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How a Near-Death Mountain Climb Launched One of the Adventure World's Best-Known Brands

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This story appears in the March 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Brothers Danny and Mike Giovale are both experienced mountain climbers and had no problems on the way up an intense climb in the rigorous Italian Dolomites. But on the way down, Danny slipped in a steep, snow-filled gully. “I couldn’t stop,” he says. “As my velocity increased, I thought, I seriously could die.” He didn’t, luckily: He flew off a snow bumper into water that had warmed on the rocks.

Kahtoola
In 2003, Lhapka Gelu Sherpa wore an earlier version of Kahtoolas while setting the Mount Everest speed record.

He told other adventurers about his fall, and he learned he wasn’t alone. “Almost everyone, without exception, either had a similar experience or knew someone who had,” Danny says. There was a tool out there to help them: crampons, the metal spikes that attach to the bottom of boots. But at the time, the only ones available were heavy and rigid, and wouldn’t attach to hikers’ flexible shoes. His takeaway: “We need a better solution.” 

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