the pain, strength of will, camaraderie, and enjoyment of working hard both physically and mentally that truly matter.” ~ Chad Peele
Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent Team
While we knew Eddie Bauer adventure gear, we weren’t familiar with their First Ascent line of clothing, nor the incredibly accomplished (and small) team of adventurers around the world, like Chad Peele, who help design and test it. The result? The best possible design for world-class adventures. Truthfully, the only reason we learned so much about the line was that when we first met Chad, we were admiring his green jacket. As a true ambassador for the brand, he proudly proclaimed he helped design it!
Eddie Bauer has been outfitting adventurous Americas for almost a century. They outfitted their first expeditions more than 55 years ago, including some of the most historic first ascents in the 20th century. But it wasn’t all about mountaineering: they helped outfit a 2-year archaeological exploration of the 10,000-mile Inca Highway in South America, sponsored five expeditions to the north Arctic, including Baffin and Ellesmere Islands, and outfitted the 2-person team that set a world record for canoeing down the full length of the Mississippi River.
“In 2009, we launched First Ascent with a dream team of mountaineers who helped to build a line of outerwear and gear they trusted to keep them alive on some of the most rugged peaks in the world,” said Damien Huang , senior vice president of outerwear, active and gear at Eddie Bauer. “As we grow our expedition and snow sports lines, we look to our guides and adventurers to continually give us feedback on how we can make it better while inspiring us with their talent and thirst for exploration.”
When Mr. Bauer first opened for business in 1920, his “Eddie Bauer’s Tennis Shop” was renting space in a gun shop in downtown Seattle. Within a year he had his own storefront and became renowned as an outfitter and innovator. While he built his business serving hunters and fishermen of the Pacific Northwest, he went on to become America’s premier expedition outfitter during the golden age of Himalayan mountaineering.
Eddie Bauer, himself, dropped out of school at 14 to go to work. But his lack of formal education didn’t prevent him from producing an impressive string of “firsts” that established his reputation and built his company into an American icon, including this impressive list:
- First Guarantee In 1922, Eddie put his “100% unconditional lifetime guarantee” into writing. This promise was virtually unheard in the day and became the cornerstone of the Eddie Bauer standard of excellence. Long after he retired, Eddie called his guarantee the greatest of his contributions.
- First Labrador Retriever In 1930, Eddie brought the first black Labrador retriever into Washington State. An expert hunter, he became a passionate advocate for the breed.
- First Down Jacket In 1935, after suffering life-threatening hypothermia on a winter fishing trip, Eddie built a prototype down jacket, the “Blizzard Proof.” A year later, he introduced the “Skyliner,” which became the first down jacket patented in America.
- First Down Flight Suit In 1942, Eddie was asked by the U.S. Army Air Forces to design a “cold weather buoyancy flight suit.” The two main criteria were that it had to keep a flier warm while sitting still for up to three hours in -70°F; and in case the plane was shot down over water, it had to keep a flier with 25 pounds of gear afloat for up to 24 hours. Eddie’s down-insulated B-9 Parka and A-8 Flight Pants passed every test, and saved many lives.
- First Mountaineering Parka In 1953, Eddie built his first mountaineering parka, the “Kara Koram,” for the American team attempting the first ascent of K2 in Pakistan. For 30 years, the Kara Koram became the standard of excellence for American climbers.
- First Ascent of Gasherbrum I In 1958, Eddie outfitted the American team that made the first ascent of Gasherbrum I in Pakistan. It’s the only one of the world’s fourteen 8000-meter peaks first summited by an American team. For the first time, Eddie built the 1958 parkas using ripstop nylon as the shell fabric. It substantially reduced the weight while retaining significant durability.
- First American Ascent of Everest In 1963, Eddie outfitted the American Mt. Everest Expedition with down parkas and sweaters, climbing pants, mittens and sleeping bags. On May 1, Jim Whittaker became the first American to reach the summit. On May 22, Barry Bishop , Lute Jerstand, Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein also topped out. Unsoeld and Hornbein did it via the previously unclimbed West Ridge.
- First Ascent of Mt. Kennedy In 1965, Eddie outfitted the expedition that made the first ascent of Mt. Kennedy in Canada’s Yukon. At that time, it was the highest unclimbed peak in North America. The first man to the top was Senator Robert F. Kennedy , brother of slain American President John F. Kennedy, for whom the mountain was named.
- First Ascent of Mt. Vinson In 1966, Eddie outfitted the American Antarctica Mountaineering Expedition. They made first ascents of six peaks in the Sentinel Range, including Mt. Vinson, highest peak on the continent.
- First American Ascent of Dhaulagiri In 1973, Eddie Bauer outfitted the American team that first summited the world’s seventh highest peak. The summiteers climbed without bottled oxygen.
- First Ascent of Great Trango Tower In 1977, Eddie Bauer outfitted John Roskelley when he was part of the 5-man team to make the first ascent of Great Trango Tower in Pakistan.
- First American Ascent of Makalu In 1980, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first American team to summit the world’s fifth highest peak. They climbed without supplemental oxygen or Sherpa support.
- First Ascent of Everest East Face In 1983, Eddie Bauer outfitted the first team to summit the East Face of Mt. Everest. No one has successfully done so since.
- First Ascent Gear In 2009, in collaboration with a dream team of world-class mountain guides, Eddie Bauer launched its new line of mountaineering gear, First Ascent, from the top of Mt. Everest. The First Ascent guides developed the line from the ground up, leading the design process, then testing the gear under some of the harshest mountain conditions throughout the world. Nothing goes to market without their consent. The 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 first American to summit all fourteen 8000-meter peaks without bottled oxygen; Dave Hahn , who has summited Everest 11 times, more than any non-Sherpa; and three accomplished guides from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI), the largest mountain guide service in the U.S.: Melissa Arnot , Seth Waterfall, and Chad Peele. (National Geographic Adventure interview with Chad here.)
Eddie Bauer’s motto? Live Your Adventure. They believe the best adventures are shared with others. We couldn’t agree with this more!
Wanna check out First Ascent gear, with designs and input by Chad Peele? Head to Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent.
Stay tuned for our Ouray Ice Park review.