Employee Spotlight - Eric Ward

I grew up in Indiana and as a kid, I spent as much time outside as possible. I grew up driving all over the U.S. chasing epic experiences to further my climbing, snowboarding, and rafting addictions. There are now less than 10 U.S. states I have not visited. I was lucky enough to take three 12 day backpacking trips to Philmont, and then I worked there in 2007 teaching rock climbing. I kept finding myself working retail with the occasional custom cabinet shop tossed in. I was working as an assistant store manager at Gander Mountain until they went bankrupt. I had always tossed the idea of moving to the mountains and I was in a position to seize that opportunity after a brief visit to Utah. I moved to Utah in search of better powder and higher climbs than Indiana could provide. I soon found my place at Liberty Mountain, and now I spend my days talking about gear and keeping a list of adventures for my time off.  

NameEric Ward
Time working for Liberty Mountain: One year
Job title: South East Sales Rep
Short description of what you do at Liberty Mountain: I maintain and provide services for the south east region. AR, TN, LA, MS, AL, GA, NC, SC, and FL.
What do you like most about your job? Learning and talking about gear
Active in the following sports/activities/hobbies: rock climbing, snowboarding, backpacking, and paddling. The rest of my free time is generally spent wrenching on, breaking, or camping in my 4RUNNER.  

Favorite outdoor areas: all of the above
Piece of outdoor gear you most wish you had: a trad rack
Most interesting place ever lived: I have only lived in Indiana and Utah and so far Utah is definitely the most interesting.
Top-five favorite movies: Office Space, Out Cold, The Fast and Furious (all of them), Boondock Saints, and ?
Top-five favorite books: I hate reading books sadly
Dream vacation: I want to do a tour of Europe that includes, Germany, Spain, Venice, Greece, and Rome.
Cake or pie: Pie
Dogs or Cats: Dog


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Cable Canyon Trip Report

Liberty Mountain Customer Service manager Paul Larkin took a trip through Cable Canyon in the San Rafael Swell of South Eastern Utah. He made the trip with former Liberty Mountain employee Christian Weaver and Paula Weaver. Here are a few of his photos, some helpful stats for anyone interested in attempting the canyon, and a list of the gear that was needed to make it through.

  • The weather was a pleasant high of 85 degrees
  • The trip took 9 hours car-to-car. We started at 7am, dropped into the canyon at 10am, and were back to the cars around 4pm
  • There was a bit of non-technical scrambling on the way into the canyon

  • The canyon required 10 or so rappels, with the longest being about 70 feet
  • There was also quite a bit of down climbing, some stemming and a whole lot of fun
  • At one point we saw a ringtail fox carcass in one of the potholes
  • There was almost no water in the canyon. Often you don't know what water levels will be like going into remote canyons like these, so it's best to be prepared for everything.

  • The only water hole we couldn’t avoid was the first pothole, but the water was only up to our waists
  • We used a variety of canyoneering techniques to make it through including a human ladder using our knees, hands and shoulders to get out of potholes
  • Possibly the best technique of the day was my beached whale anchor over a hump, allowing me to pull up Christian

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VAUDE Makes its Way Towards Becoming 100% PFC-free

VAUDE is determined to completely eliminate the use of ecologically harmful fluorocarbons (PFC) from all of its products. With the upcoming Spring/Summer 2018 Collection, the outdoor outfitter has taken another major step toward achieving this goal: All textile materials in the apparel collection are now fully PFC-free. 

VAUDE’s achievement in this area was anything but a given. Over ten years ago when VAUDE made the decision to eliminate the use of harmful materials –and PFC in particular – the company was a lone wolf in the industry. PFC was the standard technology for water-repellent finishes and also a very convenient and cost-effective solution. Consequently, interest in developing alternative solutions was low. In addition, public awareness was also very limited. But these facts didn’t discourage VAUDE. “In view of the serious environmental impacts caused by PFC, our only choice was to eliminate it completely,” said Antje von Dewitz, VAUDE CEO. Since that time, VAUDE has been striving toward the elimination of PF at all levels.

Waterproof apparel with PFC-free membranes
The first step in 2011 was to give all VAUDE waterproof apparel PFC-free membranes. The membrane is a thin layer that keeps water out and is breathable at the same time. PFC is still required for the production of most conventional membranes.

PFC-free water-repellent gear – a feat of strength 
In the next step, VAUDE set itself the goal of eliminating the use of PFC for all water-repellent finishes. A finish is a surface treatment that causes the water to bead up on the outer surface of a textile. Without this waterproofing, also called Durable Water Repellency (DWR), the outer material would absorb water and create a clammy feeling. However, this presented VAUDE with great challenges: Until then it hadn’t been possible to produce waterproof finishes without PFC, that actually worked well causing water to pearl up. So VAUDE set to work with material suppliers and the chemical industry to find alternative solutions; its influence as an individual mid-sized company, however, was small. It wasn’t until Greenpeace launched its Detox Campaign in 2012, drawing attention to the global spread of PFC in the environment and lambasting the outdoor industry, that things began to change. The pressure that Greenpeace was exerting on outdoor brands also reached the chemical industry. From that point on, suppliers began to seriously consider PFC-free alternatives.

The chemical supply industry had to change direction, develop new standards and build competencies. In order to move forward as quickly as possible, VAUDE initiated close cooperation with all parties involved in its supply chain as well as with competitors. “We organized round-table discussions and joint exchanges with our suppliers to determine the right formulas and the optimal processes for new finishes. Because each individual material – each individual color even – reacts differently and this technical expertise first had to be jointly developed,” said Antje von Dewitz.
VAUDE also conducted extensive research itself in order to develop testing methods and standards that were then given to the suppliers. These were assessed by VAUDE in the company's own laboratory as well as in field tests. At times, materials that passed laboratory tests failed in field testing. When that occurred, planned production had to be cancelled and tests had to be rerun with other alternatives. With considerable time and effort, more than 300 fabrics with various PFC-free finishes were tested to ensure that VAUDE’s high performance requirements for waterproofing were met. “This is what our customers expect from a rain jacket, no matter how environmentally friendly its production,” said Antje von Dewitz. As a result, the outdoor outfitter succeeded in its transition to ever more products with PFC-free technologies; these are summarized under the name “VAUDE Eco Finish.”

All apparel fabrics PFC-free
Following VAUDE’s transition to 100 % PFC-free production of water-repellent apparel such as softshell jackets and trekking pants for the Summer Season 2015, the phase out began for all outer fabrics for waterproof products such as rain jackets and rain pants. With the launch of the Spring/Summer 2018 Collection, all apparel fabrics are 100 % PFC-free, made with Eco Finish and the next major milestone in VAUDE’s voluntary commitment to the Greenpeace Detox Commitment has been reached ahead of schedule. VAUDE voluntarily undertook the elimination of all harmful substances from the entire supply chain by 2020 at the latest. The only exception: to date there hadn’t been PFC-free alternatives for waterproof zips in high performance products from suppliers. Starting in summer 2019 VAUDE will be one of the first outdoor manufacturers to phase out its use here as well.

VAUDE is working hard to make its footwear, backpacks and tents PFC-free. However, the transition is extremely complex, as these consist of numerous components from many different suppliers. Nevertheless, VAUDE has made considerable progress – 96 % of backpacks and footwear are already PFC-free – and the company is confident that it will reach its target of 100 % by 2020.
“For us, the PFC phase-out for our apparel fabrics was an enormous feat of strength. We mastered this challenge by years of working with our partners from the chemical industry and our material suppliers focusing strongly on the solutions themselves as well as on process reliability and by carrying out countless tests. I am very proud of the fact that today, we can show that it is possible to offer PFC-free alternatives without our customers having to forego important functionality.” said Antje von Dewitz.

“VAUDE has taken the PFC issue seriously from the beginning and has now set a very ambitious timeline to eliminate these hazardous chemicals by 2018 from its entire supply chain. VAUDE is one of very few outdoor manufacturers that is committed to Detox and is consistently following this path with all its challenges. This is a true pioneering achievement that requires a lot of commitment and perseverance”, explained Chiara Campione, Senior Corporate Strategist at Greenpeace.

The VAUDE milestones to its elimination of PFC 
  • Winter 2011: PFC-free membranes 
  • Summer 2015: PFC-free water repellent apparel 
  • Summer 2016: all sleeping bags PFC-free 
  • Summer 2017: first PFC-free backpacks and tents 
  • Summer 2018: all apparel fabrics are PFC-free 
  • Winter 2018: 96 % of backpacks and footwear are PFC-free 
  • Goal for 2020: all VAUDE products will be 100 % PFC-free 
All VAUDE products with PFC-free Eco Finish 

PFC-free rewaterproofing service

References to PFC in the VAUDE Sustainability Report: 

Sustainability Report: http://csr-report.vaude.com/
VAUDE makes functional and innovative products for mountain and biking sports activities. As a sustainable innovative outdoor outfitter, VAUDE is contributing to making the world a better place so that the people of tomorrow can enjoy nature with a clean conscience. In doing so, the family-owned company sets ecological and social standards worldwide. VAUDE (pronounced [fau’de]) stands for environmentally-friendly products made from fair manufacturing. At the company headquarters near the southern German town of Tettnang, the company employs approximately 500 people.


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Employee Spotlight - Alex Talbot

I was lucky to grow up camping throughout Utah with my family and with the Boy Scouts. Our summer trips included camping in places like the Uintas, Nine Mile Canyon, Moab and the Wasatch mountains near my home. A self-proclaimed purist, I often opted to sleep alone in a tent while the rest of my family slept in a camper trailer. Books like My Side of the Mountain left me dreaming of running away and living alone in the mountains – an idea I still haven’t fully abandoned. As I got further in the Scouting organization, my love of the outdoors was further cemented and I began mountain biking near my house almost daily.

Fast forward several years, I applied to work at a local gear shop, and Liberty Mountain customer, as a summer job between semesters of school. I ended up working there for two years, managing the shop for some of that time. It was here that I developed my love of climbing. I started climbing in the gym, but was more drawn to climbing outdoors and mountaineering. A 2015 trip saw me to Mt Rainier, and I began looking at other big mountains to climb. My time at the shop introduced me to Liberty Mountain and I decided to move up the supply chain and get a part-time job there while I finished school. I have since become the Returns Supervisor and currently finagle full-time school and a full-time job.

My main interest now is climbing. Whether bouldering, traditional, ice, or most recently aid climbing, any vertical venture draws me in. If I’m not hanging from a rope, I’m likely mountain biking, ski touring, hiking, fly fishing, or backpacking. My dream adventure is to take a 4 month road trip from Utah to the Bugaboos, over Squamish and back through California and Nevada hitting every iconic climbing location along the way.

Interview Questions
Name: Alex Talbot

Time working for Liberty Mountain: 1.5 years
Job title: Returns Supervisor

Short description of what you do at Liberty Mountain: Oversee all returns and warranty matters and put out fires.

What do you like most about your job? The friendships and access to all the gear I could dream of!

Active in the following sports/activities/hobbies: Climbing, biking, skiing, hiking, backpacking
Favorite activity: Moderate, multi-pitch trad climbing

Favorite outdoor areas: San Rafael Swell, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Custer State Park SD, Point Reyes National Seashore

Piece of outdoor gear you most wish you had: Popup tent for my Honda Element

Most interesting place ever lived: UTAH!

Top-five favorite movies: Meru, Hot Rod, Nacho Libre, anything from Warren Miller

Top-five favorite books: My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George), A Granite Guide (Nate Smith), The Push (Tommy Caldwell), Alone on the Wall (Alex Honnold), For One More Day (Mitch Albom)

First memory spending time outdoors: Looking for petroglyphs in Nine Mile Canyon

Inspirational Hero: Jimmy Chin and Tommy Caldwell

Dream vacation: Four month climbing road trip through Utah, Idaho, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and back home.

Favorite food to eat outside: Anything that makes my friends jealous. Gourmet in the backcountry!

Cake or pie: Pumpkin pie

Dogs or Cats: Dogs every day.

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Michigan Ice Fest Recap

Ever wonder what it's like to attend an ice climbing festival? Liberty Mountain Sales Rep, Thad VanDenBerghe walks us through his week in a frozen little wonderland known as Munising, Michigan. Thad attended the event representing Grivel.

We sent out a very large demo fleet of crampons, ice tools and helmets to help support the event.
Total numbers of demos sent
  • Ice tools: 42 total sets (Tech Machine Carbon, Tech Machine, North Machine, Lil Monsters)
  • Crampons: 38 pairs (G-20+, G-22, G14)
  • Helmets: 6 helmets (new Stealth HS)

A comparison of the front point on the traditional G-20 crampon vs the new G-20 Plus that Grivel had available for demos at this year's ice festivals.

The Grivel booth ready to go in Michigan

2/14/18 - Valentines Day
Wednesday I taught an intro to Ice Climbing clinic at the Curtains area.
There were 8 participants in the clinic and I got them all to do a lap on a pair of Grivel tools
During the clinic, one of the participants was climbing in a pair of crampons from a competitor. Halfway up his first lap, HE BROKE THE FRONT POINTS RIGHT OFF THE CRAMPON! This happened in front of the entire clinic. Luckily, I had a both the G-22 and G-20 plus with me. I lent him my pair of G-20 plus and got him back on the ice. This time he cruised the line all the way to the top and came down exclaiming the crampons worked fantastically! After that, everyone wanted to try them.

Grivel athlete and Michigan native Angela VanWiemeersch teaching a women's clinic during the fest


Thursday I spent most of the day in the Grivel booth educating both the public and many of the Down Wind Sports employees about the merits of Grivel and also the broad offerings of Liberty Mountain. I was able to get a lot of facetime with the locals, over all there is a lot of love for Grivel in the area, with people rocking tools and crampons from up to ten years ago!

Also went out in the afternoon and dropped in on Angelas Vanwiemeersch and Anna Pfaff’s womens clinic to bring a big insulated vessel of latte coffee (with almond milk)


My one free day of the festival. Teamed up with Lowa athlete Carlos Buhler and we set out at the crack of dawn for an area classic HMR. https://www.mountainproject.com/route/107482822/hmr

This lakeshore testpiece is guarded by a 7 mile skin in (and out), but once you get out there you are rewarded with a very unique climb that requires you to rappel off of the 200’ cliff edge to a hanging belay right above the crashing waves.

The view from the top of HMR
The money shot of Thad making his way to the top

Saturday was the biggest day of the festival. The lineup for demo gear was at least 100 people long for well over 3 hours. I think in the end Bill Thompson (director of the festival) said that they outfitted close to 500 people! Again myself and Frank and Paulie Abissi manned the Grivel booth and helped move product into the hands of end users.

I also conducted a community education clinic, “gear maintenance and selection.” This class had about 15 participants and we talked about the differences in crampon styles (binding, and front points) and the differences and merits of straight shafted and also recessed grip ice tools. 

Angela leading a pillar while filming for a Redbull video project. Photo: Andy Mann

See more from the shoot here

Later that night was Grivel athlete Angela VanWiemeersch and Sasha DiGiulian's Red Bull movie premiered. Grivel athlete Aaron Mulkey also presentated on his first accents climbing around Cody, WY and out in Norway!


Taught another intro to Ice clinic, this time it was an AM teaser class that was only four hours long and ended at 12:30. Because of this, I was able to sneak away and join up with a couple of fellow festival goers and get a snowmobile ride over to the fabled Grand Island ice climbing areas. 

Map of the island and all the known ice climbs
This was the first time in my 3 years of attending that the ice was frozen enough to allow people and snowmobiles to safely travel across the channel of frozen ice to the island. The Island is covered in incredible blue ice.

Final Thoughts

Michigan Ice Fest is one of the fastest growing ice festivals in the nation while at the same time still capturing the wild and remote feeling many ice climbers seek out. 

With a fantastic Midwest local crowd and an all-star cast of presenters and instructors, this festival continues to guide the stoke of the sport, while also making it accessible to any one interested in giving ice climbing a try! 

Grivel and Liberty Mountain should be very proud to be a part of this special event.

Final Registered climbers count for MIF 2018: 991!

Thad VanDenBerghe is a climber, breakfast food connoisseur, and sales rep at Liberty Mountain.