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Black Diamond Origins
Our roots stem to 1957, the year an eighteen-year-old named Yvon Chouinard bought a hammer and anvil and started pounding out hand-forged pitons. To support his climbing habit, Yvon traveled to Yosemite and sold gear from the trunk of his car. His intelligent designs were quickly recognized by climbers as the best available.
At the time, climbing equipment was scarce. The European pitons were so malleable they could only be placed once or twice. Chouinard's pitons were made from hardened steel for greater strength. Because they could be placed repeatedly, climbers began to explore the biggest walls with a new confidence. By 1958, when Warren Harding completed the first ascent of the Nose on El Capitan, Yvon's chrome-moly steel pitons had become an integral part of his rack. Chouinard Equipment, located in Ventura, California was born.
Among the early products developed by Chouinard Equipment was the Chouinard carabiner. A vast improvement over existing biners, the Chouinard Standard was light, strong and uncomplicated. It rapidly became the industry standard, embodying the principles of simple, high-function design, durability and performance.
These same values were at the core of two more revolutionary products developed during the sixties. In 1968 Chouinard introduced the world's first rigid crampon, accelerating the trend that had begun from step-chopping to the faster, more efficient technique of front-pointing. Then in 1969, frustrated by the inability of current ice tools to provide security in all types of ice, Chouinard conceived, tested and forged the first curved picks onto all his ice axes. The result propelled ice climbing to new levels of difficulty.
In 1972 an article in the Chouinard Equipment catalog changed the course of climbing forever. A concept that originated in Britain and became known as clean climbing carried a clear, powerful message-preserve the rock by using nuts and other "clean" protection. This revolution was supported by Chouinard Hexentrics and Stoppers. Since then we've been refining the exceptional geometries of Hexs and Stoppers to make these two designs as relevant today as they were in 1972. Later that decade, the Chouinard Ice Screw was introduced. It was the first tubular ice screw on the market and it allowed ice climbers to place protection more quickly and securely than ever before.
In the early eighties, telemark skiing was experiencing a rebirth. One of the main reasons for this growth was a new focus on gear that could withstand stronger forces. During this time Chouinard introduced the XCD Binding, a strong, heat-treated aluminum binding that stood out in sharp contrast to the more flimsy bindings of the time. In 1984, Chouinard Equipment also introduced the first cable binding. In addition to increased side-to-side stability, the Original Cable Binding provided more "snap" between boot and ski for quicker telemark turns. These two innovations were just a precursor to the impact this company would have on the sport of telemark skiing.
The tragedy of Chouinard Equipment was not that the company manufactured defective products, rather it was sunk by its alleged "failure to warn" customers of the potential dangers inherent in the use of climbing equipment.
During the eighties, climbing changed from a fringe activity to a sport that attracted thousands of new enthusiasts. These new climbers were both the economic salvation of the climbing business and its Achilles heel. The increasing success of Chouinard Equipment meant more sales, but that created higher visibility and turned the company into an attractive target for liability attorneys. Ultimately, a little over thirty years after Yvon Chouinard pounded out his first piton, Chouinard Equipment filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, seeking protection from several liability suits which threatened to sink the company. The tragedy of Chouinard Equipment was not that the company manufactured defective products, rather it was sunk by its alleged "failure to warn" customers of the potential dangers inherent in the use of climbing equipment. The spirit that had been Chouinard Equipment could not be extinguished however, and on December 1, 1989 the former employees of Chouinard Equipment signed the papers to make the first employee-owned company in the climbing industry official. Black Diamond was born.
Since then, we've devoted our energy toward the goal of creating a company which fosters the enthusiasm and dreams necessary to design and manufacture the best climbing and skiing gear in the world. To facilitate that goal, we moved in 1991 from the surf of California to the mountains of Utah. Our base in Salt Lake City is located within minutes of great rock climbing, ice climbing and backcountry skiing. We're surrounded by a high-energy climbing and skiing community and a quality of life that suits our quest to climb and ski as much as possible. Although our address changed, one thing never wavered-the design philosophy that had begun years before.
We've devoted our energy toward the goal of creating a company which fosters the enthusiasm and dreams necessary to design and manufacture the best climbing and skiing gear in the world.
The nineties were a decade of change and our designs have continued to evolve in response to the changing needs of climbers and skiers. Starting in 1992, we responded to the need for more downhill control by teaming up with SCARPA� of Italy to introduce the T1, the world's first plastic telemark ski boot. The sport of telemark skiing has never looked back. Today, our telemark ski equipment is unsurpassed for both innovation and reputation. We offer a full line of skis, poles, and bindings. After considerable testing and extensive research, we also unveiled the AvaLung II, and later, AvaLung-equipped packs (essential tools for backcountry safety) that allow the user to breathe when buried in snow.
In response to a rebirth in ice climbing, we incorporated carbon-fiber into the shaft of an ice tool to create an ax that was light, responsive and shaped to fit a climber's grasp. Further refinements with carbon fiber have resulted in the creation of the Cobra Ice Tool. This tool is perfectly matched to the attitudes and needs of today's extreme ice climbs and mixed routes. We've also introduced the Turbo Express Ice Screw, the fastest, easiest-to-place ice protection on the market.
To help climbers in the never-ending quest to redefine what's possible, we built the HotWire, the world's first wire-gate carabiner. Stronger, lighter, and easier to clip, the HotWire proved that a seemingly basic design like a carabiner could be improved to meet the continuing demands of the sport. We've also added Camalots to our line of protection, crafted the Neutrino, one of the lightest full-service carabiners ever made, and built the Half Dome, a low-profile, comfortable helmet designed around the movements of climbing.
We climb together after work, meet in the parking lot for dawn patrol ski tours, and eat as many times per week at Barbacoa as our stomachs can endure.
Since our move in 1991, Black Diamond has developed into a family of sorts. That may sound like marketing hype, but around here it's the truth. We climb together after work, meet in the parking lot for dawn patrol ski tours, and eat as many weekly specials at Mariposa as our stomachs can endure. So it made sense for us to expand the BD family over the past few years to include Bibler Tents, Ascension Enterprises, and Fritschi Diamir. Like us, these brands are driven by the products they make. Their views on business, life and having fun mesh with ours. And by bringing them into the BD family, it allowed all of us greater flexibility to focus on our common goal-to make the best climbing and backcountry skiing equipment in the world.
What began with a backyard anvil and a hammer has grown into a company that's not just for rock climbers, but one that stands for the enthusiasm and spirit of the sports we represent, their values and goals, past, present and future. Since 1957, our designs and products have grown and progressed. This is partly the result of hard work and a great collection of individuals. It's also the result of each of us being climbers and skiers ourselves. We're a company of users-it's who we are. We're the greatest dreamers about what could be, and the harshest of critics about what exists. The creation of Black Diamond is a process which will never end. The company of today is better than ever, thanks to the many people here whose limitless energy and commitment to our sports have created an inspiring future for us all.
Since the day I stepped off the ground for the very first time, I knew something was going to be different about my life. I was 15 years old. I consider myself very lucky.
For better or for worse, I've been climbing obsessively for over 15 years. That's roughly three to five days a week of actual rock climbing for 180 months, 780 weeks, which equates to more than 3000 days of climbing, give or take. Many of those days have been in far away lands — everywhere from India to Australia, Malta to Scotland and Mexico to Alaska... the list goes on.
These days I live in Squamish, British Columbia, with my lovely lady Lydia Zamorano. Squamish is a mellow Canadian coastal town, north of Vancouver and south of Whistler. Here we are surrounded by some of the world's most beautiful mountains, but more importantly for me, we also have some of the highest quality granite on the planet. I spend most of my days here seeking out first ascents, repeating any remaining classics and dreaming of countries and crags I plan to visit.
Although I love all types of climbing, I get the most excited about very long, sustained single-pitch lines. And not just any single-pitch line — I am consistently drawn to the aesthetics of the line: a laser cut crack, an orange water streak, a sweeping corner, a jagged arête, something that makes it both unique and marvelous. If that climb is gear protected as well, it's all the more reason for me to be attracted to it. It's about the complete experience, free climbing gracefully, still doing powerful moves but maintaining a sense of calm, trying to keep it all together for an extended period of time, placing gear adds insecurity and uncertainty, and it demands the mind's complete, undivided attention.
When I finish a route like this, I feel truly satisfied, as though my appetite for climbing has been satiated, if only for a short time. Lucky for me, there are more than a few great pubs in this town, and they are never more than a five-minute drive from the carpark. If I don't see you on the cliff, then perhaps at the bar.
From the moment Paul first touched an indoor rock climbing hold, at the age of 11, he was hooked. Over the past decade Paul has proven himself among many of the current greats in rock climbing and continues to strive to push the sport to the next level — a level in which people have only dreamed of achieving.
Growing up in New Jersey, it became quite apparent that becoming a professional rock climber was going to be quite difficult for Paul. However, he never gave up on his aspirations and with the help of family and friends he has gotten to the place where he is today. Paul began rock climbing at a small climbing gym in southern New Jersey called Vertical Reality. In the beginning, Paul was merely the scrawny little boy who came into the gym with his father on a daily basis, having the time of his life climbing on plastic holds on a 20-foot toprope wall. As time went on, he began competing in indoor rope climbing competitions. Paul did this circuit for about three years and never felt truly successful. As he began growing up Paul finally felt as if he had found his place in the climbing world and that was through bouldering. He began to travel the world in search of all the most amazing climbs to be done as well as competing in national and international competitions. As senior year of high school came and went it was only obvious that the next step was college at the climbing capital of the country, Boulder, Colorado.
Now that senior year of college is nearly complete for Paul, two major changes have been occurring. One of which has been his new look into the world of route climbing. Having climbed V15 and now 5.14d on a rope he has become the multitalented climber he has always wanted to be, but does not plan on stopping there. He knows V16 is a possibility and wants more than anything to climb one and also bring his bouldering power to the routes and establish some extremely hard, moderate-length sport routes all over the world. Paul still feels like he is just scratching the surface in climbing and looks forward to a bright and successful future. The road is endless and he is embracing it all as it comes.
Most kids grow up with shopping malls, Monday Night Football and birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheeses. Athletics to them might mean club soccer and t-ball; the adventurous ones try out for the swim team. Growing up in the mountain town of Estes Park as the son of a mountain guide meant t-ball was for pansies, swimming was handy only if you were caught in a flood and adventure wasn't an adventure unless there was at least one unplanned bivy.
As a professional climber I like to say that my gift in life is the ability to relentlessly beat my head against a wall. I live by the ethos that if you hit your head hard or long enough, it really feels good when you stop. As a teenager I spent my evenings training in grungy garages and basements with older smelly men... and the occasional misplaced cute girl (who never stuck around that long) with the hopes that I would one day be able to ascend a more difficult 100 foot artificial wall than anyone else in the room. I would travel to the sport climbing crags on weekends in pursuit of... numbers?
At the age of 17 I discovered the only reliable love of my life (as of yet) El Cap. I found peace and adventure while suffering in the sun and the wind. For over a decade El Cap has beaten me until I cry for mercy, and in the process I have free climbed 11 routes, including the two hardest big wall free climbs in the world.
In my quest to endure ever increasing amounts of misery, I turned my attention to the granite spires of Patagonia. Ninety percent of my time there has been spent utterly humiliated and intimidated. The one shining exception has been the first free ascent of Linea De Eleganza, 4000-foot 5.12c free route that was done with partners Eric Rhode and Topher Donahue on a continuous 50-hour push.
I was born and raised in Sacramento, California and started climbing when I was 11 or so. I mostly climbed indoors until I was 18 and then I dropped out of college and started climbing outdoors full time.
I like big tall routes. But I also like sport climbing a lot. Basically I like any kind of climbing, but the more committing it is the better the overall experience. I also really enjoy climbing big routes quickly. I sometimes say that when I get older I'll become an alpinist. Seems like the only way you can continue to climb bigger and bigger routes is to go to the real mountains. But for now Yosemite is big enough.
I find myself almost incapable of writing a Bio for myself. Yet this morning I hiked up to the Salathe headwall and ran a lap before 10:30 am. I guess we all have our strengths. Mine would seem to lie in humping loads around and sport rappelling rather than writing.
I'm a 22-year-old boulderer/climber from Finland. The last few years I've been on the move all the time, traveling around the world for climbing. Traveling has really made me realize the potential for climbing that is out there and yet to be discovered. I'm very motivated to develop new areas and push the standards in bouldering, in terms of difficulty and the aesthetics of the problems.
I've been getting out into the mountains literally my whole life--when my mom was pregnant with me she only stopped climbing when she couldn't see her feet anymore. So I got a head start on climbing, but had to over come a serious BMX addiction before I got back into climbing on my own. I've travelled and climbed all over the world, but always lived in the Rocky Mountains, both in Canada and the US. I like to do the same stuff I did when I was a kid--get outside and have fun. I'm a climber, skier, paraglider pilot, kayaker, mountain biker, whatever, just get outside and do something interesting. I've won a bunch of competitions in climbing (sport, ice, mixed) and paragliding, but I've also placed last. Sometimes you're a rock star, some days you're a rock, you just gotta go out and try. In the end it's not what we did but how many times we just got outside that counts, at least that's how I look at it.
As a climber and artist I love to find the beautiful lines in the world and experience them at close range. I grew up in the wilds of the Alaskan bush, learning about living in the wilderness, watching the natural history and scrambling across the landscape. From there I learned to climb at the Colorado College, where I also earned a biology degree.
Climbing springboarded international travel for me. Some of my favorite climbing adventures have been on big walls in Yosemite, the Moonlight Buttress in Zion, belaying out of boats in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, first accenting in Namibia, climbing Poincenot and Fitzroy (w/in 80m of summit) in Argentina, sport routes in China, and exploring Canada's plethora of granite.
I combine my love of rock climbing with art, making beach stone jewelry, go check it out at suspendedstonedesign.com. Though I call Vashon Island, Washington �home�, I live the gypsy life in an awesome black sprinter van, leave for Patagonia tomorrow, and can't wait to go to Yosemite this spring.
I have lived all my life in Seattle, and I love the mountains and climate of the Pacific Northwest, despite so many rainy days. I started alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and hiking before my earliest memories, and eventually got my first ice axe for a climb of Mount Hood when I was 11. Although I now go on expeditions around the globe regularly, I still love the climbing in the North Cascades, especially in winter, and I have many projects to attempt when conditions are right... Although I'd love to live in Chamonix, I'll probably stay in the Northwest as long as my mom or dad allow a bit of free floorspace for me!
I choose to spend my life alpine climbing because of the intensity of existence it provides me — something that is generally absent in modern life. All my fondest climbing memories are from the epics — times when we had to fight hard just to get home. I am most inspired by beautiful, difficult peaks that are difficult to climb from any side. The least contrived climbing experience is a struggle to reach the top of a mountain by it's easiest line — something that is rare today, but was the norm during the Golden Age of mountaineering.
I feel that my greatest strengths in climbing are those skills that come from simply spending lots of time in the mountains: route-finding, intelligent strategy, efficient bivying, wise gear choices, etc. I am not an especially strong rock climber by modern standards, but it is a goal of mine to improve my free climbing skills on rock, simply because I think it would benefit my alpine climbing.
I learned to climb as an impressionable teenager in a very traditional way: unlike many of today's young climbers I never climbed in a gym, and spent most of my early years toproping and wobbling my way up very easy trad climbs in New England. When I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1997 I fell in love with climbing in earnest and have been hooked ever since. I now make my home in Rifle, Colorado with my wife Erinn, and I feel very fortunate to squeak out a living as a full-time climber. I love all aspects of the sport, but I'm especially interested in big technical alpine routes and hard rock climbing.
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