Charles Cole - founder of Five Ten - dies at 63

New York-born founder of Five Ten and inventor of Stealth rubber, Charles Cole, has died aged 63. A pioneer of the climbing shoe industry, Cole will be remembered for his stroke of genius and generous nature.

Charles Cole, 182 kb
Charles Cole
© Mick Ryan -

Cole founded Five Ten with his parents, Mary and Charles Cole Jr, in California in 1985. His first shoe design, the Five Tennie, proved popular, but his Stealth rubber formula was especially innovative and earned him the nickname 'The Rubber King.' So successful was the compound that Cole began developing rubber formulas for other sports.

Charles Cole, David Graham, Laura Sanders, 185 kb
Charles Cole, David Graham, Laura Sanders
© Mick Ryan -

Cole also contributed to the climbing scene via new routes. First ascents to his name include Run For Your Life (5.10b, Joshua Tree), Jolly Roger (VI 5.10 A5), a solo ascent of Queen of Spades (VI 5.9 A4+) and Space (VI 5.10 A4+), a bold 28-pitch solo climb near Mescalito on El Capitan in Yosemite.

El Cap Roads advert., 159 kb
El Cap Roads advert.
© Five Ten

A knack for clever advertising campaigns - including the 'Quit Your Job' tagline, El Cap Roads and the 'Paper Bag' campaign - were key to Cole's success in the highly competitive early years of climbing shoes in the 1990s. Innovative products designed by Cole include the first downturned toe box and a women's-specific shoe.

In 2011, Cole sold Five Ten to adidas and retired a few years later. He is survived by his mother, wife and three children.

Forums 1 comments

Really sad news. Charles was a bit of a hero of mine when I started as a teenager. The mythology around Stealth and his exploits in Yosemite were a big part of the climbing history I bought into. The shot of a young Leo...
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