Mountain Project Logo

Introducing the HandBuilt Alliance & D4 Big Wall Gear

Original Post
Josh Kornish · · Whitefish, MT · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 800

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 · · New York, New York | Boston · Joined Dec 2012 · Points: 81

Any price estimate?

Josh Kornish · · Whitefish, MT · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 800


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 WardenSpaceLizard · · las Vegans, the cosmic void · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 130

this is an amzing upset to the ledge world

NegativeK · · Nevada · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 40

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

John Middendorf · · Australia and USA · Joined Jun 2011 · Points: 34

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.

bus driver · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 1,516

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 · · WY · Joined May 2012 · Points: 1,676

Nice job Josh!!!

Josh Kornish · · Whitefish, MT · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 800

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 · · Hobart, Tasmania · 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...

Suburban Roadside · · Abovetraffic on Hudson · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 2,419

Here's a bump for great people who make great things that make getting after great things, great-  wishing big wall'rs & all  A  happy sending the "Gnar" Year  -(Hey, Duce, 2019 !- we are OLD!-&-still not grown-up, can ya believe it?!)

John Middendorf 1 · · Hobart, Tasmania · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

2018 D4 Portaledge Grant Update.  The winner for this year's D4 Trapezium will be announced soon.  Some amazing projects where the new lightweight two person single point hanging survival system will enable new adventures.  2018 Applicants:
*Stan Meissner--Remote big wall in middle of ocean accessible only by small boat.
*Axel Mougenot--Eastern Australian 400m wall with 3-hour bush bash approach.
*Matt Holt and Ammon McN.--Radical Moab adventures, and lightweight solo ledge.
*Bob Clark--Incredible big wall cave, Brasil.
*Marc Selby--Activist's platform for Grassy Narrows human rights.
*Andrew Mills--El Cap and Squamish three generation climbing team.
*Gustav Svenson--Stormpillaren route on Vågakallen in Lofoten, Norway.
*Tyler Karow--Ruth Gorge, Alaska super alpine big walls.
*Evan James--Remote and inaccessible BC Coast walls & old growth activism.
*Christian Nunnally--High speed lorry tea party.
*Chris Kalman--Big walls in the southern hemisphere.
*John Svenson--Alaskan home guest room and lightweight expeditions.
*Alex Wylie--Tasmanian Tarkine (Takayna) activism.
(Please let me know if you applied and are not on this list!)

Pictures here:

John Middendorf 1 · · Hobart, Tasmania · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0
New design announced:…
John Middendorf 1 · · Hobart, Tasmania · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 0

2018 D4 Trapezium grant announced!

Suburban Roadside · · Abovetraffic on Hudson · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 2,419
Josh Kornish · · Whitefish, MT · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 800

Hey SR!  Thank you for the link and bumping this thread.  I'm very grateful for your support, my friend.

Update for the D4 Big Wall Project

John Middendorf is at it again with his latest design, the D4 Octapod.  This is another approach to John's concept for a 1.5 person storm shelter.

Design Rationale:

"The  Octapod is a climbing Ninja's ledge.  It sets up in a minute, and packs into a daypack.  Very light.  Don't expect luxurious bedding accomodations for this single-point suspended, super quick deploy, daypackable, sub-5 kg two-person four-season hanging tent--it is designed for one, or two, people to be able to do two things:
•Rest adequately for a full day of fitness ahead.
•Provide full shelter from severe storms.

It is the cumulation of over 20 years experience designing truly stormproof portaledge systems.  There have been no compromises on security  of the fly cover, and strength of the frame, which, although light, is burly and can withstand any challenging placement on tree or wall.  The new shorter "wheelbase" (the wall side which rests against the tree or wall) makes for a very stable platform.  And there are a number of new design features and details which make the ledge even easier to deploy, even in stormy windy conditions.

Having a smaller, lighter, more compact portaledge opens up a lot of opportunities where comfort and security are vital to maximising Type 1 and 2 fun, and minimising Type 3 fun.  It makes for a great belay couch on your favourite crag.  Or set it up  for kids on camp trips as an instant tree swing, hours of fun and a great basecamp.  It's been used by intrepid climbers climbing the Nose for the first time, where the compact design provided confidence to survive any weather, as well as an extension camp to the crowded Camp IV, V, and VI on that route (personally, my favourite bivy on the Nose is at the end of the Great Roof, below Pancake Flake, one of the coolest and most exposed spots on the Captain). 

Mostly, we've developed this product for a bold new breed of adventurers, who are spending hours and days on the vertical in ever more remote places, as it enables maximum manoeuvrability as it is so quick to deploy and pack away.  Routes not yet "visible" based on technological limitations are now coming to light.  Case in point:  the recent D4 Trapezium grant recipients (see Facebook BigWallGear page), who will take their lightweight system in the remote coastal mountains to set new standards there.

This product is designed for the minimalist.  It sacrifices nothing essential, and opens new vistas.  Thank you for your interest."
--John Middendorf
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Climbing Gear Discussion
Post a Reply to "Introducing the HandBuilt Alliance & D4 Big Wal…"

Log In to Reply

Join the Community

Create your FREE account today!
Already have an account? Login to close this notice.

Get Started