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Introducing the HandBuilt Alliance & D4 Big Wall Gear

Original Post
Josh Kornish · · · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 840

The HandBuilt Alliance is a collective of outdoor equipment designers working together on new ideas and hand-crafting products in-house.

Founded in collaboration with John Middendorf, Barry Ward, and Luke Malatesta, the Handbuilt Alliance builds on decades of experience and innovation in big wall gear design.  We're here to make equipment that moves the sport forward and we're dedicated to crafting high-caliber gear without compromise.

In 2018, we're excited to introduce D4 Big Wall Gear and a new paradigm in folding platform design with the release of four new portaledges: the D4 Portaledge, Alpine Double, Trapezium, and MiniMe.  The future of portaledges is more packable, light-weight, and user-friendly.

Major Design Improvements:

  • Curved corners - stronger and lighter frame
  • Hybrid diameter tubing - stronger joints
  • Unitized frame & patent-pending Bullet Joiners - compact and easy assembly 
  • Ambidextrous set-up - no "air side" or "wall side"
  • Full zipper, storm-proof rain fly.

D4 Portaledges

D4 Portaledge Full-size 2 person ledge - built by Barry Ward, Durango Sewing Solutions - Durango, Colorado

The D4 Portaledge is the next generation of expedition ledges.  Major design innovations include curved frame corners, hybrid diameter tubing, and compact folding.  Weighing in at 18.5 lbs with a weather proof fly the D4 Portaledge is the obvious choice for backcountry and Valley big walls.

Barry Ward, founder of Durango Sewing Solutions, is proud to be fabricating and distributing the D4 Portaledge designed by legendary big wall climber and innovator, John Middendorf. Early in 2017, John launched a successful D4 Kickstarter Project to support a whole new design concept based on his original A5 portaledge. Barry was John's lead production guy back in the early A5 Adventure days in Flagstaff, Arizona, so getting Barry back on board to make the new D4 Portaledges was a no-brainer.

D4 Alpine Double 2 person ledge - built by Luke Malatesta, Runout Customs - Fruita, Colorado

"Ten years ago, I advised Luke on his first Runout portaledges, which were based on the proven A5 Alpine Double portaledge, previously made by A5 Adventures from 1987-1999.  This is the size I used for 18 days on the Great Trango Tower.  Luke added his own features and craft to the project, and has been making this light and compact design ever since.  Last month, I visited Luke at his Fruita shop, and we collaborated and created the first D4 Alpine Double, with the D4 curved tube corners, super rigid and light hybrid-diameter D4 frame, and D4's new patent-pending D4 Bullet Joiners, which make assembly of the ledge "smooth as butter".  Very proud to be working with great craftspeople."

-John Middendorf

D4 Trapezium 1.5 person ledge - built by John Middendorf,  D4 Big Wall Gear - Bohart, Tasmania // built by Josh Kornish, TUFA Climbing - starting Fall 2018.

The D4 Trapezium represents a new paradigm in folding ledge technology.  Weighing in at 7.9 lbs and easily fitting into a daypack, the Trapezium is perfect for ultralight walls.  This versatile ledge is stable for BASE jumping, provides decent sleep for two, and protection with a storm proof fly.

D4 MiniMe .5 person ledge, built by Josh Kornish, TUFA Climbing - Whitefish, Montana

The D4 MiniMe is an ultralight, self-assembling portaledge, perfect for lounging on long belays and positioning for photoshoots.  Built with an elasticized carbon fibre frame, patent-pending D4 Bullet Joiners™, VX-42 fabric bed, and a herringbone webbing suspension; the MiniMe self-deploys when dropped from its haul bag.  In under a minute a stable and comfortable ledge is at your convenience.


This is all one big passion project between people psyched and open to collaboration.  We're very open to constructive feedback and we'd love to hear your thoughts.


-Josh Kornish
Tyler Newcomb · · Burlington · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 86

Any price estimate?

Josh Kornish · · · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 840


We're tuning in the final details and I'll get back to you with pricing information as soon as we finalize all of that.  As of now there is a first-come-first-serve waitlist for each ledge and we'll be contacting our email list soon.

Keatan · · AZ · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 50

Daaaaaamnn those are looking nice

Rob Warden...Space Lizard · · Between Zion, Vegas, LA, an… · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 115

this is an amzing upset to the ledge world

Everett · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 25

Is the HandBuilt Alliance going to branch out into other wall gear products?

John Middendorf · · Australia and USA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 5

Everett, we sure would like to!  Our goal is to increase the level of innovation in the industry with new ideas and faster development time.  One of our challenges is competing with the larger companies who have the network of retailers, trade shows, and magazine editorials (largely determined by advertising budgets), and who often abscond with other's ideas and claim them as their own--the chief problem with this, is that when the market gets taken from the original innovators, the innovation generally stops. This happens a lot, and it is sad that it generally goes unnoticed.  But we have been totally open with our ideas, as we want to reach out directly to climbers who can identify and make good use of true innovation.

Our aim is to offer the hand crafted choice in the market for gear like packs, tents, chalkbags, and of course portaledges. Haulable packs is high on the list.  We have been getting great support from the climbing community thus far, and of course if that continues we will continue to expand our line.  Generally new products require some investment, and our resources are limited; our first goal has been to revolutionise the modern portaledge and other hanging platforms, but we have been working on several new products behind the scenes.  Please support one of our partners.  Right now, the Alpine Double portaledge from Runout Customs, and the new MiniMe from Tufa Climbing, are just being released and there is no waiting list yet.

Warrior · · Rock City, GA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 310

I am siked to see you collaborating with these younger guns Deucey...great work all around it looks like to me, fellas. Still have ye olde "Tech Manual" around here somewhere...was instrumental for my first forays.

bus driver · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 1,110

This is pretty awesome.  It’s cool that they don’t all have to come into the same D4 office to manage the overseas production.

Good to see that RunoutCustoms is part of this. He did some simple custom length runners and cam resling work for me that turned out perfect and I use every time I go climbing.  Also good to see John Middendorf’s name tied to new designs.  You can thank him for a lot of the good equipment that has become standard. And he got a certain maverick charisma that is good for the sport.  

Good luck D4. 

Taylor Spiegelberg · · Lander & Sheridan, WY · Joined May 2012 · Points: 1,210

Nice job Josh!!!

s.price · · Pagosa Springs · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,346

I was fortunate enough to climb with John a couple of times. If his name is involved excellence is a given. Great person to support.
Awesome job to all.

Josh Kornish · · · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 840

Hey Y'all,

Thanks for the kind words and encouragement.  We, the HandBuilt Alliance, had a great 2018 season and have made some great iterations to the D4 Big Wall Gear portaledge line.  We're looking forward to a full release of new and updated products in Spring 2019.  

I wanted to share a grant that John Middendorf is doing in honor of his Mother.

"A D4 Trapezium will be granted to the most promising and exciting project where the Trapezium will shine."

Details linked below:

D4 Big Wall Gear Trapezium Grant

First year's recipient of the grant was Marek Raganowicz for his solo mission to Baffin Island

For more details on the grant and to apply you can follow the link to John's Facebook Page.

We're busy grinding away in our independent studios and look forward to sharing more of our work with you as we finalize things and get more organized. We'll be branching out into other big wall climbing products and are open to feedback and collaboration.

Stay tuned!

John Middendorf 1 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

Some cool ideas coming in.  Still lots to consider!  Winter Eiger wall, superlight Black Canyon multi-day push routes, tree adventures, Nose back up ledge...

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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