|Birth Day:||November 9, 1938|
|Birth Place:||Ventura, California, United States|
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Chouinard's father was a French-Canadian handyman, mechanic, and plumber. In 1947, he and his family moved from Maine to Southern California. His early climbing partners included Royal Robbins and Tom Frost. A Sierra Club member, in his youth he founded the Southern California Falconry Club, and it was his investigations of falcon aeries that led him to rock climbing. To save money, and make adaptations for the way he was climbing, he decided to make his own climbing tools, teaching himself blacksmithing, and eventually started a business.
In 1957, he bought a second-hand coal-fired forge, and started making hardened steel pitons for use in Yosemite Valley. Between time spent surfing and climbing, he sold pitons out of the back of his car to support himself. The improved pitons were a big factor in the birth of big-wall climbing from 1957 to 1960 in Yosemite. The success of his pitons caused him to found Chouinard Equipment, Ltd.
In 1961, he visited Western Canada with Fred Beckey, and made several important first ascents, including the North Face of Mount Edith Cavell (Rockies), the Beckey-Chouinard Route on South Howser Tower in the Bugaboos (Purcell Mountains), and the North Face of Mount Sir Donald (Selkirk Mountains). These climbs opened his eyes to the idea of applying Yosemite big-wall climbing techniques to mountain climbing, and his advocacy was important to modern, high-grade alpinism. Also in 1961, he visited Shawangunk Ridge for the first time, freeclimbing the first pitch of Matinee (the hardest free climb done at Shawangunk Ridge at the time); and introducing chrome-molybdenum steel pitons to the area, which revolutionized climbing protection. In 1968, he climbed Cerro Fitzroy in Patagonia by a new route (The Californian Route, 3rd overall ascent of the mountain) with Dick Dorworth, Chris Jones, Lito Tejada-Flores and Douglas Tompkins.
Chouinard was one of the leading climbers of the "Golden Age of Yosemite Climbing." He was one of the protagonists of the film made about this era: Valley Uprising. He participated in the first ascent of the North America Wall in 1964 (with Royal Robbins, Tom Frost and Chuck Pratt), using no fixed ropes. The next year, his and TM Herbert's ascent of the Muir Wall on El Capitan improved the style of previous first ascents. Chouinard became the most articulate advocate of the importance of style, the basis of modern rock climbing.
Around 1970, he became aware that the use of steel pitons made by his company was causing significant damage to the cracks of Yosemite. These pitons comprised 70 percent of his income. In 1971 and 1972, Chouinard and Frost introduced new aluminum chockstones, called Hexentrics and Stoppers, along with the less successful steel Crack-n-Ups, and committed the company to the advocacy of the new tools and a new style of climbing called "clean climbing." This concept revolutionized rock climbing and led to further success of the company, despite cannibalizing the sales of pitons, formerly his most important product.
Chouinard is most known for founding the clothing and gear company, Patagonia. In 1970 on a trip to Scotland, he purchased some rugby shirts and sold them with great success. From this small start, the Patagonia company developed a wide selection of rugged technical clothing.
In 1971, Chouinard met and married his wife, Malinda Pennoyer, who was an art and home economics student at California State University, Fresno. They have a son (Fletcher) and a daughter (Claire).
They applied for a U.S. patent on Hexentrics in 1974, and it was granted on April 6, 1976. These are still manufactured by Black Diamond Equipment.
Recognizing that the financial success of the company provided the opportunity to also achieve personal goals, Chouinard committed the company to being an outstanding place to work, and to be an important resource for environmental activism. In 1984, Patagonia opened an on-site cafeteria offering "healthy, mostly vegetarian food," and started providing on-site child care. In 1986, Chouinard committed the company to "tithing" for environmental activism, committing one percent of sales or ten percent of profits, whichever is the greater. The commitment included paying employees working on local environmental projects so they could commit their efforts full-time.
In 1989, Chouinard Equipment, Ltd. filed for bankruptcy protection in order to protect it from liability lawsuits. The hard assets of Chouinard Equipment, Ltd. were acquired by its employees through the Chapter 11 process, and the company was reestablished as Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
In the early 1990s, an environmental audit of Patagonia revealed the surprising result (at the time), that corporate cotton, although it was a natural material, had a heavy environmental footprint. In 1996, Chouinard committed the company to using all organic cotton.
In 2002, Yvon Chouinard founded 1% for the Planet and Patagonia became the first business to commit 1% of annual sales to the environment.
In 2014, Patagonia supported the advocacy documentary film DamNation, which is about changing attitudes in America towards its dams. Chouinard was the executive producer of the film, and he was also featured in the film commenting about dams. In 2018, in acknowledgment that sustainability and responsible practices are core to Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard was recognized with the Sierra Club's top award, the John Muir Award.
Currently, Yvon Chouinard is 82 years, 11 months and 12 days old. Yvon Chouinard will celebrate 83rd birthday on a Tuesday 9th of November 2021.
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