named for the coldest, most unforgiving side of
a mountain. They
have helped explorers reach the most
unfathomable heights of the Himalayas. But The
North Face legend begins, ironically, on a
beach. More precisely, San Francisco's North
Beach neighborhood, at an altitude of only 150
feet above sea level. It was there
in 1966 that two hiking enthusiasts resolved to
follow their passions and founded a small
mountaineering retail store.
Soon thereafter, that
little shop became known as
The North Face, a retailer of
high-performance climbing and backpacking
equipment. In 1968, The North Face moved to the
other side of San Francisco Bay, to the
unbridled possibilities of the Berkeley area,
and began designing and manufacturing its own
brand of technical mountaineering apparel and
Through the 1970s,
The North Face brand cherished a following
amongst avid outdoor athletes and began
sponsoring expeditions to some of the most
far-flung, still largely untouched corners of
the globe. This launched a proud tradition which
continues in full force today and constantly
reinforces The North Face mantra, Never Stop
the early 1980s, The North Face was taking
exploration to the outer limits of the ski
world, adding extreme skiwear to the product
offering. These were the days of pastels, neons,
hair dye, and mohawks; they laid the groundwork
for today's free-spirited snowsports athletes.
By the end of the decade, The North Face became
the only supplier in the United States to offer
a comprehensive collection of high-performance
outerwear, skiwear, sleeping bags, packs and
The 1990s ushered in an
era during which The North Face further
broadened the outdoor world it helps athletes to
explore. The decade saw their
debut in the sportswear market with the launch
of Tekware™, an innovative collection designed
to provide rock climbers, backpackers, hikers,
trail runners, and outdoor enthusiasts with the
ultimate fit and function. The North Face half
dome logo began to appear with greater
regularity on ultramarathon courses,
high-country trails, and big walls. And, as the
calendar clicked toward a new millennium, The
North Face launched its own line of trekking and
trail-running shoes to ultimately address the
head-to-toe needs of those always striving for
the next horizon.
Now, more than 40 years
after its humble grand opening, The North Face
delivers an extensive line of performance
apparel, equipment, and footwear. They
push the boundaries of innovation so that you
can push the boundaries of exploration. They
remain deeply proud to be the first
choice of the world's most accomplished
climbers, mountaineers, extreme skiers,
snowboarders, endurance runners, and explorers.
There's little telling
what the next several
for The North Face company. However,
there is one bedrock certainty:
The North Face will maintain an
unwavering commitment to pushing the limits of
design, so that you can push your limits
outdoors. Never Stop Exploring.
Here is a brief history of
The North Face. Apparel Search will not list
all accomplishments, but below should give you a
nice recap of the history.
North Face begins a
small retail and mail order operation in San
Francisco's North Beach area. The Grateful
Dead play at the store during celebrations.
The North Face dream
begins, with a few sewing machines
manufacturing the first gear in the back of
The Sierra parka
hits the market and becomes a classic in
The North Face
factory opens in Berkeley, CA. Credence
Clearwater Revival serenade while rehearsing
Ski Traverse Expedition in Alaska
In the era before the Alaska Pipeline, Ned
Gillette and team make a 30-day traverse
following 300 miles of the Koyukuk and
Wall Expedition in El Capitan, Yosemite
Yosemite legends Jim Bridwell and Kim
Schmitz nail a new route up the biggest wall
in Yosemite. This becomes the first of many
The North Face-backed firsts on the
Californian monolith regarded as the finest
big wall on earth.
Morning Glory tent
Geodesic dome tent
designing replaces the traditional A-shaped
tent, with introduction of the Oval
Presaging the Al Gore era, The North Face
inaugurates this award for the entity
contributing most to ecological destruction.
Atomic Energy Commission wins. Ice Nine is
an end-of-the-world science-fiction concept
in a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Expedition in West Face, Alaska
First ascent of this 14,704 foot peak by a
team including the veteran alpine legend
The VE-24 tent
unleashed! Embodying R. Buckminster Fuller's
theory of sphericity incorporating maximum
efficiency with minimum materials, this
design remains little changed after 30
(25,504') Expedition in Nepal
Touting the t-shirt slogan "A woman's Place
is on top", a 13-woman American team make an
ascent. Leader Arlene Blum writes the
classic expedition book "Annapurna: A
Spire Expedition in Alaska
Jim Bridwell and Andy Embick climb a new
route on this wilderness peak. Bridwell
pioneers new technology for climbing by
using neoprene clothing, to withstand the
constant pour of ice water flowing down the
Ski Traverse Expedition in Pakistan
Galen Rowell, Kim Schmitz, Ned Gillette, Dan
Astay travel 300 miles of glacier in this
marathon winter ski-trek.
Grand Circle Expedition in Nepal/Tibet
A multi-sport journey, circumambulating the
world's tallest mountain, skiing, ice
climbing, and hiking. Team includes the
redoubtable Ned Gillette and Jim Bridwell.
Using an ice breaker ship, snow-tractors,
rafts, and hiking boots, a team led by
Britain's Sir Ranulph Fiennes circles the
globe, via the North and South Poles.
(10,355') Expedition in Alaska
Bridwell and Mugs Stump team up for a new
route on the East Face.
Trail Race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska
The famous, grueling dog sled race, won
multiple times by Susan Bucher, and
sponsored for the next five years by The
Mountain jacket is
introduced, setting standard for Gore-Tex®
International Polar Expedition
Will Steger and team make a 550-mile,
unsupported dogsled expedition to the North
hatches are introduced.
Snow leopard pack launches onto the
the Sea Tomato Expedition in Drake's
Passage, Southern Ocean
One of the most unusual The North Face trips
ever, a special, unsinkable red rowboat
takes Ned Gillette and crew across the
tempestuous seas between Chile and
Ascent of Salathe Wall Expedition
Todd Skinner and Paul Piana live on El Cap
for a month to free climb this classic
Yosemite wall. Right at the end, Piana
dislodges a boulder onto himself, breaking
bones, but they top out triumphant with
pitches as hard as 5.13.
The North Face
co-founds Outdoor Industry Conservation
An international team of cold weather
hard-men – Will Steger, Jean Louis Etienne,
Victor Boyarsky, Geoff Somers, Keizo Funatsu,
Qin Dahe – make the first unmechanized
crossing, by dogsled, of the coldest
continent: 4000 miles, seven months.
Feminina Expedition in Cho Oyu, Nepal/Tibet
Leading an all-female team, Magda King
(Basque) reaches the 26,907-foot summit.
Ridge Expedition in China
The world's second highest, yet the hardest,
mountain gets an oxygen-less ascent by Greg
Child, Steve Swenson, and Greg Mortimer.
Tower of Paine Expedition in Chile
Jay Smith and Scott Cosgrove brave 23 days
of continuous storms to succeed on the steep
rock of this peak's NW Edge.
Steep Tech ski
clothing, designed by Scot Schmidt, takes
the slopes by storm
Challenge of Half Dome Expedition
First ascent of this steep side of this
Yosemite wall, by a paraplegic climber, Mark
Wellman. Partnered up with the able-bodied
wall-master Mike Corbett, the wheelchair
bound Wellman devises a complex rope
ascending tactic to follow Corbett up the
Alaska, Snowboard Descent Expedition
Jim Zellers and Tom Burt make the first
snowboard descent of America's highest peak.
The North Face
Athlete Team begins with Greg Child, Conrad
Anker, Alex Lowe, and Lynn Hill
Expedition in West Face, Patagonia
Jon Krakauer and Dan Cauthorn persevere
through the howling winds of the world's
only inland ice cap to summit this shapely
tower. "Just may be the coolest climb on the
planet," wrote Krakauer in his now-classic
Outside Magazine feature about the
Tower Expedition in Trango Towers, Pakistan
Greg Child and Mark Wilford blaze a new
route up the south face of the 20,500 foot
peak. A massive, skyscraper-sized chunk of
rock falls off right next to them during the
ascent, wiping out the route, so they name
the climb "Run for Cover."
Research Expedition in Brazil
Helen and Bill Thayer travel a thousand
miles by foot and canoe through the Amazon
to research medicinal plants and lost
Shadows Route Expedition in Mt Hunter,
A 4,000 foot new route on the ice-bound
north wall of Hunter with Greg Child &
Face Everest Expedition in Tibet
Americans succeed on a new route up the
least visited side of the mountain.
Snowboard Descent Expedition
A landmark ride from the summit of this
shapely 22,000 foot peak of Nepal with Jim
Zellers and others.
The original Dream Team gathering: a talent
pool of The North Face climbers hit
Kyrgyzstan and establish a bevy of technical
climbing firsts in this range of fang-like
granite spires. At one point Alex Lowe,
Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, Greg Child and Dan
Osman are forced to flee the summit of a
peak called The Bird, when an electrical
storm sets their hair on end and their ice
Tom Whittaker, who'd lost his leg in a car
accident years earlier, attempts the first
disabled ascent via the north ridge. He
reaches 28,000 feet, and returns two years
later to become the first amputee to the
Spire Expedition in Baltistan, Pakistan
First ascent of this seldom-seen peak, by a
36-pitch big wall route. The route, called
"The Baltese Falcon" was the first up this
19,000 foot peak. Greg Child, Chuck Boyd,
Spire Expedition in Baltistan, Pakistan
Not to be outdone, Mark Synnott and Jared
Ogden establish their own first on Shipton,
via "Ship of Fools," an equally impressive
and hard won big wall route.
Land Expedition in Antarctica
Alex Lowe, Conrad Anker, Jon Krakauer
explore this dramatic landscape of ice cap
and razor-sharp towers, establishing a first
on Rakheniven Spire.
Peak Expedition in Baffin Island and
Canadian Northwest Territories
In their quest to climb the biggest wall on
earth, Greg Child, Alex Lowe, Jared Ogden
and Mark Synnott join forces for the 3800
foot sweep of this massive cliff, spending
20 days on the route.
Tower Expedition in Baltistan, Pakistan
And then they found an even bigger wall!
Jared, Alex, and mark spend the summer
establishing a several-thousand foot route
on the monstrous side of Great Trango Tower.
Fought by storm and drenching melted water,
their summit is hard won.
On October 5, 1999,
an avalanche on Tibet's 26,291 foot
Shishapangma, the world's 14th highest
mountain, took the life of Alex Lowe.
Conrad Anker and Huber brothers take the
Standoff in Kyrgyzsatn!
Revisiting the Aksu region, the foursome of
Beth Rodden, Tommy Caldwell, Jason Smith and
John Dickey are shot at during their bivouac
on The Yellow Wall, and then rounded up in a
bloody and dramatic hostage incident, by the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorists.
In a flurry of warfare, the crew escaped
after six days in captivity. Soon to be a
motion picture! Book "Over the Edge" by Greg
Jim Zellers makes
the first snowboard descent of Yosemite
Valley's Half Dome, gliding down the
47-degree, 840-vertical-foot slope, on a
skimpy three-inch snowpack - all of it
poised above an overhanging cliff. "They
were the most precise turns I've ever had to
make. It would have been safer to BASE jump
it," he said of his wild ride.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan smashed by US
forces in Afghanistan.
Expedition in Kashmir, India
An all-women's climbing and ski expedition
with Kasha Rigby and Hilaree Nelson in
Kashmiri snow peaks.
Ascent Expedition in Tasmania, Australia
First all-female climb of this sea-stack
Hans Saari, a ski
mountaineer who has been on several The
North Face expeditions, died May 8, 2001,
after taking a fall while skiing in the
Gervisuiti Couloir on Mont Blac de Tacul, in
Georgia Island Expedition in Antarctic
In the far southern hemisphere, where snow
peaks rise virtually out of the ocean,
Hilaree Nelson and Rick Armstrong climb and
ski yet again.
Expedition in Nepal, Himalaya
Brothers Will and Damian Benegas pioneer a
new route up the icy north wall of Nuptse.
Their route "The Crystal Snake," is climbed
in lightweight alpine style tactics.
Expedition in Peru
Scott Corey and team, Steve Schneider climb
new rock route 5.13
Those women again! This time they glide down
the narrow and steep snow couloirs of this
arctic wonderland. Kasha Rigby, Hilaree
The US Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has
approved a proposal to bestow the name "Alex
Lowe Peak" on a mountain in the Gallatin
National Forest. The commemorative name
honors the late mountaineer Alex Lowe of
Bozeman, MT, who had a unique association
with the mountain (Peak 10,031) which was
previously known by its elevation.
Expedition in Pakairama Mountains, Guyana
Deep in the rainforest of this south
American country is the finest quartzite
climbing stone on earth. On this trip,
Child, Ogden and Synnott reunite to make a
new route on this 1500 foot wall, fending of
cloudbursts, waterfalls, tarantulas and
scorpions on their climb into this
lost-world landscape. Radio and solar panel
installation in remote town.
Need details of this route with Kevin Thaw,
Heidi Wirtz, Renan Ozturk, and Kris Erikson.
School building project for Global Giving.
Expedition in Nepal
Kit DesLauriers skis Everest, completes her
quest to ski the Seven Summits
Harald "Hari" Berger
lost his life on the 20th of December 2006
while climbing in the Eiskapelle (Ice
Chapel) at Hintersee in Austria. It appears
Harald was climbing a glacial ice formation
which fell down upon Hari at 2:15 local
time. The formation fractured when an ice
tool caused a "chain reaction", burying Hari
under 150 tons of ice.
Kami Semick and Diane Van Deren run the
coldest race in the world, the grueling
dogsled contest between 350 Miles
Civilizations Expedition in Mustang, Nepal
Roping into caves where ancient Buddhist
cultures hid their treasures, Pete Athans
and Renan Ozturk lead archaeologists on a
journey of discovery.
Expedition in Baltistan/Pakistan
The last of the spires in the Shipton Spire
region falls to the team of Cedar Wright and
bit of history was not strictly about
clothing as we normally list for company
histories. However, The North Face is all
about adventure and exploration. These are
events that they feel are important to their
history. Who are we to think
differently... You can learn more about
North Face at their website.
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