CAMP has been making and selling rock protection to climbers for decades and some of the classics are still as good today as they were when introduced.
We racked up with CAMP Tricams and Ball Nuts for trad and aid climbing this Spring and Summer to see how they handle granite, sandstone, pin scars and micro cracks.
If you listen to newer trad climbers, even many that have been climbing for a decade or so, you’ll usually hear comments made about Tricams only being by old school climbers. The insinuation is that older climbers are sticking to old gear and are too stubborn to give it up and move over to using just cams and nuts. Don’t get me wrong, cams and nuts are definitely the meat of any trad rack and their ability to enable a climber to quickly protect most routes is what has won people over to these tools. We decided to take our fresh batch of Tricams on an aid climbing adventure to really put them to the test. The route, The Finger of Fate (5.8, C3) on The Titan in the Fisher Towers. If you’ve ever mentioned the Fisher towers to someone has climbed there they probably either grimaced and shook their head or got a knowing grin and a faraway look in their eyes. Such is the the effect of climbing on the chossiest sandstone, Cutler sandstone, of the Fisher Towers.
The Finger of Fate is a great aid route that requires a clean aid climber to use all of the tricks in the book. Well known are the many blown out pin scars and pods that seem to defy logic and cams of any size or shape. Quite regularly, on these shallow pods, we pulled out the biner of Tricams to see if something could work. Almost every time it was a Tricam that came to the rescue and made upword progress possible. On more placements than I want to think about it was unclear exactly what the Tricam was holding onto because it looked like it should be popping right out, but time and time again they held through rigorous bounce testing and delicate body weight movements. We’ve used the Tricams in place of cam placements in camming mode, and many times in passive mode as you would place a nut. The shape and point on them are perfect for those hard to fit gear placements that seem to be too small for one nut and too big for the next. Horizontal cracks and pockets are the bread and butter for Tricams, and often the reason that they still get used regularly by newer climbers in areas that have a lot of these features. We haven’t had a chance to test them in an alpine setting yet, but my understanding from talking with other climbers is that they provide good protection in iced up cracks where other pro might just slip out. This is because of that prominent point again, which can dig into the ice to find solid rock and keep you safe. I feel like I’m gushing now, but every aid climber should have a set and I’d even recommend them for most trad climbing routes too where an extra few cams are needed. A set of Tricams on your harness sure adds some flexibility and peace of mind. Just get them, you’ll be happy you did.
First lets get the jokes out of the way. Yes, Ball Nut sounds like something you’d say in 7th grade to be funny, and frankly my wife gave me a sideways glance when I told her what they were called. With that said, they are among the more specialized pieces of rock climbing protection that are available on the market. I decided to get a set after climbing Moonlight Buttress and wished that I had some protection for some very narrow cracks that were too narrow even for 000 size cams. The only active pro that gets that small is the CAMP Ball Nut #1 and #2. The Ball nuts work on a simple system of angled aluminum plate with a groove that allows a small 1/2 copper ball to slide up and down making its own chockstone type effect. The effective range of protection for the range of Ball Nuts is 3mm – 18mm. We tested just the smallest 3 because the largest 2 fall into standard micro-cam territory which are more likely to get used. The #1 has a rating of 8kN, which is pretty impressive for such a small piece of protection. Nuts that get in to that size range usually have 4-6 kN rating making the Ball Nut a very attraction option for those really small placements. The head width of the ball nut can not only fit into small spaces width wise, but also length wise, because of their design. The #1 size only needs 3mm x 14mm to squeeze into.
Along with fitting into tiny cracks, we started taking them on lots of trad climbs because they are just so darn light. The design makes them really light and rack really well. You can easily get a whose set on one carabiner and it ends up being about the size of one small cam. Having the Ball Nuts along is really nice because suddenly all of the tiny cracks that you normally pass over because they’re too small become viable places for protection. You do want to make sure that you extend Ball Nut placements so that they don’t move and get stuck or come loose. A somewhat careful placement with a small tug is all it takes to get one set. Throw on a long quickdraw or sling and you suddenly have protection in that previously run-out section.
CAMP has some really great, versatile, rock protection that you can add to your rack for not a lot of money and not a lot of weight. It has made our climbing more fun and safe, and frankly made it possible to get up the Finger of Fate, which I don’t think would have been possible otherwise.