There’s a photo in Prana’s spring catalog of Chris Sharma climbing in an underground cave that is called: “Pitch black Mallorcan cave.” In the photo, Sharma is wearing flip flops and climbing a delicate formation.
The caption of the image reads: “Sure, Prana ambassador @Chris_Sharma could map new routes with his eyes closed. But can he do it in the dark, in a cave, in flip-flops? Spoiler alert! Yes, he can.”
This has pissed off many people in the world of caving, including the National Speleological Society who posted a photo from the catalog on Facebook that has gone viral with many angry comments. See the post here.
Seriously, @prana? You claim to promote sustainability, meanwhile using crap like this as your advertisement? Does someone SERIOUSLY have to explain to y'all why this photoshoot is completely fucked? Yet here we are…. So, this is what you promote to your consumers? Nevermind that this entire situation asinine (flip flops in a cave?!)… are you going to take responsibility when your consumers either get hurt, destroy delicate/irreplaceable natural wonders, or both? Did anyone in your marketing department even bother to research caves? Or did y'all just bust out the corporate credit cards and tell your climber model "pose for the picture!" 🤔 Go to hell, I'm never buying your products again unless this photoshoot is pulled from your catalogs and stores This is *exactly* why the caving community is skeptical of the climbing community. Thank you for disrespecting the thousands of hours cavers dedicate each year to conversation efforts Obviously "sustainability" and "conservation" are purely marketing buzzwords for you to sell more flip-flops Oh, and @chris_sharma– you should be ashamed of yourself too. Do you care about conservation? Or are you just in it for the money and the Instagram "likes"? What a joke you are #prana #sellout #nationalspeleologicalsociety #conservation #marketingScam #fakepeople @chris_sharma @columbia1938 #thedyrt @thedyrt
Russ Hopcus, Prana’s president, said, “We know that responsible caving and care for fragile cave environments is critical to cave conservation. It was a mistake to shoot this photo and to share it in our catalog, and we deeply regret it.”
The statement then explains that Prana is treating the incident as a wakeup call for them to pay more attention to their media content.
In 2006, the late Dean Potter made an ascent of a rock feature known as the Delicate Arch in Utah, which resulted in him losing his sponsorship with many brands.
However, the anger over this incident with Sharma seems to be more directed at his sponsor who arranged the photo shoot than at Sharma himself.
The following is the full letter from Potter in 2006 that was posted by Patagonia after the incident.
From Dean Potter:
When I climbed Delicate Arch I certainly didn’t foresee the controversy that has ensued. I didn’t think the climb would do anything but inspire people to get out of their cars and experience the wild with all of their senses. I was wrong. I am sincerely unhappy about climbers’ loss of freedom caused by my ascent. More, I am deeply hurt over the split this has put in our climbing community. I want to explain my actions, bring the facts to light, and hope that all of us can come to see the good in one another.
First, I admit it, I am a climber. I feel compelled to climb most everything I see, and that included Delicate Arch. To me, all rocks are sacred. When I climbed to the top of the Delicate Arch it was my highest priority to do no harm to the rock or its surroundings. I climbed the Arch in the highest and purest way I could, and I left it the same way I found it.
But I failed to foresee how Delicate Arch, for so many, is also an untouchable symbol of our delicate relationship to nature. It is also a symbol for me, but where I saw it as a chance to commune with the arch through expressing my own art of climbing, others saw it as a violation of what they also feel is sacred. Again, I had no intention of doing something that would invoke such feelings, and for those who do feel that way, I apologize because that certainly was not my intention.
Others have accused me of climbing the arch as a publicity stunt. As a professional athlete, recognition of what I do is part of the job.
Most disturbing of all are those accusing me of responsibility for the rope scars that have been documented conclusively on the top of the arch. I can certainly understand why someone would conclude they were caused by my ascent, but I believe the true answer lies in the details of my ascent, and the possibility that there were other ascents previous to mine. I have recently seen the close-up photos of the grooves at the top of the Arch and can state with certainty that my actions did not cause them. But I was very careful to place my rope in a natural groove in the rock. Since my climb I have learned from first-hand witnesses that in the past at least two other parties have lobbed ropes over the Arch and jumared up. Perhaps those parties left the grooves. I know that I didn’t.
None of my sponsors, including Patagonia, has ever influenced me to climb anything. Again, I am sorry that the climb has negatively affected so many people in our community of climbers, and I certainly am not ignoring the views expressed in the Internet chat rooms and in the press. Peoples’ opinions are important to me and I value others’ views, and I have been troubled at the negativity this has stirred up. I saw the climb as communing with nature, somehow, others have seen it as exploiting nature. The National Park Service has strengthened rules about climbing in Arches National Park, and people have blamed me for the loss of access. I sincerely regret any loss of access anywhere, anytime. Let me add that I strongly advise anyone thinking of climbing the Delicate Arch not to try. First, the climb is now unambiguously illegal. Second, the climbing community and the Park Service should be friends and work together to protect the environment and climbing access. Third, the Delicate Arch really is fragile and repeated climbing would inevitably cause damage.
Finally, I apologize to Patagonia for the injury this has caused the company and the brand. Patagonia is sincerely and deeply committed to their mission of using business to provide solutions to the environmental crisis, and regretfully, in the view of many of their customers, this has been compromised by my ascent.