Black Diamond Equipment & the beginning of clean climbing and modern mountaineering
Black Diamond's roots lie in modern rock climbing and the ethical debate this has entailed.
In the late 50s something serious was brewing in Yosemite. Yvon Chouinard, would soon become one of the most outstanding climbers in what we now know as the "golden age of Yosemite climbing", together with Royal Robbins, Tom Frost, Chuck Pratt...
In 1957 Chouniard began to manufacture his own hand-forged pitons and sell them from the back of his van in Yosemite. This was how the first seeds of Chouinard Equipment were sown and the company was founded soon after in Ventura, California. And these chromium-molybdenum alloy steel pitons which revolucionized climbing protection were just the first of many radical innovations offered to the world of mountaineering, first as Chouinard Equipment and from 1989 as Black Diamond.
Some of these new designs were created to cover a deficiency of technical material; for example, in 1978, while Chouinard was writing "Climbing Ice", they reinvented ice-axes and basic crampons so that they could climb on vertical ice. The name they gave was Climbing Tools; the modern world of vertical ice was born.
But most of the new products offered solutions to ethical and environmental problems; in 1970, Chouinard & Frost became aware that their steel pitons were causing significant damage to the rock of Yosemite. Even though the pitons comprised 70% of sales by the company, in 1971 they decided to launch aluminium chockstones; Hexentrics & Stoppers to the market and commited the company to a new style of climbing called "clean climbing".
A fundamental date; Yvon Chouinard files for bankruptcy. It is at this stage that Peter Metcalf together with the company's employees, several friends and even clients decide to buy the hard assets of the company and rename it as Black Diamond Equipment.
The spirit of the brand still remained, but they realized that it was not as clearly visible due to the distance of their location from the climbing environment. For this reason, in 1991, they moved the company from Ventura, California to the mountains near Salt Lake City, in Utah, just minutes away from outstanding places for rock & ice-climbing, mountaineering, trail running, ski touring, alpine skiing...
Looking back, this decision was crucial. Manufacturing mountain equipment with a mountain environment on your doorstep made that extra difference and gave rise to their pioneering spirit, their ethical commitment and allowed them to grow into the renowned worldwide brand we know today.
The Camalots, Hotwires (the first ever wire-gate 'biners), Express ice-screws (the first in the world with a handle for fast placement) and many other products followed and they all led the way for the historical evolution of climbing and mountaineering from the second half of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century.
And all this without losing the spirit that paved their way: Peter Metcalf has been leading the way in his fight, against the numerous threat, for the conservation of public land in Utah. To this cause he had dedicated, not just his time, but also money from his company's profits.
They also economically support non-profit organizations, such as The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, The Conservation Alliance, Utah Clean Energy, Leave No Trace, Outdoor Industry Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance...
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