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Anyone trad climb without cams?
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By Timothy Nolan
From Vermont
Jan 22, 2010
GASP

So I was taught to trad climb on a rack that only had 1 cam.

There is a lot of talk on here about cams, and I guess I wanted to take a straw poll of climbers to see how common it was for people to climb only on passive pro.

Does anyone now (or have you in the past) climb with on a rack that was all or mostly passive protection?


How common is it for today's trad climber to reach for a hex or a stopper before to reach for a cam?

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By saxfiend
Administrator
From Decatur, GA
Jan 22, 2010
Relaxing at the P1 belay of Fruit Loops at Rumbling Bald.
I'll occasionally lead a route intentionally using nothing but passive gear. I just do this as an exercise to force myself to not rely on cams as much and increase my skills at placing passive pro. On routine leads (i.e., when I'm not doing this specific exercise), I still try to place nuts, tricams or hexes whenever I have the opportunity.

JL

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By jack roberts
Jan 22, 2010
Same as Saxfriend, I occasionally only use passive pro as a way to keep my skills sharp and to actually add more "fun" to my rock climbing day..............

I find that relying on cams all the time makes me lazy.

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By Paul Shultz
From Hudson, Ma
Jan 22, 2010
Me! <br /> <br />
Believe it or not, there were days before cams.

Royal Robbins used nuts only for a first ascent and shocked the world.

I think that being able to do a route with just passive pro is great! Cheaper rack and far lighter, unfortunately, I think that many have found cams to be indispensable because of the little variation that have.

I've climbed several routes where I used up a whole bunch of nuts and barely touched my cams. Nuts are simple and are the most solid thing out there.

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By Timothy Nolan
From Vermont
Jan 22, 2010
Paul Shultz wrote:
Believe it or not, there were days before cams. Royal Robbins used nuts only for a first ascent and shocked the world. I think that being able to do a route with just passive pro is great! Cheaper rack and far lighter, unfortunately, I think that many have found cams to be indispensable because of the little variation that have. I've climbed several routes where I used up a whole bunch of nuts and barely touched my cams. Nuts are simple and are the most solid thing out there.

yea, when i was first learning I was given a copy of "rockcraft 2" and told to read it 5 times before i even went out to go climbing

I know there were people climbing 5.12 before cams existed.

I just wonder how common it is now.

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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Jan 22, 2010
Bocan
Releated thread...

mountainproject.com/v/trad_cli...

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By Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Jan 22, 2010
Viking helmet cover, yep.
I've done a couple, more because I was sport climbing for the day and only brought up a set of nuts, and then saw a trad line I wanted to do; it's definitely a good exercise though, for sure. Most climbers now seem to eschew hexes in favor of cams, seems like every time I bring mine up (I generally only bring them on a loooooong multi-pitch) some other climber makes a comment along the lines of, "You still use THOSE THINGS!?!?!". I still love 'em though :) Put in that bigass blue BD hex and I feel like the wall is gonna fall apart before the hex ever falls out. The only climber I know who doesn't use cams and only uses hexes/nuts is Jim Erickson, but he's also a certified old-school badass; he says he doesn't trust cams because of all the moving parts (which I find kind of funny, in the new Eldo guide they have a picture of his first "clean" rack with a WOODEN hex!)

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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
Jan 22, 2010
If you are as old as me and started climbing in 1974...you sure climbed without cams. I remember doing Soler and Ecstasy at Seneca Rocks with perloned hexes and flat-faced stoppers...that was the second year, I believe, they were on the market. I thought EBs were the bomb back then. Seriously, although I have a nice rack of cams and stuff now, practicing just with hexes and stoppers would certainly give you a real idea of what old schoolers experienced. Back then if you couldn't get a placement in within a few minutes on a difficult section, you just said screw it and ran it out. Back then:

'When in doubt, run it out' saved my ass from flaming out while trying to get in a manky piece of pro. I'm glad to reach down and have a nice selection of cams to use these days. I wouldn't really recommend the old school approach now. However, like Saxfiend and Jack Roberts, you should be trying to place stoppers, tricams and hexes when possible. You'll be a smarter, craftier leader.

Basic and Advanced Rockcraft by R Robbins were the word regarding trad instruction back then. I still have those books.

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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Jan 22, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.
Yeah, like Tradster, I climbed camless from '77 to '80, including some big walls. But I climb moderate trads now that I laughed up in my teens and wonder what kind of brass balls I had to climb them on stoppers and hexes. Perspectives and comfort levels change I guess. I also used to run it way the heck out...and had some absolutely desperate, frantic, panic-suffocating experiences. Glad I'm still alive!

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By Tony A. Davis
From Drake, Colorado
Jan 22, 2010
Pic
Like Tradster and Shawn I started climbing quite a while back with big hexes and tube chocks, all passive gear. Now I always carry stoppers and RP's for small stuff but really like to use up my cams, I like to think that knowledge about placing a wide range of pro is a good thing and makes the practice of placement even better.

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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
Jan 22, 2010
Another thought on passive pro. If I'm leading a long pitch, I usually will deliberately use my passive gear first, because that way when I reach the belay, I will have more cams left to rig the belay with, plus you are 'saving' the cams for up higher when you may be a bit tired or perhaps passive placements have vanished. Just a thought.

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By cheifitj
From Boulder, Colorado
Jan 22, 2010
Casual Route Pitch 3  <br />Photo by Mark Cushman
My first while in trad climbing was on passive gear only. (and yes I am young enough that cams already existed when I started to climb.)

It was how I learned and I think it was the best advice I was given. I push for new climbers to start on passive gear only. I still carry way more passive pro than most folks I climb with and use it. (You best have a nut tool and be good with it when you climb with me.)

-Jon

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By GG Park
From Santa Cruz, CA
Jan 22, 2010
I've been climbing for several decades, so I had several years of climbing in before using my first cam. I agree with the Jim Erickson perspective on moving parts, but nevertheless now own and use cams frequently. I do, however, still enjoy doing routes without cams, and sometimes seek them out specifically for that reason. A good, all chock (and maybe no chalk.....) climb that is way worthy is Mainliner at Lumpy Ridge. The 2-mile walk in encourages leaving the cams at the car. With two or three sets of chocks (I've done it with just wireds) you won't miss the cams. I recommend occasionally doing climbs, where feasible, on all passive gear for several reasons: security (nothing makes me feel secure like a well-set chock), economy, weight, aesthetics and simplicity. Just one more way to enrich the climbing experience.

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By half-pad-mini-jug
From crauschville
Jan 22, 2010
For the first several years I climbed, it was all trad and I had one first generation friend and the rest nuts and hexes. I hardly even used the cam too, cuz it was a hand-me-down and looked old and brutal, passive pro's where its at.

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By jmeizis
From Colorado Springs, CO
Jan 22, 2010
The Beginning of Mr. Clean (5.8) at the Barkeater Cliffs in Adirondack Park NY.
When I first started trad climbing all I could afford were nuts, hexes, and tricams. Up until about a month ago I had to borrow other people's gear if I wanted to use cams. Now I've got a pretty well rounded rack. I rarely use the hexes, occasionally use the tricams, often use the nuts, and same for my new cams.

I also try to save cams for the more difficult parts of a pitch or higher up where I may be tired. The first fall I ever took was on a nut solo aiding, the second was on a cam. It also has a lot to do with the rock you climb on. I learned in New England where nuts and tricams are both commonplace and bomber, now I climb a lot in Colorado and Utah on sandstone where cams are just easier and more secure in many placements.

It's kind of weird because as soon as I moved here I started using cams a lot more and feel like I waste a lot more time when trying to pick the right nut because I'm out of practice.

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By Marc H
From Lafayette, CO
Jan 22, 2010
The Cathedral Spires in RMNP, left to right: Stiletto, Sharkstooth, Forbidden Tower, Petit Grepon, The Saber, The Foil, The Moon & The Jackknife.
Henry Barber.

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By john strand
From southern colo
Jan 22, 2010
Ya Henry and rumored John Bragg

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By Colin Simon
From Boulder, CO
Jan 22, 2010
Just below Thunderbolt Peak
Butterballs was done exclusively on nuts!

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By Sergio P
From Idaho Springs, CO
Jan 22, 2010
World Champion NY Giants logo
I will sometimes go 90-100% passive if:

A. there is a very long approach (saves weight on my back and crippling knees) and

B. the route is well with in my ablities

Outside of that I love to plug a cam and keep on trucking whenever possible. They were invented for a reason.

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By Rick Blair
From Denver
Jan 22, 2010
This is a novel auto blocking belay device.  I think it works quite well, depending on rope thickness and sheath quality, it belays very smooth.  Great to lower with.  You gotta love over engineering.  $3 at a gear swap!
I suppose like a lot of people here I use a cam often as my first piece for a multi-directional. Many times I'll fire up a pitch after that and get to the top without placing anymore cams. Psychologically I need them on my rack though.

I climbed with a guy last spring who usually uses tricams instead of slcds. He has been climbing for a long time and claims he can put them in faster and better that slcds.

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By Tony B
From Around Boulder, CO
Jan 22, 2010
Got Milk? How about forearm pump? Tony leads "Alan Nelson's Bulging Belly" (5.10, X) on the Lost and Found Flatiron. Belayer is Mark Ruocco. Photo by Bill Wright, 10/06.
Timothy Nolan wrote:
GASP So I was taught to trad climb on a rack that only had 1 cam. There is a lot of talk on here about cams, and I guess I wanted to take a straw poll of climbers to see how common it was for people to climb only on passive pro. Does anyone now (or have you in the past) climb with on a rack that was all or mostly passive protection? How common is it for today's trad climber to reach for a hex or a stopper before to reach for a cam?

I learend to climb on passive pro. Still got it all. Still reach for a stopper before ANYTHING else. But I don't carry hexes and large tricams anymore unless I'm in the alpine arena. Cams are less work and sometimes more secure in straight cracks.

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By Rob Dillon
Jan 22, 2010
Butterballs on nuts only is such a mindblower. I would be phucked with a capital 'F' if I had to do that!

Mostly, I climb to climb, not to futz with gear, so I save the passive stuff for the A1, 'put-a-nut-here-dummy' spots and plug cams in order to keep moving.

I could, I suppose, go out and try hard stuff with a rack of nuts, but since that style basically amounts to placing gear rarely, punching it a lot, avoiding the pump like the plague, and never, ever falling- how different would that be from leading with a skeleton rack of anything?

And if it's not hard, who cares? Then your pro is just for backup and anchors. And the crafty feeling of playing with your nuts.

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By Jim Gloeckler
From Denver, Colo.
Jan 22, 2010
I started climbing in 1970 before cams were around. As a matter of fact, I think ball nuts were invented in around 1978 or so. My one and only ground fall was when a cam pulled out on me because I was stupid and placed it behind a loose block, so I don't really trust all of them as much as a great stopper. The old fashioned chocks in opposition is still a better directional than a cam IMO. We do carry cams and use them sometimes when they are needed (quick placements) but use them with a bit of discretion.

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By Chris Owen
Administrator
From La Crescenta and Big Bear Lake
Jan 22, 2010
There's more than one use for an Ice Hammer. Lake District (UK) late '70s
Last time I led Sahara Terror I used just hexes and nuts. Sometimes I like to do this because the original ascenders didn't even have nuts. I'll occasionally do Mental Physics on hexes and nuts, that crack section has several hex and nut slots more bomber than any cam.

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By Tradster
From Phoenix, AZ
Jan 22, 2010
For me here is nothing like a bomber stopper placement. They feel more secure than any cam as they never walk.

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By Bernard Gillett
Jan 22, 2010
I started climbing when cams were just becoming available; we climbed on stoppers and hexes for several years (couldn't afford the cams anyway, and they looked like mickey-mouse garbage to our eyes). I distinctly remember our first cam (our referring to my older brother and I; we bought all our gear together): we found a fixed #1 Friend on Central Chimney of the Twin Owls (Lumpy Ridge), and I was able to get it out following. We thought it was a piece of junk, and did not like the thought of trusting our lives to it.

Fast forward one year, and we had a full set of Friends! Cams are nice, no doubt about it.

But to this day, I still have the motto "Never leave the ground without your hexes" (my partners chide me for this), and I almost always have a #5-7 hexes on the rack. Never cared much for tricams; I have a box in the basement with a bunch of bootied tricams that never see action (I've given many of them away over the years). My eyes are still calibrated to stopper and hex placements, and that's the first thing to go in when I'm leading, unless there's an obvious parallel sided crack (or I'm in the desert where it's all parallel sided).

Trad junkies: here's a good challenge. Climb the Naked Edge with nothing but stoppers and hexes, and no chalk, as it was first done. I did it once, and it turned out to be not that big of a deal. I place almost nothing but stoppers and hexes on that route anyway, so it wasn't too hard to wean away the few cam placements that I normally use. (Full disclosure: the Naked Edge is one of my favorite routes, and I have it dialed bottom to top). The hardest part is the hand crack on the last pitch; you have to hang on a little tighter and a little longer to drop in your (bomber) hexes.

Hexes and stoppers rule (so do cams; it's all good). Here's a pic of me at 17 or so, around 1984: hexes, stoppers, goldline rope (!! -- kernmantle had been available for many years, but this was the cheapest rope at Komitos when we started climbing; probably had been sitting on the shelf for 10 years), Asolo shoes, nothing but over-the-shoulder slings (Quick draws??? What are those?), and a broken tooth (didn't get it permanently capped until I was 18). [EDIT: Oh, yeah, and a 1-inch swami w/out leg loops -- glad I was light in those days; we got a harness not too long after this shot was taken]. A truck-stopping #6 hex is still the best piece on the planet...

Age 17, Pear Buttress, Lumpy Ridge, hexes and stoppers
Age 17, Pear Buttress, Lumpy Ridge, hexes and stoppers

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