By Jerry McBride
North Face outdoor adventure products co-founder and environmental activist Douglas Tompkins, 72, has died following a kayak accident in southern Chile. According to reports, Tompkins and five other kayakers, including Patagonia found Yvon Chouinard, capsized in rough conditions on General Carrera Lake.
A military patrol boat rescued three of the kayakers, while a helicopter extracted Tompkins and two companions. Tompkins died en route to a hospital due to hypothermia.
Tompkins and a partner started North Face in 1964 as a small ski and backpacking operation, adding clothing line Esprit a few years later.
Tompkins was also an expert kayaker and opened up most of the classic Class V whitewater rapids in California. Everyone in the group was a highly experienced kayaker. Reports indicate that a sudden weather condition kicked up wind waves up to nine meters high.
Tompkins retired to Chile following the sale of his shares in Esprit, Tompkins began the Foundation for Deep Ecology with activist Jerry Mander in 1990 and focused on land conservancy. Overall, the billionaire purchased an estimated two million acres of land for preservation in Chile and Argentina, including 1,120-square-mile Pumalin Park.