In the climbing world, "Class Five" represents that exciting point at which a humdrum "hike" becomes a "climb."
In 2015, I came to a new understanding of the Meaning of "Class Five climbing.". I'd watched the film of famed Yosemite rock climber Ron Kauk. His film is named "Return to Balance." His words brought a realization to my mind that Class five rock is where my normal obsessions with the remembered Past and imagined Future both drop away, and there is only a razor focus on the miraculous Present... I think that as one enter the Class Five world, suddenly fear and excitement merge, and one realizes that now a misstep might result in falling to ones death. At this moment, ones senses sharpen, the wind, the heat of the sun, the texture of the rock, the sound of a distant waterfall, all that streams in. Class 5 gear was marketed with that edge; the products seemed exciting and new-- true "The Standard of the World" stuff.
C5 News: Marty McFly down vests: it seems there is a bit of a collector's scene going on over the Class 5, rust-colored puffy down vest, as worn by Marty McFly in the movie Back to the Future. I've been contacted by folks both here and abroad about sources for the vest. Of course the sad news is that their search is futile since the company is long gone. Their only hope will be eBay or other used gear source. Here is Michael J. Fox in his red vest playing his role in the film:
Justus Bauschinger (JB) is the name most often thought of as the founder of Class - 5.(which he abbreviated "C5")...Justus is the son of a German rocket scientist who came to the U.S. with the famous Werner Von Braun.....Like many of the other famous founders of Bay Area companies like Sierra Designs and North Face, Bauschinger cut his teeth by working for George Rudolph, who had founded The Ski Hut in 1935.... Justus was known as a very creative gear designer for The Ski Hut's manufacturing operation, which was named Trailwise..... In about 1966 he bought into a small retail group named "The North Face," which had a few stores in the Bay Area. But money got tight and things became more complicated. May,1968 marked the acquisition of The North Face by Hap Klopp, another old Ski Hut/Trailwise employee. Klopp went on to run the hugely successful modern "The North Face" up until 1989. JB became Head Designer at the new North Face, but that did not last. Bauschinger made a creative break and went on to found Class 5. But here the birth story diverges depending upon who is telling it. Some of his three original sewers tell me that they were co-equal creators of the tiny new company. They all came over from Trailwise with Justus. This could be why the early C5 labels are identified the sewers: May Chinn, Revelyn Lago and Barbara Guess .....Below is a classic Class 5-flavored advertisement. The founder's sense of humor and considerable flair becomes obvious when one realizes that the "climber" and his dog are actually stretching out on a sun-warmed street in downtown Berkeley! The picture is a big spoof on the hardcore rock climbing scene!
Please Note: All Material below, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. Some of the material below is derived from email correspondence with company founder Justus B; the majority is derived from interviews with collaterals such as Hap Klopp, George Marks, and others such as Bob Woodward. ... Editors: Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have interest in publishing....Others: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon.
Class 5 produced brillant and very well-made gear up until 1983, when the company was closed down. It has now been decades since the ending of Class 5. My Class 5 down parka has lasted very well for over 30 years.
Justus is still in the business of fun, intriguing catalogs that offer unusual things for sale! For the past decade or so he's been running a company which imports goods from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. That company is named "Lilliput Motor Company" and its web address is lilmoco.com., phone 1-800-Tin-Toys.... He has (or had) a second company named Deutsche Optik. As an amateur astronomer, I've been particularly intrigued by the various optics he was importing around 2005, the most spectacular of which were the giant 25x100 "Border Patrol" binoculars. Below is a picture of Justus at work, taken from one of his 2008 Deutsche Optik catalogs.
First in the series was a volume about Frostline Kits of Colorado, completed with considerable help with the company founder, Mr. Dale Johnson. Next came "GERRY, To Live in the Mountains," 78 pages, 10x8 inches, full-color, released May 20, 2008; this book also benefited from considerable help from its company founder, Mr. Gerry Cunningham. And there are other books; for a complete look at the ten titles I have created, click here.