John Salath, a Swiss immigrant blacksmith, and mechanically-savvy father of big-wall climbing first nailed and drilled his way up the flawless granite of El Capitan in 1947. Anyone who wanted to follow his footsteps and claim their own wall had to BYO hand-made pitons. Jerry Gallwas taught himself to pound them out on an abandoned anvil he’d found in the desert and dragged home. Bill “Dolt” Feuerer, an aerospace engineer, made “stove leg” pitons—quite literally from stoves.
@patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard, is legendary for being self-taught in metalsmithing and producing affordable climbing gear he then sold out of the back of his truck. This kind of hardware availability began the democratization of the sport, ushering in the Golden Age of Yosemite over the following decade. Until that point, as Fidelman says, “if you didn’t have a toolmaker, you couldn’t climb.” From our Feature 'When Stone Speaks', by Lisa Richardson (@pembygrl) available to read online now. Link in profile.
Photo: Dean Fidelman
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