Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
gripped

Climbers Raising Awareness of Racism by Sending Hard Routes

Climbers in B.C. have come up with a clever way to raise awareness of the social issues taking place across Canada and the U.S.A. Top Canadian climber Tosh Sherkat sent us some information about the project.

The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor by police in the U.S.A. have resulted in historic protests around the world against police brutality.

“Inclusive representation of BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour) communities in the outdoors has also received a much-needed spotlight,” said Sherkat. “Rock climbing is a predominantly white sport, and is seeing more engagement on this subject through established organizations such as Brown Girls Climb, The Climber’s Pledge, Color the Crag, and Indigenous Wxmen Climb.”

Sherkat, his sister Tula (also a top comp climber), and Rossland-born filmmaker Liam Barnes have created a 10 minute film that documents several historic bouldering first ascents in the West Kootenays. However, they aren’t just sharing it with everyone.

“We are creating content about local climbing, but we don’t want to take the spotlight off of more important causes”, says Sherkat. “Viewers will receive our video after they take action on behalf of whatever anti-discrimination movement they choose.”

The process is simple and honour-based:
1. Select a cause against violence and discrimination
2. Make a contribution (donation, petition, volunteer, etc.)
3. Email or text the name of the cause you have supported to boulderingaction at gmail.com and you will automatically receive a link to the video which is hidden on Youtube, no questions asked.

Sherkat says: “One-time gestures are a step in the direction, but as Lanisha Lee Blount points out in her Anti-Racism Resources Article for Climbing Magazine, ‘concern is that people believe a one-time donation will suffice. If this is where allyship begins and ends, diversity will only exist on our social media feeds.’”

Barnes adds: “Through this project, we hope to learn more about what people out there are supporting, so that we can better understand our next steps as allies and climbers.”

If you haven’t heard about The Climber’s Pledge, visit here. They are raising funds to support the The Brown Ascenders, a nonprofit organization created for and by climbers of colour.

Editor’s note: Like many of you, all of us at Gripped have come to recognize that climbing is not immune to the systemic racism that is present in every sphere of life. It is time we do our part and address our own role in fighting racism and bigotry wherever it is found. We pledge to work with the rest of the community to make climbing more inclusive, and to represent our sport in its fullness and diversity. Gripped is committed to improving our coverage of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, LGBTQ and other historically marginalized voices in the climbing community. We encourage and welcome suggestions of story ideas of BIPOC and LGBTQ voices and experiences, from experiences of racism in the world of climbing to overlooked stories that should be celebrated. If you would like to share your ideas or feedback, please contact the Editor via brandon at gripped.com.

Categories
gripped

How to Choose Your First Outdoor Climbing Rope

As American gear writer Clyde Soles once said, knowing you can only fall up to a speed of 249 kilometres per hour is not very re-assuring. Your main defense against the consequences of gravitational pull is your rope, but purchasing your first climbing rope can be a bewildering process. There are ropes specially designed for all kinds of climbers, from ice climbers and big wallers to hard sport climbers. The statistics that tell you how the rope performs can also be opaque if you don’t understand what they are trying to communicate.

Some of the most important stats on a rope are safety ratings, including Maximum Impact Force, which is how much energy the rope transfers to your body in a fall, and the number of UIAA test-falls it sustains before breaking. You can read the whole document, https://sterlingrope.com/images/downloads/UIAA_101_7_ropes_may_2016.pdf Falls here. Any rope can be put in a situation where it fails, but commercially available climbing ropes have passed the standards for dynamic climbing rope set by the UIAA.

For most climbers, their first rope should be a workhorse at the thicker end of the spectrum (nowadays, up to 9.9 mm). Avoid skinnier, lighter ropes that are less forgiving of abrasion and stretch more while top-roping. Weight is less of a factor than durability at this point in your climbing career. Dry treatments help prevent the rope from absorbing water, and reduce friction on carabiners a little, but unless you are planning on ice climbing, you needn’t purchase a dry rope with advanced treatment.

Length is a factor as well. Most modern climbers use a rope that is between 60 and 70 metres-long in the outdoors. The extra length of a 70-metre rope can come in handy for top-roping and longer sport routes where you have to lower back to the ground. At many crags, routes are now developed to 80-metre ropes. For many areas, however, a 60-metre rope is sufficient.

Static stretch tends to be higher in thinner ropes. If you want to top-rope, less static stretch is better, since you don’t want to fall any further than necessary. Most modern dynamic climbing ropes tend to have a nice, fairly soft hand that knots well.

Here are two ropes to consider when choosing your first rope:

Maxim Pinnacle 9.5 mm x 60m

This rope has a nice hand and feels like a lighter rope than it is, given its beefy diameter. It has a dry core treatment to help keep it lighter when wet. The low average static stretch rate makes it a solid choice for top-roping.

This line’s sheath stood up well to a heavy-abrasion season of new routing and it feeds well through a variety of belay devices. It also comes in bi-pattern, so it’s easy to find the centre of the rope. ($306)

Black Diamond 9.4 mm x 60m

This is a great all-around rock and ice rope. A favourite with testers for its soft hand and easy clipping for a rope that doesn’t stretch too much for top-roping. Leaders still appreciated the soft catch it gave while sport climbing.

Testers used it for sport climbing and top-roping. The dry treatment of this workhorse makes it a good choice for ice climbers as well. ($220)

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.

Categories
climbing

The Weirdest & Widest Trad Gear for Off-Width Climbing

Black Diamond’s impossibly engineered 21-inch Camalot sure was a good April Fool’s joke, but climbers actually use similar-looking pieces of gear for off-widths. These are some of the widest.

It takes an odd sort of person to really enjoy off-widths. This type of climbing requires full-body movement (and sacrifice) in a wider-than-average crack. The gear required to climb these routes is, by design, weird as well.

Back in the ’80s, there were few options to place gear in cracks wider than 4 inches. Climbers used tube chocks, sideways placements of bong pitons, and hexes for placement of Camalots. But for a crack over 4 inches, the only option was to run it out. Wide gear allowed ambitious climbers to push the limit of what was possible.

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools' Gags of 2020

Honnold’s Monster Cams to Finger Packs: The Best April Fools’ Gags of 2020

Think big! Gear designers have some pretty incredible ideas. Too bad they don’t all become reality. Read more…

Here’s a collection of some of the most formidable trad gear, designed to help conquer this impressive discipline.

Valley Giant #9

ValleyGiant_Mia
The Valley Giant #9; photo credit: Mia Tucholk

Born from the towering walls surrounding Yosemite Valley, the Valley Giant cams provide protection in monstrous off-widths where other gear fails.

In 2001, Thomas Kasper stumbled upon an article about a group of climbers from Korea who created an 8-inch cam for the infamous Hollow Flake pitch. It’s one of the most brutal off-widths on El Capitan’s Salathe Wall, and climbers often run it out without protection. A cam big enough for that crack was unknown.

Motivated by the story, Kasper began making what he dubbed “Valley Giants” in his machine shop. He hadn’t climbed in 17 years. But Kasper said there was only one foolproof way to test the homemade cams in the wild: Throw on a harness, rack up with the Valley Giant, and place it in a really wide crack. The first generation survived the test on Kasper’s off-the-couch climb of the 2,700-foot route Excalibur Wall on El Capitan.

With a usable span from 6 to 9 inches, the $225 Valley Giant #9 became the widest piece of gear on the market at the time of creation. The lobes are an aluminum alloy cut in Swiss-cheese fashion to optimize the strength of 17 kN and weight of 31 ounces. The creation of the Valley Giant led Kasper up Excalibur and six other routes up El Capitan in Yosemite. His gear has allowed other climbers to do the same.

To purchase, contact Kasper at valleygiant@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Big Bro #5

BigBro_3
Photo credit: Alton Richardson

While exploring the rocks of Utah’s Escalante Canyon, Craig Lubben felt inspired to climb the wide roof cracks he found throughout the desert sandstone. Unfortunately, these routes were un-protectable with the gear on the market.

So with a desire to venture into this new terrain, he thought of a solution: expandable tube chocks. Driven by springs, the tube would lock into place upon use. Once weighted, the gear would be cammed into the sides of the crack, securing the device in case of a fall or take.

BigBro_2

He approached the founder of Trango, Malcolm Daily, with the engineering concept, and together they created the Big Bro. The original production runs were sizes 1-4. Soon after, Daily introduced the half-inch and #5.

At the time, Lubben was pioneering a lot of roof cracks, and the half-inch size was designed to be placed at the end of a roof crack, preventing the rope from sucking in the cam and eliminating the possibility of getting your cam or rope stuck.

The #5, meanwhile, became the largest piece of off-width gear available at 11.3-18.4 inches. The gold piece of gear is now the golden ticket for climbers to protect large features on routes.

In Lubben’s memory, the caricature on the Big Bros is a sketch of his daughter, done by artist Jeremy Collins. The Big Bro #5 is available in limited quantities from Trango Climbing Gear. To add your name to the waitlist, click here.

Kong Gipsy 6

The Italian Company Kong is renowned among climbers for its unique approach to the world of climbing. Its innovative gear ranges from twisted carabiners to inventive belay options. And it has no shortage of ideas for off-width gear as well.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. The gear is then placed vertically, with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

The Kong Gipsy 6 doesn’t look or operate like a traditional camming device. Upon pressing a button, the two legs extend like a Swiss Army knife, making it easy to use with one hand. Climbers then place the gear vertically with two legs on one side of the crack and the central point on the opposite. Like the Big Bro, it can’t be bumped upon placement.

This odd piece of gear weighs only 17.11 ounces yet is rated at a high strength of 15 kN. The Gipsy 6 has the largest span of the trio at 3.62-8.07 inches.

The Kong Gipsy 6 is difficult to find; the best chance for purchase is to contact Kong USA directly here.

Merlin Rock Gear #10

Merlin10

Merlin’s beard, it’s a mega-cam! Weighing 28.9 ounces with a strength rating of 9 kN, the Merlin #10 is currently the largest functional cam in existence.

Unsatisfied by what he saw on the market, creator and mechanical engineer Erick Davidson decided to create a wide piece of gear for both his wife and himself to use on burly off-widths. The goal was simple: maximum range, maximum weight, and an easy-to-use trigger lock.

“The Merlins were never intended to be sold, but a photo was leaked on Supertopo,” Davidson explained. “That created enough demand that I agreed to start making them for other climbers.”

Merlin8_10

He began by making 8-inch cams and later created the gigantic Merlin #10. With a range of 7.3-12.9 inches, this cam is not for the faint of heart. This size is ideal for a climber who likes full-on chimneys but isn’t a fan of runouts.

Davidson noted they were very happy to have the #10 on the route Right North Book in Tuolumne, which has a 100-foot runout with no other pro wide enough for protection. Weighing 29 ounces, the Merlin #10 will set you back $300.

To purchase, contact Davidson at merlinrockgear@gmail.com for all inquiries.

Brig Bro

Before jumping into this one, we’d like to preface it with a big helping of “don’t try this at home, and if you do, it’s at your own risk”!

With that said, this creative piece of protection harkens back to climbing’s early days, where bold explorers built protection through creative means like nuts and bolts and chocks. But again, this is not safe, and we don’t recommend you try it.

BrigBro_2

Deep in the Midwest wilderness of Jackson Falls, Illinois, resides an ungodly route that climbers call the “Off-Width Exam.” The 5.12a off-width route is as burly as it sounds.

Marshall King and Aidan Zuber, two eager young climbers from the area, desperately wanted to lead the route but didn’t have the necessary gear to do so without a terrifying runout. Instead of wallowing around, King followed the example of climbers before him and explained, “We did what we had to do.”

Out of adversity came the Brig Bro, a piece of lumber cut directly for the dimensions of the Off-Width Exam.

BrigBro_1

The Brig Bro operates simply. Constructed from white pine and drilled by hand, the gear doesn’t need a special mechanism to be placed on a route. King and Zuber fitted a sling through the center to clip with a carabiner.

Like the other, more refined products listed here, the Brig Bro was an invention of necessity. And as climbers continue to push their limits, we can look on as the gear they use to protect themselves continues to evolve, bigger, wider, and, often, even a little bit weirder.