The death of North Face founder and conservationist Doug Tompkins prompted an outpouring of messages on social media that captured the shock and sadness felt by many in the outdoor community. They painted a picture of a man who was deeply respected for his genuine passion and principled business decisions.
Tompkins’s life, cut short by a kayaking accident in Chile on Tuesday, was the stuff of legends. He was a high school dropout who founded the North Face and Esprit clothing brands, made a fortune, and put his money toward important ecological and conservation issues, all while continually pursuing his passions for skiing, climbing, and the outdoors. Alongside close friend and fellow “fun-hogger” Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, Tompkins can take credit for advancing the culture of environmentally responsible business practices and ethics that define much of the outdoor industry today.
Through their nonprofit Conservacion Patagonica, Tompkins and his wife, Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, preserved millions of acres of land in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, creating new national parks.
Below, friends and peers share their thoughts and memories of Tompkins. Read more in “How The North Face Founder Went From High School Dropout to Millionaire Conservationist.”
Alex Honnold, professional climber for The North Face
Super sad to hear about the unfortunate death of Doug Tompkins. Such an inspiring conservationist and climber, such a terrible loss.
I took this photo two months ago as he gave me a tour of some of his parks in southern Chile. We spiraled around the summit of Corcovado (pretty sure, I confuse the volcanoes) while he tried to snap pics of a route he’d climbed years before. The flight made me very motion sick. But it was super inspirational to meet a 70 year old man who hadn’t lost any of his fire for climbing or protecting wild places. Such energy!
Jimmy Chin, photographer
Deeply saddened to hear of Doug Tompkins’ death yesterday. (Pictured at left w Rick Ridgeway and Yvon Chouinard after the first ascent of Cerro Kristina, Southern Andes, Chile during the filming of #180south – one of the most influential trips I’ve ever been on.) Doug was a huge inspiration to so many of us, adventurer, mentor, friend and all around visionary, from climbing to environmental activism. Beyond founding The North Face and creating several of the largest national parks in South America, his legacy will continue through his tremendous work as an environmental activist and deep ecology advocate. If we could all only be so imbued w the same passion, spirit, intelligence and vision to protect the wild places on this planet, we would live in a different world….We can only be thankful and continue to carry on the path he shared w us. Check the link in my profile to see how much positive impact one person can have on the world…. —via Instagram Instagram
Dick Dorworth, ski legend, Friend and fellow “fun hog”
Doug Tompkins was a great friend to me personally and to earth and everything and everyone living on it. He contributed to, inspired and changed my life in profound and lasting ways, as he has earth itself which has never known a better or more effective friend of its environment, and, thereby, everything and everyone that lives from that environment.
Michael Kennedy, alpinist and editor
Doug was a warrior for environment, deeply committed to both the philosophy and the practice of wilderness preservation. He put his time, energy and money where his mouth was. He left an enduring legacy but who knows how much more he would have accomplished in the years to come? —via Facebook
Nadine Lehner, Former Executive Director at Conservacion Patagonica
I remember the day I met him. In an old farmhouse in Patagonia, over a candlelit dinner (only a few hours of electricity at the remote farm). Doug proclaimed that Harvard should be “boarded up with cheap plywood.” If I wanted a real education, he said, stay in Patagonia. Then he sent me off with a reading list of eco-philosophers and poets, economists and social critics who could help shape my “world view.” — via Medium Medium
Chris Jones, fellow “fun hog”
It is hard to imagine that Doug Tompkins is gone. He was such a vital presence. His contributions to environmental causes, land purchases for national parks in Chile and Argentina, and advocacy for wild places is matched by few alive today. —via Supertopo
Greg Crouch, author and Patagonian alpinist
I’d hazard a guess that Doug Tompkins has preserved more wild land than any other private individual in world history. The man had passion and vision, he knew what he wanted, and he knew how to make things happen. Huge loss. Condolences to Kris and his children. —via Supertopo
Paula Tejeda Rieloff, friend and owner at Chile Lindo, San Francisco
Douglas Tompkins, thank you for the light you shed in Chile on what is really important. Not all Chileans were ready to believe in you at first, but you gained their respect and proved that your intentions were strictly altruistic. You and your wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins represent everything that is honorable about Americans–that few outside the US get to know about and/or see in action. You walk the talk. You give back. You have unyielding determination. You saved Patagonia for future generations. You were instrumental in stopping a crime, the HydroAysen dam in Patagonia. Thank you. Thank you. A trillion times thank you. May your spirit return to the brilliant star you undoubtedly came from. —via Facebook
Geoff Cline, friend
More than being the founder of two successful companies (The North Face and Esprit), Doug Tompkins was a Deep Ecologist, an activist on behalf of the Planet and Wild Places. His foundation published important books and articles about the environment, by the thought leaders who describe and define what it means to be a good steward of the lands and waters. He walked the talk; stirred the pot and took action to show/prove that conservation, restoration and protection of nature is a most worthy and valuable calling.
Doug and his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins have protected more land than any other people in history! Let that sink in. In our lifetimes…less than 30 years…they worked tirelessly, invested their time, their money and raised awareness (and more money) to acquire lands and create parks and preserves over a huge part of the planet. Their success in business, while formidable and praise-worthy, is dwarfed by their love for each other and their success as citizens and protectors of the Earth. —via Facebook
Vance Martin, friend
Still reeling from the loss of Doug….last night is burned into my memory. At least he died doing what he loved. But such a force for conservation….irreplaceable. We all need to step up. — via Facebook