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Buying your first trad protection?

Submitted by joemor on 2002-05-23

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The most valuable piece of advice i can give is to try before you buy. Because trad gear is quite expensive you want to make sure that the gear you have is the gear you love, and that you dont end up regretting buying somthing because you jumped into it before givving other brands a chance. So shop around, ask questions, try gear on friends racks and get the best beta on products so u can make the best choices for you. and remember.... always get instruction on placing gear and learn well within you limits before trusting your life to it. [page] Nuts are the foundation of most racks. There cheap, there’s a large range of styles to fit different cracks, and they tend to be gear that is taken upon most climbs. in the beginnings of pro, climbers jammed river rocks or chock stones into cracks and slung them with rope slings which were then clipped to the climbers rope. by the early 60's British climbers had taken to using engineering nuts slung on rope or cord.... the nut was born. during the 60's manufacturers began to offer climbers rudimentary alloy "nuts". designs quickly improved and by the 70's almost all climbers had embraced the new technology. a nut is tapered so that it will wedge into the narrowing of a crack. there are two basic designs; stoppers and hexcentrics. stoppers are usually wired, except for some larger sizes that are sometimes slung on cord such as spectra or Gemini. wire is generally stronger than cord of the same thickness and its stiffness usually allows the stopper to be conveniently slotted higher in a crack. [page] Hexcentrics or hexes are six sided alloy nuts. Originally designed in 1971 by Chouinard Equipment (now Black Diamond), these nuts quickly became the benchmark in state of the art protection. However, their immense popularity during the 70’s nose dived after the introduction of spring loaded camming devices (SLCD). But although down, hexes should not be thought of as out. Hexcentrics are still the best form of nut protection in bottle neck placements and will out perform any SLCD. To quote Black Diamond: “ because our asymmetrical hexagonal design allows one excentric to fit four different crack configurations, the hex has a range similar to a comparably sized SLCD, at considerably reduced weight and price.” Hexes are generally slung with cord or sewn slings. If you are to tie your own corded hexes use a double fisherman’s knot, unless you are using spectra where you need to tie a triple fisherman’s knot. Always leave a few cm of tail on your knots and arrange the knot away from the nut so it doesn’t interfere when placing it. [page] In 1978 an American aerospace engineer and climber, Ray Jardine, invented a device which relied not on its ability to wedge, but on its ability to cam. “friends” revolutionised climbing as they could be used to easily protect routes previously regarded as dangerous leads. For the first time protection could be quickly placed in parallel sided and even flaring cracks and pockets. The character of grades of many of the worlds hardest climbs changed overnight. Critics of the friend revolution claimed that they made climbing too easy and should be disregarded or even condemned as unethical. Most climbers that use them never looked back. Friends were later copied by a dozen other manufacturers and spring loaded camming devices (SLCDs) have matured to become an important part of every climbers rack. In the early 80’s Australian climbing legend Malcom Matheson designed a micro SLCD in two sizes and with unique titanium stems. Manufactures were quick to mass produce these micro designs, and very soon released a range of SLCD that would fit the narrowest of finger cracks. SLCDs have a single or dual stem that is either ridged or flexible. This stem supports an axel, sometimes two on which three or four spring loaded cams are attached. A trigger allows the user to adjust the expansion range of the cams. Each brand offers a slightly different design with a choice of between 6 and about 20 SLCDs. There are cheap cams and top o the line models, all i can do as far as recomending them is say its hard to buy more cams after you have already bought a be sure to buy the ones you like best..whether they are the expensive ones or the cheap ones. [page] I understand that there is a far larger range of gear available but a set or two of nuts, a set of hexes and maybe even some cams, should be a good starting point and once you begin to know your gear and the climbing youll be doing that will guide you as to your future gear purchases. pm me with any further queries. joe

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