The Summit Register #1: April 1, 2013

Larry Penberthy Mountain Safety Research

MSR began in 1969 as a newsletter committed to improving mountaineering safety. Our founder, Larry Penberthy, was an engineer, professional inventor and lifelong mountaineer who dedicated himself to making the backcountry safer.

At first Penberthy set out to meet this challenge under a committee of The Mountaineers. He spent more than eighteen months testing stove fuels, the elongation of ropes, the holding power of pitons, the strength of ice axes and a whole list of other important but generally neglected issues. As time went on, the scope of the project stretched far beyond what the organization, and Penberthy, could afford.

“After six months, it became apparent that the outlay was more than I could manage alone, and so I formed Mountain Safety Research, Inc. as a vehicle to make and sell safety equipment as a means of supporting the equipment and methods research and the safety education program.” 

Climbers who subscribed to the Mountain Safety Research newsletter were asked to donate $3 to cover printing and mailing costs. The first edition offered an ice axe reinforcement kit, snow flukes, an auto belay device, climbing rope, cold weather gloves, carabiners, webbing and a snow saw. It also included detailed instructions for building igloos.

A number of iconic designs stemmed from this time period, such as the Model 9 Stove, Thunderbird Ice Axe, Coyote Snow Picket and MSR Climbing Helmet. Other gear garnered less attention, including tubular ice screws with coffee-grinder handles, cycling helmets, Lithium headlamp batteries, and the MSR Mountain Tent. Although not all of these pieces of gear gained wide distribution, they were significant leaps in innovation at the time. MSR also distributed mountaineering equipment from other manufacturers, including crampons, carabiners, clothing and climbing rope.

Larry Penberthy MSR 1975Penberthy’s goal was to make the best information and gear available to climbers, and if no one was making it he’d come up with it himself. As time went on, the newsletter relied more and more on the sale of new mountaineering equipment. Many of the products were developed by Penberthy himself, usually as a response to real-world challenges he experienced as a climber.

The purpose of the Summit Register is to carry on the work of the Mountain Safety Research Newsletter. Like the original, it is a resource for improving safety, increasing knowledge and sharing our passion for the mountains. You’ll find the early issues of the Mountain Safety Research newsletter in our archives. You’ll also find new material, including technical articles, product reviews, travel pieces and significant works of mountain stoke. Feel free to comment, question and share, we’re always happy to hear from our readers.

-Mountain Safety Research