In a move that returns Eddie Bauer to its heritage, the Seattle-based outdoor brand is joining up with a team of mountaineers, including Peter Whittaker, Ed Viesturs and Dave Hahn, to build a new line of outerwear and gear called First Ascent.
"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.
The name of the line hearkens back to many of the first ascents outfitted by Eddie Bauer, and is being designed as a complete system – from baselayer to insulating layers to softshell and hardshell outerwear. The line will be available in April 2009.
Peter Whittaker, son of acclaimed mountaineer Lou Whittaker and nephew of Jim Whittaker, will lead the First Ascent Guide Team. Also on 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. They will be joined by accomplished guides from Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (RMI), the largest guide company in the U.S.
"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."
The team has been 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 group 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."
The outdoor lifestyle brand sells outerwear, apparel and accessories at 370 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, through its catalog and online.