North Face Co-Founder Douglas Tompkins Dies in Kayaking Accident

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Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of The North Face outdoor apparel line and noted conservationist, died yesterday after suffering severe hypothermia sustained during a kayak outing in Patagonia. He was 72 years old.

According to Outside Online, Tompkins was kayaking with a group of outdoor industry professionals, including Patagonia founder and Tompkin’s long-time friend Yvon Chouinard, when powerful winds producing waves up to nine feet caused six of the boaters to capsize.

Some sought refuge by swimming to a nearby island, but Tompkins was life flighted to a Chilean hospital before ultimately succumbing to hypothermia.

Tompkins founded The North Face in 1968 not long after his infamous accent of Patagonia’s Cerro Fitzroy, a journey that was memorialized in the popular adventure documentary 180° South. The experience, which Tompkins enjoyed alongside Yvon Chouinard, inspired the two men to create their respective outdoor gear companies and launch them both on a quest of protecting Patagonia’s natural beauty forever.

Patagonia’s Fundo Vodudahue in the Tompkins-owned conservation area.

Since retiring from The North Face in 1989, Tompkins, an avid climber, paddler, and mountaineer, worked tirelessly to preserve and protect natural lands around the world, particularly the stunning stretch of Patagonia that he called home.

In 1990 he began purchasing millions of acres in this remote and rugged section of South America and had hopes to protect it permanently by forming 12 national parks.

“Doug was a passionate advocate for the environment,” said The North Face in a statement. “His legacy of conservation will help ensure that there are outdoor spaces to be explored for generations to come.”

Tompkins’ mission will live on with his wife Kristin Tompkins, a former Patagonia CEO who founded Conservacion Patagonia, an organization with the express mission of  creating national parks in Patagonia while saving and restoring its wildlands and wildlife.

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