D4 is a passion project run by just two guys. John Middendorf, the founder of A5 Adventures and lead designer of both the A5 and D4 portaledges, and Barry Ward, an expert in textiles who builds most of the ledges. John and Barry have been climbing side by side for decades now, and it is their experience and love for the sport that inspired them to create the D4.
John is an absolutely influential climber who has made a significant impact on the sport. Having been climbing for over 30 years, John has made 85 multi-day ascents worldwide (many first ascents), including 30 ascents of EL CAPITAN in Yosemite. He also has made 35 first ascents of desert spires, including two ascents of THE TOTEM POLE in Monument Valley. John's ascents include an ascent of CERRO TORRE in Patagonia, and the first ascent with Xaver Bongard of The Grand Voyage on THE GREAT TRANGO TOWER, in the Pakistan Karakoram, recognised as the most technical and difficult ascent in the Himalaya to date. John has a background in design and engineering, and his experience is saturated with climbing-related activities.
A near-death experience on the cliff face of Half Dome inspired John to use his design skills to improve his experience on the wall. John knew a successful ledge wouldn't be possible without testing it, so he spent the next 10 years making and testing different designs of the A5 portaledge. By the end of that period, John was assured he had the lightest, strongest design possible. "I would go out with each version of my portaledge and climb a wall somewhere and over the 10 years I'd say we really created a good product." His A5 Portaledge design was put through its toughest test in 1992 when he and fellow climber Xaver Bongard tackled the largest cliff face ever climbed, the Great Trango Tower in Karakoram, Pakistan. John established the right way to climb big walls, and even wrote a thesis, "The Mechanical Advantage" about how innovation always preceeds huge jumps in human endeavors. Nowadays, John lives in Australia and works as a schoolteacher, but has been quietly working on the D4 design. Now, John is back, pushing the human race to even higher and more remote peaks.
Barry is a retired rock climber known for his free climbing and big wall ascents in Zion and Yosemite National Parks in the 80s and early 90s. He also helped develop some of the most popular climbing areas in Arizona. Back in those days, rock climbing was a fast evolving sport when it came to gear and accoutrements. As climbers pursued ever more challenging routes, the equipment had to advance along with them. And if what they needed didn't exist, they designed and made it themselves. In 1987, Barry was among a group of rock climbers who joined up with John Middendorf, founder of A5 Adventures based in Flagstaff, Arizona.
A5 Adventures was literally the place where necessity bred innovation, an open forum shop specializing in design and fabrication of high performance climbing gear using the latest technologies and materials. Barry came on board as a custom sewer and swiftly honed his expertise in designing and making big wall climbing gear. The A5 Portaledge was among its best known products used by climbers to scale some of the longest, most difficult big walls in the world. After The North Face acquired A5 Adventures in 1998, Barry struck out on his own with Kokopelli Designs which he later sold to Babbitt Backcountry Outfitters. He then became a partner of Climb Moab in the late 1990s and ultimately moved on to HIFA Products (Hand Made in Flagstaff Arizona) which he owned and operated until 2015.Seeking new adventures plus a fresh passion for fly fishing and kayaking, Barry moved to Durango, Colorado in the spring of 2015. Naturally, he brought his talent and love for custom design and quality gear along with him. Durango Sewing Solutions is his latest endeavor.