Cam A Lot Or A Little?

Cam A Lot Or A Little?

  • Posted by kaleigh
  • On February 19, 2018
  • Comments

What really is trad and where did these cams come from? Well, the original camming device was called a “Friend” developed by Ray Jardine in 1978. Eventually, they became a major production for the United Kingdom climbing brand, Wild Country. The revolution of the camming units blew open free climbing as we know it. Previously climbers used pitons, hexes, and nuts to protect upward movement. They were difficult and took time to place. A cam, on the other hand, can be placed in about the same amount of time it takes to clip a bolt. Plus, in parallel cracks like Indian Creek, it makes it safe to climb.

In my searches for old cams I came across this old LAS “Lowe Alpine Systems” cam (pictured below) that was given to a close friend of mine. It is as likely as not that Jeff or Greg Lowe used this exact piece at some point in their climbing career. It’s archaic compared to the products of today, but homemade devices like this paved the way for the Friend.

As Friends hit the scene, other climbers looked at ways to build upon the new creation and pave the way for development. On the right side of this photo, we can see an original edition of a Yvon Chouinard cam produced before Black Diamond existed. Eventually, Chouinard Equipment was sued to its death and Black Diamond sprung forth from the earth. In the wake of its life was the most sophisticated camming unit available dubbed the Camalot. Today, most climbers can’t trace the lineage back any further than the BD Cam. It is the iPhone of the climbing world. Pick up any guidebook and you will rarely see any other sized cam mentioned.

What made it so different? In a world where weight is king, one would think that it was lighter, where in fact it was one of heaviest on the market. Like the iPhone, it was its look, feel, reliability, and ease of use (or placement) that destroyed all other competition. Today if you walk into a climbing shop there might only be BD cams on their walls.

With the demand of weight finally catching up with BD, their research and development department expanded on their success to put a final nail in the coffin for all other companies. The BD Ultralight was birthed. With weight savings of 30% per unit, they are as light as any other cam but come equipped with more range and versatility than anything else available. The BD cam is so successful that nearly all other companies building camming devices now replicate the Camalot from BD.

At The Front, we try not to discriminate. Of course, we carry the whole spectrum of BD cams, but we add some well-deserved flare from Metolius, DMM, and Fixe to fill the demand for the specific needs of anyone and everyone. Next time you stop by the shop, pick up one of the cams and let us know what you think!

BY BEN GARDNER
RETAIL MANAGER AT THE FRONT CLIMBING CLUB