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Carsten von Birckhahn, brand manager of Edelrid, died Saturday, July 15, in a paragliding accident in Val di Mello in the Italian Alps. He was 49.
Von Birckhahn was born on February 6, 1968 in Brazil, where he grew up. He later moved to Germany, then to Switzerland. While working at Edelrid, he drove from Switzerland through Austria to the company’s headquarters in southern Germany each day.
Von Birckhahn worked at Edelrid for 10 years.“He was a major player in shaping the outdoor industry as we know it,” says Blair Williams, director of sales and marketing at Edelrid North America. At Edelrid, he developed new braiding techniques used on the company’s ropes today. He also pushed for sustainability, leading the company to manufacture ropes, slings and harnesses that were certified Bluesign products—a strict third party review that considers a product’s entire life cycle from its materials to its disposal. He also created numerous partnerships across the outdoor industry.
“Thanks to his innovative drive, his tireless commitment, his experience, and great love for mountain sports, Edelrid is today one of the most successful mountain sports brands on the market,” the company wrote in a statement online.
His success in the industry grew out his own passion and skill for climbing. Von Birckhahn left the office for a month each year to quietly put up first ascents in Patagonia. Some notable routes of his include the Birckhahn-Haley route on Aguja Desmochada, which he summited with Colin Haley, and the Arti Belleza route, climbed with his wife. He also owned a property, called “Centro Alpino,” in El Chaltén, Argentina, where he’d house and connect with Patagonia-bound climbers—including Tommy Caldwell, Mikey Schaefer, Josh Wharton, Hayden Kennedy, Josh Huckaby, Colin Haley, Kate Rutherford, and Alex Honnold, just to name a few. His own climbing experience, together with the insights he gained from the climbing community, helped him develop products for Edelrid.
“There’s nobody that had a job at his level that climbed at his level,” says Williams. “That added to his genius as a leader in product innovation. He had his finger on the pulse of what people need in climbing gear.”
Birckhahn was a hands-on leader. His office door was always open, and he actively participated in all aspects of the company, from product development to public outreach. He often stitched together prototypes for climbing gear. At home, he had his own leather shop.
Birckhahn was on vacation with his family during the paragliding accident. He is survived by his wife, mother, and three children.