Compass: Charting the Evolution of Outdoor Gear

A5 History

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A5 Adventures founded, in Flagstaff, Arizona, by Stanford-trained mechanical engineer and big wall climber,John Middendorf

company established using some inheritance money

The name is taken from the highest rating in Aid climbing of the day

First product was a big wall climbing hammer, of which 550 were sold


emphasis switches more to sewn goods and somewhat away from hardware like hammers

A5 portaledges were considered the first portaledges able to withstand severe weather conditions found in the Greater Ranges

The A5 Portaledge featured in Abitare, an Italian design magazine.


manages about $75,000 in sales.


$100,000 worth of sales.

John, with Xaver Bongard, makes first ascent/descent of East Summit, Great Trango Tower, Pakistan, "the hardest big-wall climb in the world"


A5 Adventures has $150,000 in sales, with eight full-time employees.


John Middendorf co-authors (with John Long) the book How to Climb: Big Walls


A5 has 10 employees


A5 Adventures acquired by The North Face, who are themselves owned by VF Outdoor, Inc. and division of Vanity Fair

John Middendorf continues to direct the A5 product line under the A5 TNF umbrella for two more years


John work as a Design Consultant for Black Diamond Equipment until 2001

John then moves on to design and construction of tension fabric structures before establishing a business in GIS mapping


Conrad Anker creates Anker Climbing Equipment (ACE) on acquiring the A5 portaledge design from The North Face


Black Diamond Equipment acquires the big wall climbing assets of Anker Climbing Equipment (ACE)

Conrad Anker is retained as a Black Diamond consultant/technical advisor through to 2008


Black Diamond release their version of the A5 - TNF - ACE heritage portaledge