The 1972 Chouinard Catalog

1972 Chouinard Catalog cover

In December, 2001, I interviewed Steve Grossman. During the interview, he talked about the impact that the 1972 Chouinard Catalog had on his life:

"Another thing that really affected me ethically early on was the 1972 Chouinard climbing catalog. It made a strong push for clean climbing in terms of free protection and people relying less on hammered protection. It had a lot of affect on everybody pretty much in climbing at the time in a way thatís really unparalleled. It laid out the ethics of British rock climbing. You have a small island with a fairly finite amount of rock and a lot of heavy use. They really, in contrast to what was happening in the rest of Europe, developed a low impact ethic. It allowed their routes to see heavy traffic and minimal damage. The big push was toward that same kind of ethic. Fortunately, at the same time, Chouinard equipment came out with hexes and stoppers, equipment that made all that kind of low impact climbing possible. Prior to those innovations, the kind of nuts that were available out there were just not really all that effective. The synergy of that catalog pushing that ethic and equipment that was being produced revolutionized climbing as we know it. Thinking about it now, had that not happened, and had people continued to pound pins and bust flakes off and scar and damage rock, things would be much uglier out there. Itís really pretty horrifying what would have gone on if that revolution hadnít happened."

Since Steve also talked about how he had done an article for the 2002 Black Diamond catalog as a part of the 30 year anniversary of the 1972 Chouinard catalog, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the 2002 Black Diamond catalog. When the catalog came, I found it to be a beautiful catalog with many articles by several great climbers including Steve. However, I was a little disappointed in the coverage of the 1972 Chouinard catalog. There was a reprint of Doug Robinson's article "The Whole Natural Art of Protection" on their website and a miniature picture of the cover inside the catalog, but that was about it. It did little to whet my appetite for information on the 1972 Chouinard catalog (for a free copy of the 2002 catalog see the Black Diamond catalog webpage at:

To make a long story short, while I was browsing on EBAY, a copy of the 1972 catalog came up for auction. It was easy to tell that the price was going to go fairly high (which it did), so my personal justification for buying it was that I would make it available on the website. So here it is, raw and unedited, in as complete of form as I can deliver in cyberspace.

David Breashears, the legendary climber/mountaineer and IMAX photographer, writes about the influence of the 1972 Chouinard catalog in his 1999 autobiography, "High Exposure":

"Another serious influence on my developing style came via the Chouinard climbing equipment catalogue of 1972, a slender publication with a Chinese landscape painting on the cover. Its author, the revered rock and ice climber Yvon Chouinard, called for "clean" climbing, proposing that climbers disavow pitons and bolts that scarred or otherwise altered rock. Instead, he advocated the use of metal nuts of various shapes and sizes which slotted into cracks without damage to the rock and could be recovered by the second climber on a rope. He reminded readers of the edict of John Muir, the late-nineteenth-century poet-environmentalist: "Leave no mark except your shadow."

This ethic of purism and self-control made a profound impact on the climbing community - and on me as well."

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Copyright ©: 2002, RAHutchins
Revised: August 18, 2002