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Fifty years ago a climber saw the need for well-crafted gear that could withstand anything the mountains threw out. From this 'ah hah’ moment, The North Face was born, and quality craftsmanship and a devotion to serving climbers have remained core tenets.
The Summit Series collection represents The North Face's commitment to building the world’s finest alpine equipment, designed for exploring the world’s harshest environments. Here are a few stories of the people who help craft and test their gear.
KRIS ERICKSON - Age: 42, Pro Climber, Guide, Photographer
Kris Erickson was a photography student at Montana State when he met
Alex Lowe in 1995. They became ice-climbing partners, establishing routes in Hyalite Canyon, just south of Bozeman. “Alex was my mentor; he introduced
me to guiding,” Erickson says. “After his death on Shishapangma [in 1999], and Hans Saari's death in France, I thought, 'What business do I have guiding
when even the best can die?'”
A Global Athlete and photographer since 1997, Erickson has climbed and skied fresh high-altitude lines in the Himalaya, Karakorum and Peru’s Cordillera
Blanca, linked the summits of Everest and Lhotse in under 24 hours, and established countless ice routes in Montana. “I want to be around people who
are passionate about the mountains,” he says. “Becoming a guide was just the natural progression of my career.”
Rattled by his friends’ deaths, Erickson quit leading treks full-time in 2002 to focus on photography. “I still guided through the years, but only about
10 or 15 days,” he says. Those rare outings were The North Face retreats for gear dealers and developers. “I’ve been testing equipment and offering
beta since the 90s,” he says. “As an athlete, I wanted constant evolution, and the down suits, Windstopper gloves and duffels have been in my quiver
In 2010, Erickson agreed to bring clients on his annual ski mountaineering tour in Antarctica. “That trip invigorated my love for showing people how
special and incredible the mountains can be,” he says. “If you show someone a mountain, and it changes his or her life, that’s honest work. But I knew
I had to grow as a guide. In the mountains, as soon as you stop learning, you start dying.”
Committed again to helping novices experience the outdoors, Erickson pursued IFMGA certification. “There’s a difference between a professional athlete
and a professional guide,” he says. “Someone’s life is in your hands; I want to keep clients safe, not practice faith-based guiding.”
Safety is paramount for Erickson. “I’m always trying to improve by learning new techniques and exploring
new terrain,” he says. “Equipment is a huge part of our safety margin; high-quality gear that you can depend on allows you to go farther into the mountains.”
Erickson earned his IFMGA mountain-guide credentials in the spring of 2015, and in the coming months will be leading clients on expeditions to the Antarctic
Peninsula, Nepal, then Alps, Iran and Norway. “My career is like that adage about the jar of luck and the jar of skill. I dipped from the luck pot
when I was young, and eventually, the mountains always win,” Erickson says. “Now, the jar of skill is pretty full. Guiding teaches you to think on
your feet and constantly innovate. I just want to be the best I can be.”
Kris, his wife, Chloe Erickson, and their daughter split time between France and Morocco, where Kris and Cloe run the Atlas Cultural Foundation and Atlas Cultural Adventures.