The new D4 is most certainly the fastest and easiest portaledge to set up and fully deploy. Designed by John Middendorf, it’s the most recent addition to a long line of ledges that date back to 1980.
Of course back in the 1950s and perhaps earlier, climbers used hammocks, ruck sacks or whatever else they could rig up to sleep on.
The first portaledges were used in Yosemite and were made from cots “borrowed” from the Housekeeping Camp.
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They were heavy and used for multi-day trips up El Cap. Mike Graham is given credit for having the first retail collapsible ledges available from Gramicci Portaledge.
In 1984, Fish Products started to manufacture ledges designed by Russ Walling. Two years later, A5 Adventures was founded by Middendorf, who survived a ledge failure on Half Dome a few years earlier.
A5 ledges were made from weatherproof fabrics and constructed to be strong. Middendorf used the ledges on big walls around the world, including the first ascent of the 1,350-metre Grand Voyage on Great Trango in 1992.
A5 was bought by The North Face in 1998 and Middendorf eventually moved away from the climbing industry. Conrad Anker and his Anker Climbing Equipment acquired the design from The North Face in 2005 and Black Diamond Equipment ended up with it.
For more info on Middendorf’s new D4 visit here.