Yvon Chouinard

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Chouinard on Mt. Hood, Oregon, in the late 1970s

Yvon Chouinard (* 1938 in Lisbon in Maine ) is an American pioneer of big wall climbing , especially in Yosemite National Park and entrepreneur for mountaineering equipment (founder of Patagonia ), who is also known for his new developments in this area.


Chouinard comes from a French Canadian family who moved to Maine. His Québec born father worked in a wide variety of trades. In 1946 the family moved to Burbank , California, where Chouinard practiced diving for abalone snails and climbing the coastal cliffs near Malibu , initially as a member of the Southern California Falcon Club to observe the clutches in the nests. In 1955 he went climbing in his own Ford to Wyoming , in the San Fernando Valley (Stoney Point) and at the Tahquitz he was drawn to the walls of the Yosemite Valley. Large amounts of safety and locomotion hooks were required for the big walls. After graduating from high school in 1956, mainly for cost reasons, he began to buy blacksmith tools in order to manufacture climbing utensils that were made of harder steel than the European pitons. He soon sold these too - but business was slow at first. In winter he forged, in summer he climbed. Chouinard is one of the leading activists on the big wall climbing scene in Yosemite in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1960 he was involved in the second ascent of The Nose on El Capitan. His first ascents include the North American Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley in 1964 with Royal Robbins (a childhood friend, as he was a member of the Sierra Club at an early age), Tom Frost (an aircraft engineer who was temporarily his business partner), Chuck Pratt , without use of fixed ropes , and the Muir Wall at El Capitan in 1965 with TM Herbert. In 1961 he began using the techniques and style of the Yosemite big wall climbers (of which he was one of the most verbose advocates) outside of the Canadian Rockies, with several first ascents. In 1968, he opened a new route (California Route) and the third ascent of Cerro Fitzroy in Patagonia . a. with Doug Tompkins (they surfed the South American coasts on the way).

Chouinard travels the world surfing, fly fishing, kayaking, skiing and hasn't given up climbing either (2007). He has been married to Malinda Pennoyer since 1971, whom he met in Yosemite, where the then art student had a summer job. Chouinard has two children.

Chouinard as an entrepreneur

In 1970 Chouinard Equipment was the largest mountaineering equipment company in the United States. The main product was rock hooks , which in his eyes spoiled the climbing routes, so he stopped production in 1972. Also around 1970, while climbing in Scotland, he recognized the benefits of rugby shirts for climbing and then founded the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which employed 1,300 people in the USA in 2006 and whose turnover rose from $ 20 million in the mid-1980s to $ 100 million in 1990 and $ 267 million in 2006. In between there was a break-in through legal proceedings (all from rather insignificant incidents, but justified with insufficient warnings, for example with climbing ropes) against his mountaineering equipment company, which brought them almost to the brink of ruin - there was ultimately a buyout by the employees and one Start-up in Salt Lake City.

Chouinard donates one percent of Patagonia's sales to environmental activists - he founded the One Percent for the Planet initiative , which 400 companies joined by 2006. Even an avid surfer, he allows his employees to organize their time accordingly. After a slump in the 1991 recession, which interrupted a long-term growth phase of 30 to 50% annually, he had to lay off a fifth of his workforce. In his own words, this caused a return to ecological values ​​and slow growth, in his own words also the result of his actually frugal lifestyle as an extreme athlete, who should also heed the motto never to exceed his limits and above all to clearly recognize these limits. For ecological reasons, for example, the company switched to organically grown cotton as early as 1996.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Yvon Chouinard: Let My People Go Surfing. Outside Magazine, October 1, 2005