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    The Master's Apprentice - Yvon Chouinard on Climbing with Fred Beckey


    In honor of the release of Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs from Patagonia Books, we recorded a short audio story in which Yvon Chouinard talks about his alpine apprenticeship with sensei Fred Beckey in 1961.


    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "The Master's Apprentice" by Yvon Chouinard



    Fred Beckey's 100 Favorite North American Climbs is available now from and select book sellers. In the book, Fred offers up his characteristic mix of route tips, natural history and climbing lore for his 100 favorite climbs (with honorable mentions of a few more) -- it's the magnum opus of America's most prolific first ascensionist.

    Check out Patagonia Books for more titles.

    "The Master's Apprentice" first appeared in Alpinist 14, winter 2005.

    Top: Yvon and Fred reconnect for a day of climbing in 2010. Photo: Jeff Johnson


    We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum


    On Saturday, September 17, demolition started on two Elwha River dams – the largest dams to be taken down in our nation’s history. And this is just one example from a movement that is gaining momentum and traction across the country this year.

    Communities are evaluating local dams that block free-flowing rivers, altering the natural ecosystems and species that rely on the flow. Dams kill fish and prevent migrating species like salmon from spawning, and they block nutrients and needed sediment from being transported downstream to coastal beaches and wetlands. These impacts ripple throughout the local environment, but also have huge social and economic consequences.

    [Above: Fletcher Chouinard, Malinda Chouinard, Yvon Chouinard, Claire Chouinard and Matt Stoecker have a message for President Obama. Elwha River, Washington. Photo: Michael Hanson]

    Continue reading "We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum" »

    On Tumplines


    Today’s post – about one of the simplest pieces of gear we’ve ever made – comes from Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. It originally appeared in the 1980 Chouinard Equipment Catalog. [Photo: Yvon Chouinard screengrab from The Simplest Solution and 180° South.]

    When I was at a ski show recently, walking by the booth of one of the largest pack manufacturers, a salesman/designer insisted I come in to look over his new pack design. He was terribly proud of it. We spent twenty full minutes going over its sophisticated load distribution features and anatomically S-curved frame, welded with tungsten/inert gas and its wonderful bag made of 420-denier Super-K-coated eight-ounce parapack nylon held together with 18 stitches per inch of cotton-wrapped Dacron thread. Finally, after reaching a fever pitch of enthusiasm and exhausting every aerospace term he knew, he stepped back beaming proudly. As his eyes gradually returned to their respective sockets he asked, “Well Mr. Chouinard, how do you like it?” I shrugged. “It looks like you’ve put a lot of thought into this thing,” I said, “and it certainly looks and feels good with all this display foam in it. But I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. I carry all my loads with a tump line now. And with one of those it doesn’t matter what you have on your back – a fearsome astro loader like this or a sack of potatoes.”

    That riled him a bit, but he didn’t know how I’d reached my tump line conclusion. In 1968, in the jungles of Colombia, I injured my neck while diving into a shallow river. Shortly after that faceplant, the muscles on one side of my neck atrophied, which in turn, has caused me classic back problems – nagging lower back pains and various muscle spasms. I’ve seen orthopedists and chiropractors and I’ve read every book I can on back problems. The consensus is this: most back problems are caused by a weak back or stomach muscles. Great. So how do I exercise muscles that have nerve damage? And I can’t stand to do any sort of exercise for exercise sake anyway...

    Continue reading "On Tumplines" »

    Beyond and Back: 180° South/Yvon Chouinard

    by Jeff Johnson

    1.08_frost_SUF06 002B

    Its been over a year since the initial premiere of our film 180° South at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. After that we had a west-coast tour. Then, for the next four months, it played at selected theaters around the country. There were some international shows as well – Spain, Australia, Japan, Canada, to name a few. It was an honor to have the opportunity to present the film at some of these venues and host Q&A’s afterward. I wish I could have been at them all.

    Every once in a while Yvon Chouinard would make it to one of these shows. While shooting the film we had spent long days and weeks together in remote Patagonia, climbing around and surfing a bit. It was quite a contrast to meet up with him again in these cities, in theaters, speaking to large audiences. But he has this casual way about him where he seems right at home just about anywhere.

    [Above: Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost. Photo: Tom Frost Collection]

    Continue reading "Beyond and Back: 180° South/Yvon Chouinard" »

    Deck the Halls with Girls and Dirtbags

    Holiday Party 2010 Mike and Dr. M

    Fred Beckey and Yvon Chouinard share a photo op with some of the amazing women who make this company tick, Patagonia Christmas Party 2010. Many thanks to Patagonia's own Mike Simpson and his band, Dr. M, for rocking (and I mean rocking) the dance floor. Big hugs to all the Patagonia employees who couldn't be in Ventura for the party and everyone who organized. Stay tuned for more on the secret project we've been cooking up with Fred – you're going to love it. Photos: Peter Briggs/Venture Photography

    American Alpine Journal Gems from 2010

    Kc - AAJ_2368 Climbing reports come in all forms. Some basic, simply giving the key details of a climb. Some tell a story, sometimes understated and sometimes overstated, sometimes hilarious and outrageous. And occasionally we stumble upon absolutely beautiful stories.

    I’m mostly talking about reports we receive for the American Alpine Journal, which is a yearly tome reporting the big new routes worldwide. It’s been published annually since 1929, and, for the last 10 years, I’ve been one of the editors. We strive for first-hand accounts from the climbers themselves, which generally makes for honest and authentic reporting.

    Again, it’s almost all big new routes – you won’t find reports from cragging or from tourists getting dragged up Everest. The reports range from major climbs that everyone knows about, to the less-technical but way remote and exploratory, to plenty of super badass climbs that went otherwise unreported (side note: in case you didn’t already know, there are a ton of low-key, under-the-radar, hard-men and -women out there).

    I’ve read thousands of reports in the last 10 years, and every year I make mental notes of my favorites. We on the editorial staff (all two-to-four of us, depending on the year…) call these “AAJ Gems.” They’re some of the best reports anywhere, I think, some of the best storytelling and best writing, often written by people you’ve never heard of.

    Jeff My vote for Gem of the year in the AAJ 2010 (which just came out and was recently mailed to AAC members and contributors) goes to someone many of us already know from the film 180 South: Jeff Johnson.

    [Top right: The 2010 AAJ. Photo: Kelly Cordes. Right: Jeff Johnson, courtesy Woodshed Films]

    Continue reading "American Alpine Journal Gems from 2010" »

    Stanley's: A Lost Treasure for California Surfers

    Stanley's was a surf break in Ventura County that was destroyed in the 1970s to make way for a highway. Listen to Yvon Chouinard describe what Stanley's used to be like and check out some great archival footage of this spot, courtesy of The Living Curl.

    This video and other stories like it can be found in our latest surf eCatalog, so be sure to check it out.

    Working Toward the Removal of the Matilija Dam

    ["Yvon Chouinard Q&A on Matilija Dam - American Express Member's Project" via YouTube. Video: Robert Richardson and Scott Hicks]

    Today we're following up on Yvon Chouinard's recent commercial for the American Express Members Project. The grad student Yvon mentions in the above video was Mark Capelli who, through his group Friends of the Ventura River, helped lay the foundation for all the work being done today to remove the Matilija Dam and restore the Ventura River ecosystem.

    For a report on the current state of the Matilija Dam's removal we contacted Paul Jenkin, founder of the Matilija Coalition and Environmental Director for the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

    Patagonia is a founding member and primary sponsor of the Matilija Coalition, an alliance of community groups, businesses, and individuals committed to the environmental restoration of the Ventura River watershed. Starting with the removal of Matilija Dam, the coalition is working for the recovery of the Southern Steelhead trout and the natural sediment supply to the beaches of Ventura.

    Continue reading "Working Toward the Removal of the Matilija Dam" »

    Yvon Chouinard and the American Express Members Project Commercial

    If you watched the Academy Awards last night you may have seen Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, appear on a commercial for the American Express Members Project, a new partnership with social-action network The piece was filmed in and around Ventura County by Robert Richardson – himself an Oscar-winning cinematographer – and directed by Scott Hicks of Shine fame. Read the official press release (Word doc).

    ["Yvon Chouinard and the American Express Members Project Commercial" on YouTube. Video: Robert Richardson and Scott Hicks]

    The dam that's featured is Matilija Dam, an outdated monstrosity that sits 18 miles upstream from Patagonia HQ on a tributary of the Ventura River. With its crumbling concrete and silt-filled reservoir, Matilija Dam no longer serves any beneficial purpose. Its removal would allow native Southern Steelhead trout to once again use the river to spawn, and give local beaches a much needed boost in sediments (more sand) from the steep canyons of Matilija Creek.

    At almost 200-feet tall, it would be largest dam ever removed in the United States. Later this week we'll share more about Matilija Dam and current efforts underway to free the river.

    All proceeds that Yvon receives from the commercial will be divided between five of environmental groups of his choice: Conservacion Patagonica, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Freedom to Roam Coalition, Native Fish Society and Save our Wild Salmon.

    180° South: The Premiere, The Book and the Inspiration Behind them Both


    On Wednesday, February 10, Chris Malloy's long-anticipated film 180° South will premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Hopefully those of you who live nearby will come out and join us for the screening. Details can be found on the Woodshed Films Facebook page or the SBIFF site. For those who can't make the premiere, there are a few ways you can get a taste of the story until we have more info on future screenings and the release of the film on DVD and Netflix.

    Mountain of Storms, the 1968 trip that inspired 180° South, is available now on DVD. I love this movie, and if you're a fan of our company, a climber, a surfer, a skier, a travel fanatic or nostalgic for the vibe of the late sixties, chances are you'll love it too. Also, Patagonia Books has published a beautiful hardcover book entitled 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless. Within its 240 pages are chapters written by Yvon Chouinard, Chris Malloy and Jeff Johnson, along with hundreds of photographs and a revealing set of campfire interviews, conducted by Chris Malloy, with Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins and Jeff Johnson.

    Hit the jump for excerpts from Mountain of Storms and 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless.

    Continue reading "180° South: The Premiere, The Book and the Inspiration Behind them Both" »

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