Chouinard carabiner Timeline & Identification Guide- 1968-89


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Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 25, 2010 - 02:56pm PT
With the onset of winter weather (snowy & cold as Hades in S. Idaho) and a little extra time: I’ve been doing research.

My reference sources are: information on Super Topo, some great help by Clint Cummins & Marty - Karabine Museum, assistance from other Super Topo members, my own memory of carabiners I’ve acquired since 1970, and my collection of Chouinard and Great Pacific Iron Works catalogs.

My catalog set is: from 1968 on, most of the Chouinard, Great Pacific Iron Works, and early Black Diamond catalogs. Chouinard Equipment was purchased by Black Diamond in 1989.

What I have tried to achieve is a “timeline” of when various models of Chouinard carabiners were sold. The great help here is: Until 1984 Chouinard catalogs all had: A History of Chouinard Firsts. The history showed when each significant new piece of gear was introduced.

From previous postings and the Chouinard catalog timeline, we know Chouinard carabiner production started in 1957. It appears there were three-models produced prior to 1968, but all were marked Alcoa.

Here is a link to a thread on ST that has much good information on pre-1968 Chouinard carabiners.

2018 Edit! There has also been a wealth of information posted on this thread about the 1957-67 Chouinard Alcoa carabiners! After a early 2018 back & forth between the enthusiastic & knowledgeable collector Marty (Karabin Museum) & the biographer of Tom Frost & collector Steve Grossman, it appears there were only two significant variations of the first Chouinard Alcoa carabiners, although 3 models are implied in the 1960 DOLT catalog, the first catalog with a photo of the Chouinard Alcoa carabiner. Here’s a link to their discussion:

The earliest Chouinard Alcoa carabiner is without Chouinard on one side. As of spring 2018, only 14 known examples have shown up in collections.

The only other distinctive variation of the Chouinard Alcoa carabiner has
a somewhat weakly marked CHOUINARD on one side & the same Alcoa markings as the above carabiner on the other side.. While quite uncommon, there are likely many hundreds of these, although they only show up on EBay a few times a year.

Since this thread has been so wonderful, with participation from many, I have kept a copy of it as a word.doc & I also have most of the photos as jpegs. I will be glad to share with any legit historian or website that wants to repost the thread.

Ray Brooks aka Fritz

The first model

The second model

Here is the last Chouinard catalog timeline I could find. It is from the 1983 catalog. Later catalogs do not show the timeline, perhaps to reduce liability for older products failing.

In my photos of carabiners, I note information marked on the carabiners in Bold, model of carabiner, dates of production, and weight of carabiner from my digital postal scale.

Carabiner page from Chouinard 1968 catalog.

In what is usually known as the Chouinard 1972 catalog, the 1968 model carabiner is noted as having production moved to the Salewa factory, which was in West Germany.

In June 1972 Chouinard issued a recall on the Chouinard/Salewa carabiners. All recalled carabiners were tested and the gates were stamped tested. All subsequent production of the Chouinard/Salewa carabiner had the gate stamped tested.

Advertisement in Off Belay Magazine, June 1972.

Chiloe posted a photo of one of the very first Tested Chouinard/Salewa carabiners in the Eiger carabiner thread and has kindly allowed me to show it here as well.

From Chiloe:
Others, however (I think in the first round of testing), were stamped with a much less distinct "T" before the 2200kp label. You can see the "T" right before the "2" on this one.

After the initial batch of Tested Chouinard/Salewa carabiners were stamped T, later tested carabiners were stamped tested on the gates.

The above carabiners were purchased in 1972, returned to Chouinard for testing, and received back with the tested stamp on the gates.

I have acquired some other Chouinard/Salewa carabiners that have W. Germany stamped on the opposite side of the gate. I am guessing these are from later production and give these a production date of 1973.

The Chouinard timeline notes a new carabiner style in 1974. It is described in the 1975 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog.
(In 1973 Chouinard incorporated and named his business: Great Pacific Iron Works).

The real 1974 carabiner.

At this point I get into carabiners that don’t show up in any of my catalogs. Clint Cummins has shared information on two models that are transitional from the 1974 D carabiner to a new model D that debuted in 1978.
The first transitional model looks just like the 1974 D, except the 4000 lbs is replaced with 2100KG.

I do not own an example of the second transitional 2100 KG D, but it looks just like the carabiner that was introduced in 1978.

In the 1978 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog, a new model D is introduced. Clint Cummins caught the fact that the catalog photo was however of the earlier, large nose D.
Note how the nose of the 1978 D is lower in profile than the carabiner shown in the 1978 catalog. The catalog copy notes “the gate latch width has now been made narrower---------.”

I must report still another Chouinard carabiner variant.
Per the above photo, they are only stamped on one side, but the side varies.

They match up as being a transitional carabiner from the 1974-77 Chouinard D marked 4000 LBS to the 1977 transitional D's that are marked 2100KG, but never show up in a Chouinard catalog, which were a transition to the 1978 D marked 2200KG that is in the 1978 Chouinard/Great Pacific Iron Works catalog.

I've sent a spare to Marty at the Karabine Museum, but we both think these are prototypes. Keying on the height & length of the nose, I date this prototype Chouinard biner to 1977, when Chouinard was re-working his carabiner line.

Per the below photo, with the 4000 lb. 1974-77 Chouinard D at the bottom, the never-seen in a catalog 2100 KG D, that looks identical to the 4000 lb. D just above it, & the new prototype, in the middle. They all have higher noses than the two biners above them, but the nose on the prototype looks different from the two bottom carabiners.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

In the 1978 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog two entirely new carabiners are also introduced: The Oval and the Featherweight.

The Chouinard timeline shows the Featherweight date of origin as 1977. It is made of hollow aluminum tubing and is very similar to hollow carabiners that Salewa came out with at about the same date.

Salewa also produced the hollow carabiners for Robbins, but it appears the Chouinard Featherweights were produced in the U.S.

EDIT On Nov. 4 2015 I discovered one of my Chouinard Featherweights is incised 1700 KG-U.S.A. In the 3 catalogs I have for the history of this carabiner, 1978, 80, & 81, it is described as 1600 KG-U.S.A. So another varient that is not in a catalog? Marty/Karabin Museum posted another 1700KG Featherweight on this thread on 5/27/14. By fall 2018, after seeing a very few more of the 1700 KG model on EBay, I think this was the first production model of the 1978 Featherweight, but the marking were quickly changed to 1600KG, after a very-short production run.

The 1980 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog asserts the Featherweights are made from aluminum tubing produced for Boeing.

The Chouinard Oval with a 2,000 lb. breaking strength shows up in the 1978 catalog, and remained in the carabiner lineup until 1989.

However, there were at least 4 design changes to the Oval over a 10 year period.
In the 1978 catalog the whole carabiner is round aluminum rod, with Chouinard stamped on one side of the body and 2000 KG-USA on the opposite side.

By the 1980 catalog, the Oval’s body had been slightly flattened, but the gate still used round rod. It is now also stamped on the gate, rather than the body.
Brian from SLC owns a better example of the 1980 Oval that is stamped on its gate, per these two photos.

By the 1983 catalog, the Oval’s body has been flattened more, while the gate still has round rod. It now has raised lettering on the body, with Chouinard on one side and 2000KG-USA on the reverse. The 1985 catalog shows the changes better than the 1983 catalog.

The 1988 & 1989 catalogs show a slightly rounder rod oval, with a different treatment on the raised lettering.

Here's photos of the 4 different style of oval.


Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 25, 2010 - 11:02pm PT


I think I will be able to post "part II" of this tomorrow.

1980-1989 Chouinard Carabiners.

Everyone should have a hobby!

I have too many hobbies!


Big Wall climber
Sedro Woolley, WA
Nov 25, 2010 - 11:42pm PT
Fritz et al,

Damn good effort there on the Chouinard carabiners, now I will have to dig out the pile and see what years I have. The most bizzare Chouinard carabiners I own are those crazy Hollow ones (Featherweight) that used to not close if accidently weighted when open; that is when I weighed 165lbs!!! I sure as hell am not getting on the scales after Thanksgiving Dinner and Pumpkin Pie with whipping cream!!! Hahaha


*I have 18 Featherweights, I was trying to 'go light' even in the 80's!

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2010 - 01:40pm PT
Thorgon: Good for you! Glad you hung onto those Featherweight biners and the cool rope bag. The rope bag is not in any catalog I own, until 1983. I don't have a 1981-82 Chouinard catalog.


Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2010 - 03:33pm PT
Part 2 of Chouinard Carabiners: 1980-1989.

In the 1980 Great Pacific Iron Works catalog a new carabiner is introduced: The Light D.
In my photos of carabiners, I note information put on the carabiners in Bold, model of carabiner, dates of production, and weight of carabiner from my digital postal scale.

By 1984 The information on the Light D carabiner was embossed on the body instead of stamped on the gate and it continued that way through 1989.

Brian from SLC has photos of three Light D's that are embossed on the body. The one with smaller embossing is embossed Chouinard USA, and does not match-up with any catalog photos I have. Likely it was a 1983-84 transition between stamping on the gate and embossing on the body.

In 1982 Chouinard introduced an “Improved” Featherweight carabiner, and three new “Reverse-Locking” carabiners.

Also by 1983: the name Great Pacific Iron Works had been dropped in favor of Chouinard Equipment for Alpinists. From 1984 on, the climbing gear catalogs were titled Chouinard Equipment. Likely this occurred, since there were now separate Patagonia catalogs for the clothing line, and Great Pacific Iron Works had been the umbrella name for the whole corporation.

Here is the 1983 catalog information on the Improved Featherweight. It is not hollow like the Featherweight from 1977.

Marty & the Karabin Museum has provided images of carabiners out of the Chouinard 1982 catalog. The only one that doesn't show up for the 1983 catalog is a new Reverse Locking Oval.
Here is the real Reverse Locking Oval, owned by Chiloe.

Here is 1983 catalog information on the four other Reverse-Locking carabiners.

The only one of the four I own is a Light-D Locker. I finally retired it this year and bought some Petzl lockers (younger climbing partners were “getting suspicious” of my ancient lockers.)

Three of the four locking carabiners would stay in the Chouinard catalog. The Marinabiner was discontinued in 1989, just before the end of Chouinard Equipment.

Here is a photo of a Locking Light D and a Big D Locker, owned by Spider Savage.
Here is a Pearbiner owned by Groundup.

In 1985 Chouinard introduced the New Standard carabiner. It also stays in the line until the end of Chouinard Equipment in 1989.

Interestingly, it looks exactly the same as the Improved Featherweight carabiner introduced in 1983. It weighs the same, and the catalog description is almost identical.

I must jump to the conclusion that the folks in marketing did a name change to help sales.

New Standard carabiner = Improved Featherweight Carabiner.

My scale shows weight as 1.8 oz, while the catalog copy shows it as 1.65. Fudging on weight claims, since lighter gear sells better: is a venerable tradition in the Outdoor Industry.

Here’s the New Standard Carabiner description from the Chouinard 1985 catalog.

Here’s an 1985 Chouinard ad comparing the new Standard carabiner with the original Chouinard carabiner.

In the 1984 & 85 Chouinard catalogs there are two-page sections describing the manufacturing and testing of Chouinard carabiners.

The carabiner information in each catalog is slightly different, but the 1985 catalog information page covers the basics very well.

The next carabiner introduced by Chouinard was the Quick Silver in 1988.

Finally in 1989, the last Chouinard Carabiner is introduced in the last Chouinard catalog. The BentGate Quicksilver would have a very short production span at Chouinard Equipment.

Chiloe posted some photos of a Chouinard BentGate Quicksilver that is anodized, below a similar model from Black Diamond.

Printed reports state Chouinard Equipment was forced into bankruptcy by lawsuits alleging that it failed to warn customers of the fact that rock climbing was dangerous. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 17, 1989.

After Black Diamond bought the assets of bankrupt Chouinard Equipment in 1989, in an employee buyout: they continued some of the designs shown in this thread.

That can be a chapter for some other author.

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 26, 2010 - 04:25pm PT
Nice Part 2!

I would classify these as 2 (slightly) different models.
The upper one has a larger exposed nose, exposed front area at the hinge,
and stamped lettering.
The lower one has a smaller exposed nose, flush front area at the hinge,
and raised (embossed) lettering.

The Light D exists with these 2 variations as well.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2010 - 05:01pm PT
Clint: You do have a discerning eye (that I apparently lack).

When I measure the height of the nose on each of the above carabiners.

The lower one is 1.1 cm. high and .6 cm. thick at the gate-pin notch.

The upper one is 1.3 cm. high and .5 cm. at the gate-pin notch.


Carabiner on the left has the higher, but thiner nose.

Of the 20 I own, three are the lower profile, but thicker version.

Thanks for catching that stuff!

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 26, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
It looks like this thread is generating some interest on ebay, too - people realizing what they have and seeing what the market might be like for carabiner collectors:
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Nov 26, 2010 - 10:17pm PT
Don't forget the large locking D from the mid-1980's. Pictured here next to a locking light-D.

I like to use the light locking-D in combination with two standard light-D carabiners for a TR anchor.

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2010 - 10:52pm PT
Spider: Cool! The big one is a Pearbiner. Edit! Me bad! Per Clint input below: it is a Big D Locking carabiner. (I was drinking and watching football in between posting last night).

It is in my thread. 1983-89 production. Did you ever use it for a Munter-Hitch belay? The Chouinard catalog pushes that application for it.
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Nov 27, 2010 - 12:25am PT
Okay, I see it up there now.

Never used the munter-hitch. Used it with a stitch-plate, sans-spring.

I always wanted a Marinbiner but they were very expensive (at the time).
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Nov 27, 2010 - 01:56am PT
Spider's larger locking biner is the "Big D Locking Carabiner" from the 1983 catalog.
It is the same shape as the Marinabiner, but it's not black.
The Pearabiner is round on both ends. I have a couple of them.

Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Nov 27, 2010 - 02:06am PT
My first locking was a pearbiner, IIRC, around that 80s time frame.

The reverse locking aspect was really neat. Why was it discontinued?

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
Nov 27, 2010 - 09:34am PT
great thread!
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
Nov 27, 2010 - 11:07am PT
Those reverse lockers feel kinda flimsy and may not have been popular. The locking sleeve can also move on it's own with vibration and random contact combined with gravity.

I like the because if you get dirt or sand in them they are easy to clean out.

I still use mine regularly and enjoy them.

I also have a good collection of the light D and light ovals from the mid to late 1980's. I had them retired for awhile in favor of nutrinos. However, I don't like the nutrinos much and brought the old ones back into service.
karabin museum

Trad climber
phoenix, az
Nov 27, 2010 - 01:28pm PT

Very Sweet! I love this history stuff.
Do you have a Chouinard 1976 catalog that shows the Chouinards first list ending with 1976? My 1976 catalog ends with 1975 on the Chouinard firsts list. The 1977 catalog lists 1976 items but I have not found a 1976 catalog that has 1976 on the list. The 1975, 1976, 1977 catalogs all look the same. the 1975 shows a photo of solid hexes. 1976 shows a photo of drilled hexes but only lists products up to 1975. 1977 catalog has 1976,1977 in Chouinard first list.
Another question: Do you have a catalog that shows Chouinard North Wall hammer with wood handle? Came out in 1976 in wood and was fiberglass in 1978.

Rock on! Marty

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 27, 2010 - 03:24pm PT
Marty: Thanks for joining in. My two Great Pacific Iron Works 1976 catalogs both fit criteria for being printed in 1976. The List of Chouinard Firsts ends in 1975.

However I have a GPIW 1978 catalog that still shows bamboo North Wall hammer. Here is cover and that page.

karabin museum

Trad climber
phoenix, az
Nov 27, 2010 - 11:42pm PT
The reason I ask is that recently on Ebay was a Chouinard Northwall hammer that had a climbaxe hammer handle. The head design was different as well compared to this photo shown in the 1978 catalog.
My question is: Did the first production of Northwall hammers 1976 just have hammer handles? If so it could be considered another version of the Alpine Hammer.
Second question: Is there a Spring and Fall catalog created for 1975, 76, 77? This may explain why so many of us have a 1976 catalog that does not list the 1976 chouinard firsts in the listings. Maybe these catalogs that show Hexes with drilled holes are fall 1975 versions. Someday maybe a different version of the 75, 76 catalog will surface.
You know, people say that the Bible is confusing but tracking Chouinards gear and the reason for so many changes is quite a mystery at times. But these master craftsmen sure created a beautiful story of gear!!!

I may have a few carabiners to add to your ID guide.

Rock on! Marty
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 27, 2010 - 11:49pm PT
Marty, you mean this photo?

Yeah, pretty interesting. You get your hands on it yet?

Never seen anything like that Northwall hammer. Good stuff!


Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 28, 2010 - 11:27am PT
Brian: Glad to see you post here!

Marty: Very interesting questions.

The EBAY Northwall hammer that Brian shows a photo of was "a bolt from the blue to me."

I have no memory of that hammer-shaft variation, even though: I ran a retail outdoor shop from 1973-83, carried Chouinard climbing gear, was buddies with the reps, and tried to live the alpine climbing life-style(in between work, girlfriends, etc.)

As for your second question.

Second question: Is there a Spring and Fall catalog created for 1975, 76, 77?

Unfortunatly I can't answer that question either. My general memory is one catalog a year with the same format for several years: with yearly changes in prices. But I am not certain of that.

I would love to track down Dale Day, who was the Northwest Chouinard rep from about 1973-80. Last I heard he was back in California and importing fashion footwear. There certainly are other ex-Chouinard reps out there, who might remember that historical trivia.

Also Marty: by all means, post up more carabiners. I would like to copy and post your information into the carabiner timeline too.

Thanks Fritz

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