Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Patagonia Clothing Company is Lame

My sister sent Patagonia a little email letting them know what she thought of their Patagonia Abassador climbing Delicate Arch. She says that this is what she got in reply and said I can post it (I sent my own missive to Patagonia, but they haven't replied yet. If Patagonia doesn't want me to post it, then I assume they'll get in touch with me.)

I would have given Patagonia some slack and just let this die, but this reply is amazing. Basically, Dean's climb was OK because it didn't break any NPS rules and, you know, its OK for climbers and the NPS to not agree on resource management. Sure no problem. But, Dean's actions also violate well-understood Moab climbing community rules that forbid climbing named arches. And that's not cool.

----- Original Message ----- From:
Sent: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 10:06 AM
Subject: RE: Comments from


Thank you for writing us with your concerns. Patagonia ambassador Dean
Potter's May 7 free solo of Delicate Arch has generated significant
controversy about the legality and appropriateness of the climb of what has
been described as a national icon. We will be interested to follow the
controversy and to listen to views of those on both sides.

A few facts are in order. First, no crime has been committed. The National
Park Service has conceded that its regulations were ambiguous and that they
will not cite Dean for the ascent. They have said they will seek to clarify
their regulations to prevent a second try. The Park and a number of opinion
leaders have argued that Delicate Arch is an icon that should not be

It is important to note that Dean did no harm to the route or to the rock.
He free-soloed the arch, placing no anchors and creating no impact beyond
blowing dust off the holds. As he says, "No one reveres rocks more than me.
I consider all rocks sacred, as do most climbers."

Dean, like all Patagonia ambassadors, undertakes his own climbs on his own
terms. He told us about the climb afterward.

We have taken positions in the past on a number of issues of climbing
ethics, including bolting. We take no position on this one. As Casey
Sheahan, our CEO, notes, "From the early days in the Tetons to the
rebelliousness of Yosemite's Camp 4, every generation of climbers has had
its run-ins with government regulations that attempt to restrict climber's
freedom of expression. At Patagonia we don't control the ways our sponsored
athletes conduct themselves except to encourage respect for the environment
and uncommon approaches to every challenge. Dean is at the pinnacle of free
solo climbing, makes decisions for himself, and has our complete support."

Again, we thank you for your time and your opinion.


-----Original Message-----
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:33 PM
To: patagoniacs@patagonia.com
Subject: Comments from

First Name: Dawn;
Last Name: Muhlestein;
Zip: 83716;
Comments: I am writing in regard to Dean Potter, one of Patagonia's
sponsored climbers. I recently read an article regarding Dean Potter's
recent ascent of Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah. I am disgusted that Mr.
Potter would even consider climbing Delicate Arch with or without climbing

I am a climber myself. I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Potter's
climbing accomplishments. Dean Potter's noteriety as a climber makes his
recent climb of Delicate Arch worse. Are there different rules for "famous"
climbers than the rules for the rest of us? Everyone knows that the arches
are not to be climbed. Climbers have to share resources with many other
recreational users, his recent actions shed a negative light on climbers in

Dean Potter claims that he did no damage to the Arch and that he did nothing
wrong. How many others will say, "Potter climbed it... I can too"?

I have always respected Patagonia's commitment to the environment, but Dean
Potter's recent actions do not reflect that same level of commitment.
Perhaps Patagonia should reconsider Dean Potter's sponsorship.

Dawn Muhlestein
Boise, ID;


brett said...

The worst case of corporate green-washing/wrapping itself in the Constitution I have seen in a very long time, if not ever. I remember this documentary about Native American culture and recreational use of our national treasures. It was probably a bias in the film, but the climbers came off as cocky, arrogant, and disrespectful toward any other use of "their" climbing areas.
Potter seemed the same way in the news media interviews. If Patagonia continues its policy of indifference and arrogance, lets continue to boycott.
Thanks for publishing the email.

Dawnawanna said...

The thing that interests me the most, is that there is a history of staying of rocks for "special" reasons even when it's not illegal to climb them. Devil's Tower is a good example, climbers are asked to stay off during certain times of the year because of wishes of local Native Americans.

There is quite the discussion of the topic over at RockClimbing.com and The Access Fund has denounced the climb.