John Middendorf

John Middendorf (born April 13, 1959, in New York City) is a big wall climber and designer of climbing equipment.

John Middendorf
John Middendorf, 2006
Born (1959-04-13) April 13, 1959 (age 61)
Known forBig wall climbing and founding A5 Adventures, a big-wall-equipment manufacturing company.

In the 1980s, he climbed the hardest walls of Yosemite (including El Capitan and Half Dome), and in 1992 he climbed the largest rock wall in the world, Great Trango Tower. Also in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he pioneered numerous difficult big wall routes in Zion National Park. He is also a renowned portaledge designer.

Great Trango new routeEdit

He achieved worldwide recognition in the climbing world in 1992 when he climbed the East Face of Great Trango Tower (6286 m a.s.l.) in Karakoram, Pakistan, with Xaver Bongard. As a lightweight, two man team, they were the first to climb the largest rock face involving big wall climbing of Great Trango Tower to its summit and make it down alive.[1] (The East Face of Great Trango was climbed in 1984 via neighbor route, Norwegian Pillar, by the team of the finest Norwegian climbers, but the summiters died on the descent;[2] the next two ascents of this route did not continue to the true top of the wall, the East Summit of Great Trango Tower.[3])

The Grand Voyage ascends the 1350 metre vertical and overhanging rock wall of Great Trango to the East Summit of Great Trango Tower at 6231 metres.[4] Over 2000 metres of climbing is involved from the Dungee Glacier. Along with the Norwegian Pillar on the same face, the routes have been noted as "perhaps the hardest big-wall climbs in the world" (see Trango Towers). The 1992 new route required 15 days and nights to climb and three days to descend, using portaledges designed and constructed by Middendorf in his outdoor equipment company (A5 Adventures, Inc.)

Equipment makerEdit

Middendorf, a Stanford-trained mechanical engineer, founded a company, A5 Adventures Inc., in 1986 to design and manufacture portaledges. A portaledge failure during a climb of Half Dome nearly led to the death of Middendorf and his companions Steve Bosque and Mike Corbett, and Middendorf was interested in better designs.[5][6] A5 portaledges were made of highly weatherproof fabrics and were engineered to be structurally strong and stable; they were the first ones that could withstand the severe weather of high alpine regions, including the Himalayas and Karakoram. A5 went on to design and manufacture a variety of big-wall climbing gear, including aiders, slings, haul bags and packs, climbing protection hardware, and other items.[7] A5 Adventures Inc. was acquired by The North Face in 1996, where he worked as a Senior Product Manager for several years and continued manufacturing the equipment under its "A5" brand.[8] His A5 portaledge designs were universally copied by other manufacturers and became the standard portaledge design for the next 20 years. In 2017, Middendorf, while working as a high school teacher in Tasmania, began tinkering with portaledge designs again, and between 2017-2020, designed significant advances and a whole new standard of portaledge technology with the advent of his D4 (Deuce4) designs. See for details.


  1. ^ "On the Big Stones". Mountain Zone. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  2. ^ "Norwegians Repeat Historic Trango Route". Climbing Magazine. Skram Media. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  3. ^ John Middendorf, Great Trango Tower, East Face, ..., American Alpine Journal (AAJ), 1993, pp. 263, lines 7-11 (available as a pdf file, see External links)
  4. ^, Grand Voyage, with topo (Retrieved 14 April 2010)
  5. ^ Middendorf, John. "Rescue on Half Dome". Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  6. ^ "Lucky Rescue in the Sierra (see bottom of page)". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2019-09-10.
  7. ^ A5 Catalog 10 (PDF). A5 Adventures, Inc. 1996.
  8. ^ SNEWS (2017-05-16). "Did you hear?... The North Face is relaunching the A5 brand". SNEWS. Retrieved 2019-09-10.

External linksEdit