needs no general
introduction from me.On the left is a photo of
him taken on an early trip to Bobquiviri. Superb rock climber and
alpinist, innovative ice climber,
surfer, world class fisherman,
founder & CEO of a major company,
tennis partner of Harrison Ford, business
leader recognized by Bill Clinton.
The list is endless.
Photo Bonnie Kamps
He was, however, just an impecunious
young California climber when he and I met
in the Tetons in the 1950s and camped, bouldered,
and climbed together. He was existing
on fifty cents a day, and I was much better off,
at seventy five cents a day.
I recall driving around Jackson Hole
with Yvon in his ancient car, searching the dumps
for abandoned stovepipe he could use in his forge.
I remember when he first
introduced his famous chromolly
pitons. And I lost one of his Rurp prototypes
when I neglected to attach a piton
keeper while leading a pitch on a climb
we were doing. (He just smiled and said, that's
OK. A few minutes later Glenn Exum passed
our climb on the Garnet Canyon Trail, below
- I remember he shouted up "Yvon, you're
as smooth as a ballet dancer!". Yvon later tried
to become a guide for Exum, but Glenn was intimidated
by Chouinard's stunning climbing
ability and wouldn't hire him at that time.
Years later, Exum admitted that not
hiring Yvon then was the most serious error in judgment
he ever made - they become close friends as the
years passed). Yvon was my first regular bouldering
companion, and the person who told me the kind
of climbing I was doing was, indeed, called "bouldering".
We spent hours at the Jenny Lake boulders and
Blacktail Butte– usually on off days when he wasn't
on some peak making a first ascent - one of us taller
than average, the other shorter than average, so that
Yvon referred to us as "Mutt and Jeff" (a cartoon pair
from old newspapers).
Stoney Point in the late
Photo Roger Brown
After those early years Yvon spent part of his
summers guiding and teaching in the
Tetons. One of his enthusiastic pupils
was Tom Brokaw, the NBC News anchor.
They became fast friends. I recall reading
an article in Outside Magazine about
a very primitive ascent of Mt. Moran the
two of them made. Chouinard insisted they
didn't need sleeping bags or a buffet of food.
So they huddled around a small campfire, chewing
on the only edible Yvon had brought: a hard
sausage. Ditto for breakfast and lunch. Yvon knows
where to find the roots of adventure.
away in a Park Service safe is
to the Jenny Lake Boulders"
we produced in about 1958 (this
is not the version available on-line). A parody of Ortenberger's
"Climbers Guide to the Teton
Range", it included a section on geology
by Yvon ( "These boulders
are composed of stone. . .")
and a section on weather ("These
are large boulders and can produce their
own weather conditions. . . "). I could
tell you a number of tales about Yvon at that time,
but lack the space here. Suffice it to say he was an
excellent boulderer and climbing companion,
witty, smart, and bold, and very popular with
both the Rangers and his fellow climbers.
And even then he was catching huge fish! Those were
the golden days of our sport, and I was fortunate
to know this great climber!