This small tin building is where everything happened at Chouinard Equipment Company, later named Great Pacific Ironworks, Ventura, California.  To the left of the building is the Little Giant power hammer we used to forge Lost Arrow pitons.  Lined up in front is the stellar team that in 1969 produced world class climbing hardware.  The original plan for the photo was to shoot a Robbins Shoe advertisement but we couldn’t keep straight enough faces.

        Yvon and I did a lot of climbs together.  They were always clean, classic lines and then we returned to our work.  In the process we learned how to design pitons to fit Yosemite’s cracks and carabiners to enable efficient big wall climbing.  It was my favorite ever job.  Yvon was the idea man and company visionary.  I was the engineer who persistently pursued optimum – meaning finding a working relationship with Nature.

We enjoyed creating Stoppers, Hexentrics, and Crack-N-Ups for clean climbing and producing the 1972 catalog.  In it Doug Robinson wrote:

“There is a word for it, and the word is clean.  Climbing with only nuts and runners for protection is clean climbing.  Clean because the rock is left unaltered by the passing climber.  Clean because nothing is hammered into the rock and then hammered back out, leaving the rock scarred and the next climber’s experience less natural.  Clean because the climber’s protection leaves little track of his ascension.  Clean is climbing the rock without changing it; a step closer to organic climbing for the natural man.”

       The 1972 Chouinard catalog changed the face of American climbing.  Within two years we were all climbing clean.  In the mid-70s I left the company as the direction shifted from hardware towards clothing.  A beautiful decade of memories remains.  This photo brings it all back.  Thank you, Yvon.

SKUNKWORKS, Chouinard Equipment Company portrait, Ventura , California , 1969.  Left to right:  Tom and Dorene Frost, Tony Jessen, Dennis Henneck, Terry King, Yvon Chouinard, Merle, and Davey Agnew.