Chad Kellogg's death on Fitz Roy is a crushing blow. On one level Chad was part of our family as a sponsored athlete for OR, but frankly he was way more than that: He was a buddy, a local boy made good, a training partner, a product designer, a world-class athlete, and ultimately an inspiration for everyone who knew him.
More than anything, Chad was never afraid to challenge himself with the toughest goals he could think of, and then chase them with a purity of spirit and intent that's incredibly rare in today's world. Chad's life was perfectly focused: He trained and he climbed. And he loved every minute of it, including just enough regular work to cover exactly what was needed for the next climbing season in the Himalaya, Patagonia, or home in the Cascades.
For me, one of the best things about getting to know Chad was getting to see what it took to perform at a world-class level. I actually think he loved to train as much as anything. I've long believed one of the things that differentiates most elite athletes from the rest of us is the mental ability to find joy in mind-boggling amounts of training. Chad's training was truly legendary around the Seattle climbing community. I would see him at Vertical World doing 20 laps of overhanging 5.11+, and then he'd mention that he was about to do Rainier three times in a row - from White River up the Emmons glacier to the summit to Camp Muir and Paradise and back and then back again, 28 hours or so. Seriously. His nickname of 'Suffer Machine' was fitting in many ways, but then again it wasn't, because for him it wasn't really suffering. It hurt in the best way possible, and the fact that he was able to do it day after day was the greatest gift in the world.
His influence permeates so much of what we do here at OR, it’s hard to quantify or define. In the early days we didn’t really do much in the way of sponsorships, and he was just Ammi’s (OR’s Director of Product Accessories) buddy who climbed constantly and kept showing up in the office with cool ideas about cutting out unnecessary features or combining products so you could carry less but do more. It was obvious he wanted to challenge himself with adventures on the absolute fringe of what was humanly possible, and he needed unique solutions to make them happen. It was so much fun to spend our gym sessions speculating on things like how to make a compression stuff sack into a summit pack, or whether track spikes or approach shoes were the fastest footwear for making your way through the Khumbu (track spikes won).
And for all of it he got next to nothing in return from our society. I've always been struck by how people get rewarded or not, often in ways that make no sense. Chad was one of the very best in the world at one of the very hardest sports in the world, yet his material rewards were basically non-existent. But you felt like it never really crossed his mind.
Jeannie Wall, another OR employee who was with him in Patagonia this season, summed up his effect on all of us: "Chad left me with a gift: his passion, his drive, his true love of climbing—seen in his smile and felt in his energy—was intoxicating and infectious. It motivated and inspired you to try harder, to think bigger. His dying was also a gift, as we all learn that there is risk in our passion for climbing, and that even someone as experienced and talented and aware can run into bad luck. Any one of us could have died that day, that way, in any range. But it should never take away from our love and drive to keep climbing, to take Chad's big spirit with us, to keep charging, keep paying attention to each moment, to live our dreams as he did every day. That is his gift. Carry it forward."
- Dan Nordstrom and the Employees of Outdoor Research
Read more about Chad's death in the Seattle Times.