The Slatest

North Face Founder Dies From Hypothermia After Kayaking Accident in Chile

Douglas Tompkins poses in his property in Ibera, near Carlos Pellegrini in Corrientes Province, Argentina, on November 5, 2009.

Photo by DANIEL GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images

The founder of North Face apparel company, Douglas Tompkins, died Tuesday at the age of 72 after a kayaking accident in the Patagonia region of Chile. Tompkins, a businessman and environmental activist, was treated for severe hypothermia after his and five others’ kayaks capsized on General Carrerra Lake due to strong waves. All six were rescued by a military patrol boat and a helicopter; no one else in the party was seriously injured. “According to an interview given by a local prosecutor, Pedro Salgado, to radio Bio Bio, the lake is known for unpredictable weather conditions,” the New York Times reports. “Mr. Selgado said that Mr. Tompkins had spent ‘considerable amount of time in waters under 4 degrees Celsius,’ or under 40 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Tompkins founded North Face in 1964 as an outdoor outfitter and in 1968 he co-founded Esprit clothing brand with his then-wife, which would grow to do a billion dollars in sales. In the 1990s, Tompkins moved with his second wife, a former CEO at Patagonia, to Chile where he bought hundreds of thousands of acres “turning most of it into Pumalín Park, a nature sanctuary protecting 715,000 acres of rain forest that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains,” according to the Times. “He also donated land to create coastal national parks in Chile and Argentina.”