A spring-loaded camming device (also SLCD, cam or friend) is a piece of rock climbing or mountaineering protection equipment. It consists of two, three, or four cams mounted on a common axle or two adjacent axles, so that pulling on the axle forces the cams to spread farther apart. This is then attached to a sling and carabiner at the end of the stem. The SLCD is used by pulling on the "trigger" (a small handle) so the cams retract together, then inserting it into a crack or pocket in the rock and releasing the trigger to allow the cams to expand. A pull on the rope, such as that generated by a climber falling, will cause a properly placed SLCD to convert the pulling force along the stem of the unit into outwards pressure on the rock, generating massive amounts of friction and preventing the removal of the unit from the rock. Because of the large forces which are exerted on the rock when an SLCD is fallen on, it is very important that SLCDs are only placed in solid, strong rock.
Vitaly Abalakov's invention of the Abalakov Cam was the first application to climbing of the principle of a cam to climbing equipment. His cams were sections cut out of a pulley wheel and bear a remarkable resemblance to today's tricams. Because these shapes were eccentric, the intercept angle of the cam changed as the cam rotates and expands.
In 1973 Greg Lowe filed for a patent for a cam that used a cam with a "constant intercept" angle. Using a logarithmic spiralshape resulted in a uniform angle between the rock and each lobe of the cam; this constant angle is designed to always provide the necessary friction to hold a cam in equilibrium. Designed so that a load produces a rotational force, the logarithmic cam shape allowed for a single device to fit securely in a range of crack sizes.
Modern SLCDs were invented by Ray Jardine in 1978 (US patent 4,184,657)and sold under the brand name of "Friends". Ray designed a spring-loaded opposing multiple cam unit with a more stable 13.75 degree camming angle and an innovative triggering mechanism. (The term friend is now widely used by climbers to refer to SLCDs in general, but properly speaking it refers to the brand popularized by Mark Vallance and now manufactured by Wild Country.) Other popular brands include Black Diamond Camalots, Metolius Power Cams, DMM 4CUs, Trango FlexCams, and CCH Aliens.
The invention of SLCDs revolutionized rock climbing because it meant that parallel and flaring cracks could be easily protected. Furthermore, unlike pitons, SLCDs can be removed easily without causing damage to the rock, which made clean climbing (climbing without damaging the rock) practical on many more climbs. Since the invention of the Technical Friend (which replaces the original one-piece machined alloy shaft with a brazed assembly incorporating a length of thick stainless-steel cable, which is better able to cope with loading over an edge), there has been a great deal of development of the SLCD by a variety of manufacturers, e.g., the adoption of the dual axle design by Black Diamond, the invention of three-lobed camming units to fit smaller cracks, and the more recent invention of the Link Cam by Omega Pacific, a design that allows one SLCD to span an even larger range of crack sizes. SLCDs are sold in various sizes to fit a diverse range of cracks from about 6–300 millimetres (0.2–10 in) wide, though devices of below about 10 millimetres (0.4 in) or above about 100 millimetres (4 in) are not often seen.
Modern traditional climbers often climb with numerous and variously sized SLCDs to cover a wide range of crack sizes, often with multiples of the same size, depending on protection requirements of the climb. Some popular climbing areas like Indian Creek, UT have extremely consistent feature sizes that require climbers to carry double digit numbers of the same size SLCD's to properly protect a route.
Climbing protection is any of a variety of devices employed to reduce risk and protect others while climbing rock and ice. It includes such items as nylon webbing and metal nuts, cams, bolts, and pitons.
This is an index of topics related to climbing.
This glossary of climbing terms is a list of definitions of terms and jargon related to rock climbing and mountaineering. The specific terms used can vary considerably between different English-speaking countries; many of the phrases described here are particular to the United States and the United Kingdom.
A wide range of equipment is used during rock or any other type of climbing that includes equipment commonly used to protect a climber against the consequences of a fall.
Free climbing is a form of rock climbing in which the climber may use climbing equipment such as ropes and other means of climbing protection, but only to protect against injury during falls and not to assist progress. The climber makes progress by using physical ability to move over the rock via handholds and footholds. Free climbing more specifically may include traditional climbing, sport climbing, bouldering and most forms of solo climbing. Free climbing a multi-pitch route means free-climbing each of its pitches in a single session. At the end of each pitch, climbers anchor themselves to belay stations where they can rest.
Aid climbing is a style of climbing in which standing on or pulling oneself up via devices attached to fixed or placed protection is used to make upward progress.
Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. A climbing partner typically applies tension at the other end of the rope whenever the climber is not moving, and removes the tension from the rope whenever the climber needs more rope to continue climbing.
Clean climbing is rock climbing techniques and equipment which climbers use in order to avoid damage to the rock. These techniques date at least in part from the 1920s and earlier in England, but the term itself may have emerged in about 1970 during the widespread and rapid adoption in the United States and Canada of nuts, and the very similar but often larger hexes, in preference to pitons, which damage rock and are more difficult and time-consuming to install. Pitons were thus eliminated in North America as a primary means of climbing protection in a period of less than three years.
In climbing, a piton is a metal spike that is driven into a crack or seam in the climbing surface with a climbing hammer, and which acts as an anchor to either protect the climber against the consequences of a fall or to assist progress in aid climbing. Pitons are equipped with an eye hole or a ring to which a carabiner is attached; the carabiner can then be directly or indirectly attached to a climbing rope.
Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up, across, or down natural rock formations or artificial rock walls. The goal is to reach the summit of a formation or the endpoint of a usually pre-defined route without falling. Rock climbing is a physically and mentally demanding sport, one that often tests a climber's strength, endurance, agility and balance along with mental control. Knowledge of proper climbing techniques and the use of specialized climbing equipment is crucial for the safe completion of routes.
An ascender is a device used for directly ascending a rope, or for facilitating protection with a fixed rope when climbing on very steep mountain terrain.
A Prusik is a friction hitch or knot used to attach a loop of cord around a rope, applied in climbing, canyoneering, mountaineering, caving, rope rescue, ziplining, and by arborists. The term Prusik is a name for both the loops of cord used to tie the hitch and the hitch itself, and the verb is "to prusik". More casually, the term is used for any friction hitch or device that can grab a rope. Due to the pronunciation, the word is often misspelled Prussik, Prussick, or Prussic.
In rock climbing, an anchor can be any device or method for attaching a climber, a rope, or a load above or onto a climbing surface—typically rock, ice, steep dirt, or a building—either permanently or temporarily. The intention of an anchor is case-specific but is usually for fall protection, primarily fall arrest and fall restraint. Climbing anchors are also used for hoisting, holding static loads, or redirecting a rope.
A belay device is a mechanical piece of climbing equipment used to control a rope during belaying. It is designed to improve belay safety for the climber by allowing the belayer to manage their duties with minimal physical effort. With the right belay device, a small, weak climber can easily arrest the fall of a much heavier partner. Belay devices act as a friction brake, so that when a climber falls with any slack in the rope, the fall is brought to a stop.
A tricam is a type of climbing protection equipment. A versatile nut/cam hybrid, the Tricam was invented by Greg Lowe in 1973, and came to market in 1981. They are currently manufactured by C.A.M.P. of Premana Italy.
Wild Country is a major manufacturer of rock climbing equipment, and is most noted for introducing the Friend, a spring-loaded camming device. The company is based in Tideswell in the English Peak District, close to some of the UK's most popular climbing areas.
A hex is an item of rock-climbing equipment used to protect climbers from falls. They are intended to be wedged into a crack or other opening in the rock, and do not require a hammer to place. They were developed as an alternative to pitons, which are hammered into cracks, damaging the rock. Most commonly, a carabiner will be used to join the hex to the climbing rope by means of a loop of webbing, cord or a cable which is part of the hex.
Camalot is a brand of spring-loaded camming devices manufactured by Black Diamond Equipment used to secure ropes while rock climbing. Camalots use a dual-axle system, resulting in a slightly higher expansion range than similarly sized single axle units, however that results in significant weight penalty. Dual-axel was patented and for decades was only used by Black Diamond, however the patent has expired in 2005 and several other manufacturers began producing dual-axel cams, often also replicating Camalots sizes and coloring. Most notable Camelot look-alikes include DMM Dragons and Wild Country's New Friends.
Crack climbing is a type of rock climbing in which the climber follows a crack in the rock and uses specialized climbing techniques. The sizes of cracks vary from those that are just barely wide enough for the fingers to fit inside, to those that are so wide that the entire body can fit inside with all limbs outstretched. Many traditional climbing routes follow crack systems, as they provide natural opportunities for placing protective equipment.
Mark Vallance was a British rock climber, mountaineer and founder of Wild Country, a climbing equipment company. He was instrumental in the design and development of a range of new equipment. American climber Ray Jardine, a climbing partner, had developed the first SLCD which were called "friends" by Yosemite climbers who had seen Jardine's climbs. Vallance took out a second mortgage on his house around 1977 so that he and Ray could produce "friends". A particularly successful design was a spring-loaded camming device branded the 'Friend'. It was revolutionary as a form of climbing protection, enabling climbers to tackle routes involving parallel or flared cracks in relative safety.