by Yvon Chouinard & Tom Frost
When this essay first saw print in the Chouinard Equipment catalog of Oct. '74, it was both surprising and revolutionary. Here was a company that made climbing hardware advocating a more pure, equipment-light approach to the sport. Why? Because popular climbing areas were being defaced by the constant pounding of pitons, and the overuse of gear only detracted from the real challenge — the climb. Such an argument could have hurt sales, but it didn't, because climbers saw that it was the right thing to do. Since then, Patagonia has taken many such stands in favor of the environment and the purity of sport. And we continue to grow.
The 1960s marked an awakening in American climbing characterized by a vast increase in climbing activity closely paralleled by a corresponding improvement in technique and equipment. Significant climbing advances have resulted. On the other hand, this combination is producing a serious problem — deterioration of the climbing environment. The deterioration is two-fold, involving the physical aspect of the mountains and the moral integrity of the climbers.
No longer can we assume the Earth's resources are limitless; that there are ranges of unclimbed peaks extending endlessly beyond the horizon. Mountains are finite, and despite their massive appearance, they are fragile.