April 28th : Gear Review Central – Part I: Rock Pro…

For quite some time now I’ve been up to my neck in gear and gear reviews for Climber mag.. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it! Following on from my review last year of belay devices and screw krabs (sounds sexy egh?) my gear review programme for this year includes rock protection, rock shoes and finally ropes. Part I, Rock Pro appeared in the April edition and was six pages of the latest and greatest rock pro items from the plethora available on the hardware shelves down your local store…

Viewed from the perspective of someone who has been climbing for over forty year now – yes, sadly it really is that long since I first started back in the hell holes of deepest, darkest Lancashire – the development in rock pro has been little short of amazing. It had too really! Back at the start of the Seventies my rack was a MOAC, a baby MOAC, a couple of micro Clogs, a handful of hexs – and I’m talking hexagonal nuts not hexentrics either – a cylindrical rubber hex-like thingie plus of course a load of slings for threading chockstones or drapping over flakes. Although we didn’t think so at the time, the gear back then was really very basic – and that’s basic with a capital B!

Amazingly though, given the then gear, plenty of hard stuff got done – ref Livesey’s ascents of Right Wall and Footless Crow. However, by the late Seventies Wild Country, the Peak District based gear company lead by Mark Valance, stepped up to the mark and blew the world of rock pro apart – forever! Sure, some good wired nuts were being manufactured by the likes of Clog down in Wales and Chounard over in the States but Wild Country boldly stepped out where no-one had been before. WC’s Rocks were the first ‘modern nut’ to hit the market, their banana-shaped curved faces wedged (sic…) into crack like nothing before them. Rocks, though, were an evolution though. What WC has gone down in history for though was the revolution that was The Friend. The brain-child of US crack-climbing diva, Ray Jardine, The Friend was the first active protection device ever. It’s virtually impossible to over-state the significance of The Friend. Simply, they are a unique ‘outside the box’ moment, a touch of mathematical-cum-manufacturing brilliance that literally revolutionised crack protection forever.

It would be wrong to say that everything since WC’s original Rocks and Friends is just a variation on a theme, though there’s more than a grain of truth in the statement, because nuts and active devices have continued to evolve such that there are now some quite ingenious alternatives in the market.

So, I guess you might be keen to know what’s in the review? If so, here’s the list:

Nuts: Wild Country Classic Rocks, Superlight Rocks and Rockcentrics, DMM Alloy Offsets, Metolius Ultralight Curve Nuts and CAMP Tricams

MicroNuts: Black Diamond Micro Stoppers, DMM Brass Offsets

Active (Single Pivot): Wild Country Helium Friends, Metolius Mastercams, DMM 4CUs, Demon Cams

Active (Dual Pivot): Black Diamond C4 Camalots, DMM Dragon Cams

Active (Specialist/Micro Cams): Black Diamond C3 Camalots, Winld Country Zero Friends and Totem Cams

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