During this year’s CWA Summit, routesetting legend Ty Foose gave a presentation titled “30 Years of Hold Shaping Evolution.” A mainstay of the climbing industry, Foose has been around for that evolution, and was able to speak firsthand on how holds have changed along with the art of setting itself. Amid a talk that included decades of data, ancient artifacts that were once climbing holds, and Foose donning a cowboy hat and southern accent to introduce a new line of grips called the Pard’ners, he echoed the news that was announced by Trango CEO Chris Klinke just a few weeks prior:
“After 20 years of ownership, eGrips will be merging into the Trango brand, and moving forward all of our products will be available under the Trango name, as Trango Holds.”
While the official fusion of the two brands may seem like a massive transition, their collaboration is certainly not new. The Trango-eGrips relationship is one that runs deep, and has for a very long time, even predating Trango’s purchasing of eGrips in 2002. And as Trango shares more about the merger, it becomes clear how their partnership has been crucial to the industry, what their unification means for the future of climbing, and how exciting that future is for all climbers. Here are three reasons to share in that excitement.
1. Prioritizing Innovations Big and Small
Trango and eGrips have both celebrated innovation as a cornerstone of their mission statements—one in the gyms, the other in the outdoors. “Innovation is in the DNA of the eGrips brand,” said Ty Foose, who helped start eGrips while being one of the first head routesetters in America. “eGrips is a recognizable brand, but maybe what’s more recognizable is the innovation. It’s the Bubble Wraps, it’s the Myorcans…There were so many breakthroughs that were advanced by eGrips, including urethane, hollow backs and dual-tex.” Additionally, they are one of the first companies to experiment with robotically carved holds, namely with sets like the Mosaics.
Similarly, Trango brought us numerous innovations in outdoor gear, from the Big Bro for off-widths to the Squid for stick clipping and all the way down to the ‘red flag’ treatment for ropes, a visual marker to alert climbers that they’re down to their last few meters of rope. They also focus on small innovations, such as fitting their helmets with magnetic locks as of 2019. “I’m constantly looking for what’s new, what’s different, what’s distinctive, and Trango’s been on that same path since 1991,” Foose remarked. “That’s been my focus all along—as a shaper, as a routesetter, even as a route developer.”
For these two companies, innovation is not just about creating successful products. It’s also about, as Trango CEO Chris Klinke puts it, “being willing to take a risk.” They attribute this higher-risk, higher-reward philosophy to their roots in the outdoors. “The same is true for all of us in our climbing experience,” Foose said. “If you’re not willing to fail or try something outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never have the glory of doing something you didn’t think you could do.
Not everything that we create ends up being a smash hit. But pushing the limits—being willing to innovate and fail at times—is really the mechanism that makes everything else possible.”
2. Bringing Indoor and Outdoor Climbing Together
When eGrips was sold to Trango in 2002, the hold company didn’t change its name because, in Foose’s words, “Indoor climbing and eGrips were so different than what Trango was offering at that time. It seemed like it was just two different worlds, so we kept them separate.” Klinke went on to add how “we as an industry believed that gym climbing was so different than sport, trad and alpine climbing.
“But,” Klinke continued, “where we’re at right now as a community and an industry is that it’s a flow. People go to the gym, then go outside and go bouldering, then come back to the gym, and then go out and go sport climbing.” Foose echoed this sentiment, adding that “the Trango product has also grown and evolved. Now we’re starting to offer products for bouldering, routesetting, and gym operations.”
This merging of indoor and outdoor climbing is not exclusive to Trango. We’ve recently seen industry figureheads joining forces across the indoor-outdoor divide, such as the Access Fund and CWA announcing their partnership and dual membership at the CWA Summit. This industry-wide transition makes sense considering that, as Klinke put it, “90% of the people coming into the climbing community are entering that community via the gym.”
Trango and eGrips’ merger further connects indoor and outdoor climbing—two spaces that were never really separate worlds, but actually cohabitants in a climbing ecosystem. Together, they aim to serve the entire climber’s journey—from shaping the holds they first climb on in a gym, to making the stick clip they take on their first sport climbing trip, all the way to the ice ax cover that shields their tools in the off-season. “Having a continuous experience—being able to come into a climbing gym and see Trango climbing holds on the wall and Trango products in the shop—that unification will help us continue to build our brand in the community,” said Klinke. “When you have that shared passion—that passion for ‘going up’—it’s really easy to connect with other climbers. And we want to provide products that the community wants.”
3. Staying Connected to Climbing’s Roots
Change in life is almost always unsettling, and as the sport of climbing and the industry it houses evolve there are many climbers who fear what this change will bring. But just as the fear that fans had when Disney bought Star Wars was soon overshadowed by excitement for new series like The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi, so too can the changes in the climbing industry bring better products and more resources to the shared goal of making the sport better for everyone—particularly those who are new to climbing or curious about trying it. “Mergers are the natural flow of business as you get into a bigger and bigger industry,” Foose said. “But as a climber and a routesetter, what I don’t want to see is a company which has no connection to climbing doing that. At the heart of Trango, we’re all a bunch of climbers who do different disciplines, and we all care about climbing way more than the business side of it.”
In truth, Trango and eGrips have already been showing us why this works for them. Without Trango’s purchasing of eGrips in 2002, we would not have the eGrips we know and love today. Their initial interactions may have been a coincidence—a result of sharing warehouse space—but what has transpired since then has certainly been no coincidence. “It’s never been a one-brand show,” explained Foose. “Our work together was just behind the scenes. And becoming a conglomerate rooted in passion means we can really push our innovating forward, with a product menu that covers all the bases.”
Foose and Klinke described a clear vision of what’s next for the company. They have a whole host of climbing holds, products, and ideas for expansion as they continue to solidify their unified brand. But balanced with that progression is an understanding of not fixing what’s not broken. “Trango Holds is still the same great holds that everyone loves,” Foose reassured. “All of that is just the same as it’s always been for eGrips, just under different branding. But now we can push what we do even further.”
“In this process, one of the big things we’ve done is reworking who we want to be as a company moving forward,” said Klinke. “The vision statement that we have at this point is ‘Trango creates innovative products that climbers trust.’ Whether it’s for the gym, bouldering, sport, trad or alpine. That’s what we want to do.” As they seek to expand their offerings in those five categories, maintaining authenticity will be a key focus. “One of our other taglines is ‘be a climber,’” Foose added. “To me, that’s not separating ourselves into ‘I’m just an alpine climber’ or ‘I’m just a boulderer.’ We’re all just climbers.”
Trango’s mission speaks to not only their passion-fueled desire to make good products but their focus on community—a value that is shared across the climbing spectrum―that will continue being a priority. “One of the things that I’ve been pushing for,” said Klinke, “is creating a community and company that is supportive of all climbing disciplines and climbers. This merger is a step toward that goal.”
Founded in 1991 by Malcom Daly, Trango is a company of climbers who design products to improve the climbing experience. We work to share our vertical experience with everyone, helping climbers to test their strength, challenge their limits, and live in the ascent. A part of the Trango family for 20 years, our artistic, innovative and legendary hold designs for climbing gyms are now available at Trango Holds.