Episode 37: Mac Gaugh — “I’m just trying to save this thing”

About an hour into our chat with Mac Gaugh, climber and owner of fledgling climbing apparel brand Creag, a dry microburst exploded and for a few minutes the wind did all the talking. At this point in 2020, you just kinda nod and acquiesce…

Mac is certainly no stranger to microbursts unsheathing chaos and struggle. For the majority of his life he’s fluctuated wildly between a cyclical loop of achievement and sabotage. Addiction crept into his life early, along with rock climbing. When sober he found himself crushing V12 boulder problems in the early 2000s, a time when that grade raised eyebrows. When surrendered to the chaos and alcohol and gambling, he bounced between homelessness and the liquidation of his aspirations.

Eventually, through the hard work of rehabilitation and determination and the support of his family, Mac found himself sober and itching to do something of import. A total neophyte, he decided to launch a climbing apparel brand, from scratch. He had no idea what he was doing.

With a mentor guiding him and some seed money in the coffer, Mac dove into the process of designing, sourcing, manufacturing, and marketing a technical clothing line, maneuvering along a ridiculous learning curve. He decided to make his products here at home, adding ironic complications to the entire process. Eventually, however, Creag coalesced into a tight collection of functional, technical, good-looking clothing built for his tribe, climbers and outdoor athletes.

Finally, after years of work, Creag was ready to launch…in March 2020. The global coronavirus pandemic dropped like an albatross just as Mac was taking his product to market, all on notoriously competitive terrain where giants like Patagonia and Arc’teryx devour competitors.

For months he navigated government assistance programs, rejected on various technicalities, although he represented an independent brand manufactured entirely in the United States while staffed almost entirely by climbers, from photographers to designers. Creag, vulnerable as all new things are, fluttered on the edge of oblivion.

Admirably clean and sober in a time of extraordinary tribulation and entirely dedicated to saving his company, Mac is in the midst of a re-launch. He frames it as Creag’s final push, against remarkable odds and historic calamities. Mac’s story is a modern fable, a story of despair and determination and entrepreneurship in the midst of a grim history being written in real time. And like any fable’s hero, he’s charging into the maw, clear-eyed and with everything on the line.

Got a question or pitch or good joke for the apocalypse? Get ahold of us on Instagram @thethundercling or shoot us a missive at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks as always to Ryne Doughty for the svelte musical stylings.

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