Ed Viesturs — the only American to climb all of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 meters without supplemental oxygen — knows what kind of gear it takes to reach high-altitude environments.
He signed on with Boulder-based mountain apparel brand Himali as a part-owner and designer last month and is getting ready to launch a collection of cold-weather apparel in September.
“We believe that users are great designers and people that are familiar with how gear is used generally do a good job of determining what features and designs they like to see in gear,” said Himali co-founder Dave Schaeffer. “Ed is a special case, having worked for Eddie Bauer in the past, as well as Mountain Hardware and JanSport Backpacks. He’s had a lot of experience influencing product design.”
Schaeffer would not disclose the terms of the investment deal.
Himali sells men’s and women’s jackets, pants and gear that are designed to survive in the world’s highest and harshest environments. Products range from $20 to $500 and are available on the company’s website and in several outdoor retailers around Colorado, including Evergreen Mountain Sports and Two Pines Supply in Granby.
Schaeffer, who launched Himali with his friend Tendi Sherpa in 2014, connected with Viesturs at the Outdoor Retailer convention in January 2020. Viesturs, at the time, had just ended his position as a design consultant for Eddie Bauer after 13 years, and “was open to something new,” he told BusinessDen.
“I was wandering the halls checking out the new gear and connecting with old friends when, quite by my surprise, someone tapped me on the shoulder, pulled me into a booth, and said that I was his hero,” Viesturs wrote to BusinessDen over email. “That someone was Dave Schaeffer.”
Viesturs had never heard of Himali but added that he was “surprised to see something rather fresh and new and intrigued by the quality of the product.” The mountaineer had also climbed Mount Everest with co-founder Sherpa in 2009.
“Another great connection was that the H in Himali also signifies a 14, for the 14 8,000 meter peaks, which I had climbed as a major goal in my career,” Viesturs added.
Viesturs was named National Geographic’s 2005 “Adventurer of the Year” after he completed his 18-year ascent, which he nicknamed “Endeavor 8000.”
“Over the next few months, I kept in touch with Dave, and started suggesting some minor, constructive changes that I would make to some of the products he had given to me,” Viesturs wrote. “Eventually, he came to visit me in Idaho, where I live, and proposed a partnership. It was exciting and new, and I felt that I could make an impact, and that Dave would welcome it. Having ownership also gave me more incentive to help grow the brand as I would have more of a vested interest.”
Although Schaeffer said “exact items have not been defined yet,” Viesturs’ collection will be geared toward “folks climbing 14ers or are out rock climbing and ice climbing.”
The mountaineer told BusinessDen he plans to work remotely from Ketchum, Idaho.
In addition to his own collection, Viesturs will help Himali expand its product offerings into sleeping bags, backpacks and tents. The brand is too early in the design process to determine the price range or launch date, Schaeffer said.
“Admittedly there are lots of great products out there, and we hope to be innovative with new designs, fabrics, construction, and modifying features that could be improved on,” Viesturs wrote. “I literally use my gear every day in the field and have learned to know what works and what doesn’t or how to refine something. I’m always looking to make something more user-friendly, simpler, and lighter. Less can actually be more.”
Schaeffer, now 34, grew up in Littleton and has been an avid climber since he was 12 years old, he said. He previously worked at REI selling gear and noticed gaps in the market.
After he met Sherpa while climbing Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest mountain outside of Asia, Schaeffer pitched the idea of a brand geared toward more intense mountaineers like themselves.
“As brands are growing in age, we feel they tend to cater more toward a general consumer,” Schaeffer said. “We wanted to keep a focus on core users of the gear who are pushing their limits outdoors. And we felt there was a need for a good quality product that has the total package of a brand that people want to be a part of.”
He would not disclose specific sales figures, but Schaeffer said Himali’s sales have grown 100 percent year-over-year each year since it was founded seven years ago.
Himali has raised a total of $157,820 from four successful Kickstarter campaigns to help launch new apparel products.
In February 2015, the brand raised $21,706 for its Himalayan Hoodie, and later that year in October, it raised $25,791 for its AnnaPurna Softshell jacket. Two years later, Himali raised $93,759 for a line by Tendi Sherpa. And in 2019, they raised $16,564 for The Altocumulus Down Jacket.
The mountain apparel startup has five employees in its 3,000-square-foot headquarters at 4822 Sterling Drive in Boulder.
In 2021, Himali plans to triple the products in its lineup, Schaeffer said. The brand is looking to add more colors and size options, new women’s styles, as well as offer some more of the same existing men’s styles for women.
“We are working on becoming a 10-year overnight success,” Schaeffer said.