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AdventureWater Sports

North Face Co-Founder Doug Tompkins Dies in Kayak Accident

Succumbs to hypothermia after high winds cause paddlers to capsize

Doug Tompkins founded The North Face in 1968. (Photo: Courtesy of The North Face)
Doug Tompkins founded The North Face in 1968.

The North Face co-founder Doug Tompkins has died following a kayaking accident in Patagonia early Tuesday, according to a staff member of Conservacion Patagonica, Tompkins's wife's conservation non-profit. The 72-year-old was paddling through high winds on General Carrera Lake in Coyhaique, in the Aysen region, with a group of kayakers, including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, when six of them capsized, according to Chilean news outlet La Nacion. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital and treated for hypothermia, but died later in the day.

Other kayakers in the group included  Lorenzo Alvarez (owner of Bio Bio Expeditions) and Americans Rick Ridgeway (a climber and Patagonia's vice president of environmental affairs), Jib Ellison (a Class V river guide and founder of Blue Skye, a sustainability consulting firm), and Weston Boyles (founder of Rios to Rivers, a cultural and environmental organization), according to Spanish-language news site Emol.

High winds on the lake caused waves as high as nine feet, according to El Nuevo Herald. When the boats capsized, three of the kayakers were able to swim to an island in the lake; the others were rescued by Navy personnel directly from the water. Two of the kayakers were taken to the Coyhaique hospital with Tompkins, but reportedly have no injuries; three other kayakers were hospitalized elsewhere and are in stable condition, according to La Tercera.

Tompkins founded the North Face in 1968 and is a climber, paddler, and mountaineer. Twenty-five years ago Tompkins began buying millions of acres of land in Chile and Argentina and, more recently, he and his wife Kristine McDivitt-Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia, have been working to create 12 national parks there.

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Lead Photo: Courtesy of The North Face