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Founder of The North Face, Doug Tompkins Dies in Patagonia

Doug Tompkins died today following a kayaking accident in Patagonia. He was 72 years old.

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Douglas Tompkins and wife Kris. Photo: Sam Beebe / Wikimedia Commons.Doug Tompkins, climber and conservationist, died December 8 following a kayaking accident in Patagonia. Tompkins, along with five companions, capsized in rough weather on Lake General Carrera around 11 a.m. He was flown by helicopter to Coyhaique Regional Hospital, where he died of severe hypothermia at 6:30 p.m. He was 72 years old.

Tompkins spent a “considerable amount of time in waters under 4 degrees Celsius [40 degrees Fahrenheit],” a local prosecutor, Pedro Salgado, said on radio Bio Bio, according to the New York Times.

Tompkins and his tandem kayaking partner were rescued by the Chilean Navy—the other paddlers managed to make it to land and initial reports say they are safe—before being flown to Coyhaique. According to the Chilean news channel Chilevision, Tompkins arrived at the hospital with a core body temperature of 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The medical team was only able to raise his temperature to 71.6.

In 1964, Tompkins co-founded The North Face. He later started the ESPRIT clothing company with his first wife, Susie. After his first climbing trip to Patagonia in 1968—Tompkins established the California Route (400m, 5.10c) on Fitz Roy with Yvon Chouinard, Richard Dorworth and Lito Tejada Flores—he fell in love with the region and took on a personal responsibility to protect it.

Tompkins bought over 2 million acres of land in Patagonia to set aside for conservation, with the hopes of one day building a national park. According to a profile in The Atlantic, he and his wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, also founded these organizations for protecting the wild: The Foundation for Deep Ecology, Conservación Patagonica, Fundación Pumalín, Fundación Yendegaia, The Conservation Land Trust, and Tompkins Conservation. The magazine wrote, “They have protected more land than any other private individuals in history.”

Kris served as the CEO of Patagonia for 20 years. Kris and Doug were life-long adventurers. Together, they have climbed, skied and paddled all over the world.