Earlier this month, Clif Bar dropped its sponsorship of five of its most elite climbers, ones who are known for free-soloing, B.A.S.E. jumping and highlining, ones featured in the new climbing film, "Valley Uprising," shown above.
As Clif wrote in an online statement, "Over a year ago, we started having conversations internally about our concerns with B.A.S.E. jumping, highlining and free-soloing. We concluded that these forms of the sport are pushing boundaries and taking the element of risk to a place where we as a company are no longer willing to go. We understand that some climbers feel these forms of climbing are pushing the sport to new frontiers. But we no longer feel good about benefitting from the amount of risk certain athletes are taking in areas of the sport where there is no margin for error; where there is no safety net."
Alex Honnold was one of those climbers who was kicked off the Clif team. He's known for climbing without ropes, called free-soloing, and he just penned a column for the New York Times about his side of this story. It's well worth a read.
It's an interesting debate and one that hits home for me as I see more and more professional athletes in action sports and outdoor sports putting their lives on the line by pushing their sports to the next level. How far will they go? And how many people will we lose along the way? At the same time, these athletes are inspiring others to step outside their comfort zone, and the risks they're taking are as calculated as it gets. These aren't cowboys out there; they're smart athletes with an incredible amount of training and preparation for what they do. It will be interesting to see if other brands follow Clif's lead.