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Adventures / Mountaineering / TO BASECAMP AND BEYOND

by Gaby Pilson

A trekking and climbing adventure to Mount Everest with your company’s president isn’t your standard employer-sponsored trip. But then again, Mountain Hardwear isn’t your run-of-the-mill company. 

Born from a passion for the world’s tallest mountains, premier outdoor apparel and gear manufacturer, Mountain Hardwear, recently sent a group of employees on a trek to Everest Base Camp. There, the group met up with their team of climbers as they prepared for their chance to reach the highest summit on Earth. 

No longer content to simply try and keep up with rapidly changing trends in the outdoor industry and intent on refocusing their efforts on alpine pursuits, Mountain Hardwear wanted their employees to truly live the brand that they help create. By heading to the mountains, the company has redefined what it means to get back to one’s roots, looking not backward to the past, but forward, to the top of the world, the future, and all the lessons it holds.

This is their story.

 

8,000 Meters

In the climbing community, 8,000 meters is both a gold standard and a testpiece for budding alpinists. With only fourteen peaks on Earth cresting the 8,000 meter (26,246 ft) mark, the early pioneers of routes on these mountains were an exclusive and unique band of climbers that pushed the very limits of what’s possible at the roof of the world.

That’s where Mountain Hardwear’s story begins. In 1993, a group of passionate outdoor industry professionals saw that their livelihood was rapidly changing, with a shift toward creating lower quality products for less technical outdoor pursuits. This band of mountain enthusiasts set off to form their own company dedicated to creating performance gear for bold missions into the alpine.

 

As they started their new company, Mountain Hardwear, the group committed to making the ultimate gear for high alpine pursuits. After sponsoring their first professional athlete, Ed Viesturs, on his quest to summit all fourteen 8,000 meter peaks, Mountain Hardwear solidified itself as a key player in the technical outdoor gear manufacturing world.

So why now? Why, after twenty-five years of existence and excellence, did Mountain Hardwear decided to head to the top of the world?

Back to Basics

After over a quarter-century of innovation and design, the employees of Mountain Hardwear, under the leadership of their new president, Joe Vernachio, realized something needed to change. While the company was committed to creating the best gear in the business, their ventures into the worlds of backpacking, slacklining, hiking, and other pursuits meant less focus was placed on Mountain Hardwear’s line of alpine gear.

Instead of trying to keep up with fast fashion and the world of outdoor-themed “casual lines,” Mountain Hardwear decided to double down on what they do best: produce the finest mountaineering gear for the most extreme environments on Earth. Throughout 2019, the company dedicated themselves to this task, leaving behind all the fluff to focus on completely revamping their line of tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, and clothing to put the “mountain” back in Mountain Hardwear.

With all of this new gear, the company decided to head to the source of their inspiration: the wild and wonderful places in the mountains where climbers find solace in the beauty of the natural world. The alpine is Mountain Hardwear’s proving ground, the source of the passion behind their work. So, Mountain Hardwear decided to go back, back to where it all began: the high Himalaya.

The Mount Everest Expedition

When a small team of Mountain Hardwear employees and athletes set out from Lukla to start their trek toward Everest Base Camp and meet up with the climbing team attempting to reach the top of the world, there were a lot of unknowns. Like any good adventure, the path forward isn’t paved and signposted; it is as wild, wonderful, and mysterious as the destination and the lessons you find along the way.

While the team could never have guessed how their journey would pan out, they did have some overarching themes to guide them. Throughout the course of their expedition, the team moved with deliberate intent and a desire to live their brand and their truth, every step of the way. 

The trust, gratitude, curiosity, and raw, transparent introspection that each member of the expedition team brought with them to Everest Base Camp epitomizes not only the brand’s dedication to their cause, but the passion and inspiration they harness from the mountains and infuse into each one of their products. 

When it comes to corporate culture, it’s hard to find a company that believes more in the power of the alpine than Mountain Hardwear. Where else does a company give all full-time employees the chance to trek to Everest to help redefine and solidify the organization’s values?

The Way Forward

In September of 2019, a small group of Mountain Hardwear employees and athletes, led by their president, Joe Vernachio, trekked to Everest Base Camp. After their journey through the rolling foothills of the Khumbu, the trekking group arrived at base camp, meeting up with the climbers that were excited for the adventure that still laid ahead.

Unfortunately, the mountains weren’t ready to cooperate. Everest’s famed “Ice Doctors” weren’t able to find a suitable route through the treacherous Khumbu Ice Fall that separates base camp from Camp 1 and the mountain’s highest slopes. With a huge 200-foot serac hanging overhead, ready to come crashing down and obliterate everything below, the climbers, alongside their highly skilled team of Sherpa decided that the risk just wasn’t worth it for the expedition.

Although the climbing team turned back from the summit much earlier than they had hoped, the expedition still lived true to the essence of its mission. Indeed, the summit wasn’t really the goal in the first place; Rather, by reconnecting with the incredible landscape that inspired Mountain Hardwear in the beginning, and continues to fuel the company to this very day, the expedition was, by every measure a successful, meaningful experience.

Through challenge, adventure, and the vastness of the world’s highest peaks, Mountain Hardwear channeled their roots to foster a fresh new perspective, emphasizing possibility, transformation, and wonder to create the ultimate gear that inspires the next generation of elite alpinists as they head onward and upward into the great unknown.



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