Categories
gripped

Happy Summer! Five Fun Bow Valley Mountains to Hike

The Bow Valley has some of Canada’s most popular mountain hikes, they attract countless visitors every season to take them on. The following hikes can be accessed from the Trans Canada west of Calgary and in the Bow Valley.

The best season is from mid-May to early November depending on the amount of snow. We will be bringing you great hikes, paddling locations and more with Gripped Outdoors.

Heart Mountain

Heart Mountain

While most mountains in the Canadian Rockies are named after an explorer, Heart Mountain is named after the shape its two summit peaks create from the right angle: a giant heart.

To access it, just park at the Heart Creek Trailhead off the Trans Canada about 100km west of Calgary. From there, pick up the obvious trail back east and gain the ridge heading up.

There is one small rock step that requires a few third-class moves. Continue to the summit and the amazing views of the cirque behind.

Technical Details
Naming: The peak was named in 1957 for the heart shaped layer of limestone near the top.
Distance: 8km return
Elevation: 2,135 metres
Time: 5 to 8 hours return
First Ascent: First recorded in late 1800s.

Lady Macdonald

Lady MacDonald

Parking near downtown Canmore and walking up a big mountain is one of the many bonuses of living in an alpine town.

Lady MacDonald dominates the sky north of Canmore as it rises up west of Cougar Creek. The trail at the mountain base is easy to reach and find after parking at the new paved parking area near Summit Café.

Follow the trail until you start to head up. You’ll pass a few steep sections, boulders, a ridge and a summit plateau before the final scree slope to the first summit. From there, take the knife-edge ridge to the main summit or head back down like most hikers.

Technical Details
Naming: Named in 1886 after Susan Agnes Macdonald, wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada.
Distance: 12km return
Elevation: 2,606 metres
Time: 6 to 12 hours return
First Ascent: In 1886 by J.J. McArthur

Sulphur Mountain

Sulphur Mountain

Rolling away from Banff are a number of mountain ranges and one of them known as the South Banff Range has a classic peak to climb.

Sulphur Mountain was named after the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, a great way to spend the day is soaking in them, and has a gondola to the top.

A better way to reach the summit is by taking the low-grade switchbacking trail up the slope below the gondola and taking the gondola down, free during shoulder season.

At the top, you can dine in the restaurant, take the trail to Sanson’s Peak and check out the old weather observatory where researchers would live.

Technical Details
Naming: Named in 1916 for the hot springs on its lower slopes. George Dawson referred to it as Terrace Mountain on his 1886 map. Sanson’s Peak was named in 1948 for Norman Bethune Sanson who attended the observatory for nearly 30 years.
Distance: 6km car to summit
Elevation: 2,451 metres
Time: 3 hours to the top
First Ascent: First recorded in 1800s.

Tunnel Mountain

Tunnel Mountain

The mountain is nearly encircled by the town of Banff, save for a small section of river below the east face where rock climbers hang out.

It is one of the smallest mountains in the Park and in the 1800s was known as “The Hill.” There are many ways to get to the main trail up the slope, some adding a few minutes of steep hiking.

In 1900, famous mountain climber James Outram said of it, “The view will never be forgotten.”

Banff resident Anne Ness climbed it over 8,000 times over 40 years, certainly setting a high bar for anyone hoping to set a record.

Technical Details
Naming: The Stoney people had long called the mountain Sleeping Buffalo, but after a Canadian Pacific Railway engineer planned to tunnel the tracks through the mountain in the 1880s, it’s been known as Tunnel.
Distance: 8km return
Elevation: 1,692 metres
Time: 20 minutes to 1.5 hours
First Ascent: Unknown

Fairview Mountain

Fairview Mountain

The most committing and serious hike, but still considered a mellow day by most in the mountains, on this list ascends a beautiful peak on the eastern shore of Lake Louise.

Fairview Mountain takes a little bit of effort to reach the top off, but the views are some of the most breathtaking in the Bow Valley.

After hiking up a forest to the saddle, you follow a switch-backing up scree to a blocky summit looking down on Lake Louise and across the Valley of the 10 Peaks.

Technical Details
Naming: Walter Wilcox named it in 1894 after seeing the view.
Distance: 10km return
Elevation: 2,744 metres
Time: 4 to 8 hours return
First Ascent: First recorded in 1893, but presumed before that by native explorer.

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

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos & Don’ts

Climb Away‘s vision is to bring people from all over the world together over the love of climbing. Get the organization’s pro tips on climbing photography here.

Rock walls are vast and full of opportunities for lessons and growth. Climb Away, a Canadian organization that employs a variety of outdoor instructors as guides for retreats, facilitates that. And one of the most important topics they cover is how to get beginners comfortable on the wall.

In this article, Alex Eggermont, a Squamish-based photographer and instructor at Climb Away, helps us break down the basics of climbing photography.

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos

Climbing with your camera can be a safety hazard for you and those climbing around you, especially with all the gear that goes along with it. Before going outdoors with professional camera equipment, it’s important to know what the best practices are.

Here’s how to ensure staying light, safe, and agile, while getting the shots you’re searching for.

1. Know what you’re shooting

Ideally, you’ve climbed the route, or at least know when and where the hard parts are. To avoid disturbing the climber during these crux moments, go to the crag a few times and practice those moves with your climbing partner. Make sure you can climb it smoothly before taking it on as a photographer.

2. Take only one or two lenses

Ideally, you wouldn’t even have to change lenses on the wall and even have two bodies. You’re already hauling lots with you while you’re climbing, so only take the essential camera equipment. Remember to stay light.

3. Use static ropes

Redirect whenever you can so that you can see your anchor point and avoid sharp edges that could lead to core shots way faster than you think. Static will give you more control while climbing and help you be more intentional with directing your angles.

4. New point of view

Find that viewpoint you haven’t seen before. The beauty of photographing climbers is that there are so many movements you can capture. Take on a fresh, new perspective, something that’s special to the climber and their style. Try to be original and create some unique content!

climbing with your camera climber
Photo credit: Mark Doliner

5. Add some flexibility

Having two ropes attached to different anchors and two GRIGRIs is a great way to have lots of flexibility and movement. You want to have as much free flow of movement as possible while capturing the climber. The last thing you want is to feel limited or restricted by your positioning!

6. Get the look!

The eyes of the climber — that’s what we need to see. What’s going on in their head? The focus and intensity of the climber will be seen in their gaze. Make sure to stay present and look for that look. You’ll know it when you see it.

7. Duct tape for the win

Take it with you and tape sharp edges that the rope is rubbing on. The last thing you want to worry about is having your rope fraying and start cutting due to a sharp edge of the climb.

When you do those practice climbs in advance, make sure you identify where you need to place that tape. Don’t forget to pack it away afterward!

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Don’ts

1. Don’t bother with lens caps

Use filters to protect your lenses, but you want to avoid the number of parts you need to deal with when hanging on a rope. Remember, stay light! The less you need to carry around with you, the better. Take only the essentials.

2. Don’t let your rope hang underneath you

Pull it back and clip it to your harness, or make it shorter so it doesn’t hang (don’t forget the knot)! The fewer pieces of gear dangling and flying around you, the better.

Ensure you’re staying compact while you’re hanging and moving around the wall to get different angles. No need for any tangling while you’re in action!


Alex Eggermont has over 10 years of global photography and videography experience. He’s traveled and climbed on multiple continents, and worked as a guide in Iceland. He started teaching photography 3 years ago.

Climb Away offers festivals, day trips, virtual classes, and more to help grow — and get people into — climbing. You can learn more about programs with Climb Away here

cliffhanger julie ellison

Cliffhanger: What a ‘Life in the Vertical’ Is All About

Climber and photographer Julie Ellison explores how a small subset of athletes turned their pastime into a professional sport and worldwide phenomenon.  Read more…

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

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos & Don’ts

Climb Away‘s vision is to bring people from all over the world together over the love of climbing. Get the organization’s pro tips on climbing photography here.

Rock walls are vast and full of opportunities for lessons and growth. Climb Away, a Canadian organization that employs a variety of outdoor instructors as guides for retreats, facilitates that. And one of the most important topics they cover is how to get beginners comfortable on the wall.

In this article, Alex Eggermont, a Squamish-based photographer and instructor at Climb Away, helps us break down the basics of climbing photography.

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos

Climbing with your camera can be a safety hazard for you and those climbing around you, especially with all the gear that goes along with it. Before going outdoors with professional camera equipment, it’s important to know what the best practices are.

Here’s how to ensure staying light, safe, and agile, while getting the shots you’re searching for.

1. Know what you’re shooting

Ideally, you’ve climbed the route, or at least know when and where the hard parts are. To avoid disturbing the climber during these crux moments, go to the crag a few times and practice those moves with your climbing partner. Make sure you can climb it smoothly before taking it on as a photographer.

2. Take only one or two lenses

Ideally, you wouldn’t even have to change lenses on the wall and even have two bodies. You’re already hauling lots with you while you’re climbing, so only take the essential camera equipment. Remember to stay light.

3. Use static ropes

Redirect whenever you can so that you can see your anchor point and avoid sharp edges that could lead to core shots way faster than you think. Static will give you more control while climbing and help you be more intentional with directing your angles.

4. New point of view

Find that viewpoint you haven’t seen before. The beauty of photographing climbers is that there are so many movements you can capture. Take on a fresh, new perspective, something that’s special to the climber and their style. Try to be original and create some unique content!

climbing with your camera climber
Photo credit: Mark Doliner

5. Add some flexibility

Having two ropes attached to different anchors and two GRIGRIs is a great way to have lots of flexibility and movement. You want to have as much free flow of movement as possible while capturing the climber. The last thing you want is to feel limited or restricted by your positioning!

6. Get the look!

The eyes of the climber — that’s what we need to see. What’s going on in their head? The focus and intensity of the climber will be seen in their gaze. Make sure to stay present and look for that look. You’ll know it when you see it.

7. Duct tape for the win

Take it with you and tape sharp edges that the rope is rubbing on. The last thing you want to worry about is having your rope fraying and start cutting due to a sharp edge of the climb.

When you do those practice climbs in advance, make sure you identify where you need to place that tape. Don’t forget to pack it away afterward!

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Don’ts

1. Don’t bother with lens caps

Use filters to protect your lenses, but you want to avoid the number of parts you need to deal with when hanging on a rope. Remember, stay light! The less you need to carry around with you, the better. Take only the essentials.

2. Don’t let your rope hang underneath you

Pull it back and clip it to your harness, or make it shorter so it doesn’t hang (don’t forget the knot)! The fewer pieces of gear dangling and flying around you, the better.

Ensure you’re staying compact while you’re hanging and moving around the wall to get different angles. No need for any tangling while you’re in action!


Alex Eggermont has over 10 years of global photography and videography experience. He’s traveled and climbed on multiple continents, and worked as a guide in Iceland. He started teaching photography 3 years ago.

Climb Away offers festivals, day trips, virtual classes, and more to help grow — and get people into — climbing. You can learn more about programs with Climb Away here

cliffhanger julie ellison

Cliffhanger: What a ‘Life in the Vertical’ Is All About

Climber and photographer Julie Ellison explores how a small subset of athletes turned their pastime into a professional sport and worldwide phenomenon.  Read more…

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

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos & Don’ts

Climb Away‘s vision is to bring people from all over the world together over the love of climbing. Get the organization’s pro tips on climbing photography here.

Rock walls are vast and full of opportunities for lessons and growth. Climb Away, a Canadian organization that employs a variety of outdoor instructors as guides for retreats, facilitates that. And one of the most important topics they cover is how to get beginners comfortable on the wall.

In this article, Alex Eggermont, a Squamish-based photographer and instructor at Climb Away, helps us break down the basics of climbing photography.

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos

Climbing with your camera can be a safety hazard for you and those climbing around you, especially with all the gear that goes along with it. Before going outdoors with professional camera equipment, it’s important to know what the best practices are.

Here’s how to ensure staying light, safe, and agile, while getting the shots you’re searching for.

1. Know what you’re shooting

Ideally, you’ve climbed the route, or at least know when and where the hard parts are. To avoid disturbing the climber during these crux moments, go to the crag a few times and practice those moves with your climbing partner. Make sure you can climb it smoothly before taking it on as a photographer.

2. Take only one or two lenses

Ideally, you wouldn’t even have to change lenses on the wall and even have two bodies. You’re already hauling lots with you while you’re climbing, so only take the essential camera equipment. Remember to stay light.

3. Use static ropes

Redirect whenever you can so that you can see your anchor point and avoid sharp edges that could lead to core shots way faster than you think. Static will give you more control while climbing and help you be more intentional with directing your angles.

4. New point of view

Find that viewpoint you haven’t seen before. The beauty of photographing climbers is that there are so many movements you can capture. Take on a fresh, new perspective, something that’s special to the climber and their style. Try to be original and create some unique content!

climbing with your camera climber
Photo credit: Mark Doliner

5. Add some flexibility

Having two ropes attached to different anchors and two GRIGRIs is a great way to have lots of flexibility and movement. You want to have as much free flow of movement as possible while capturing the climber. The last thing you want is to feel limited or restricted by your positioning!

6. Get the look!

The eyes of the climber — that’s what we need to see. What’s going on in their head? The focus and intensity of the climber will be seen in their gaze. Make sure to stay present and look for that look. You’ll know it when you see it.

7. Duct tape for the win

Take it with you and tape sharp edges that the rope is rubbing on. The last thing you want to worry about is having your rope fraying and start cutting due to a sharp edge of the climb.

When you do those practice climbs in advance, make sure you identify where you need to place that tape. Don’t forget to pack it away afterward!

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Don’ts

1. Don’t bother with lens caps

Use filters to protect your lenses, but you want to avoid the number of parts you need to deal with when hanging on a rope. Remember, stay light! The less you need to carry around with you, the better. Take only the essentials.

2. Don’t let your rope hang underneath you

Pull it back and clip it to your harness, or make it shorter so it doesn’t hang (don’t forget the knot)! The fewer pieces of gear dangling and flying around you, the better.

Ensure you’re staying compact while you’re hanging and moving around the wall to get different angles. No need for any tangling while you’re in action!


Alex Eggermont has over 10 years of global photography and videography experience. He’s traveled and climbed on multiple continents, and worked as a guide in Iceland. He started teaching photography 3 years ago.

Climb Away offers festivals, day trips, virtual classes, and more to help grow — and get people into — climbing. You can learn more about programs with Climb Away here

cliffhanger julie ellison

Cliffhanger: What a ‘Life in the Vertical’ Is All About

Climber and photographer Julie Ellison explores how a small subset of athletes turned their pastime into a professional sport and worldwide phenomenon.  Read more…

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

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos & Don’ts

Climb Away‘s vision is to bring people from all over the world together over the love of climbing. Get the organization’s pro tips on climbing photography here.

Rock walls are vast and full of opportunities for lessons and growth. Climb Away, a Canadian organization that employs a variety of outdoor instructors as guides for retreats, facilitates that. And one of the most important topics they cover is how to get beginners comfortable on the wall.

In this article, Alex Eggermont, a Squamish-based photographer and instructor at Climb Away, helps us break down the basics of climbing photography.

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Dos

Climbing with your camera can be a safety hazard for you and those climbing around you, especially with all the gear that goes along with it. Before going outdoors with professional camera equipment, it’s important to know what the best practices are.

Here’s how to ensure staying light, safe, and agile, while getting the shots you’re searching for.

1. Know what you’re shooting

Ideally, you’ve climbed the route, or at least know when and where the hard parts are. To avoid disturbing the climber during these crux moments, go to the crag a few times and practice those moves with your climbing partner. Make sure you can climb it smoothly before taking it on as a photographer.

2. Take only one or two lenses

Ideally, you wouldn’t even have to change lenses on the wall and even have two bodies. You’re already hauling lots with you while you’re climbing, so only take the essential camera equipment. Remember to stay light.

3. Use static ropes

Redirect whenever you can so that you can see your anchor point and avoid sharp edges that could lead to core shots way faster than you think. Static will give you more control while climbing and help you be more intentional with directing your angles.

4. New point of view

Find that viewpoint you haven’t seen before. The beauty of photographing climbers is that there are so many movements you can capture. Take on a fresh, new perspective, something that’s special to the climber and their style. Try to be original and create some unique content!

climbing with your camera climber
Photo credit: Mark Doliner

5. Add some flexibility

Having two ropes attached to different anchors and two GRIGRIs is a great way to have lots of flexibility and movement. You want to have as much free flow of movement as possible while capturing the climber. The last thing you want is to feel limited or restricted by your positioning!

6. Get the look!

The eyes of the climber — that’s what we need to see. What’s going on in their head? The focus and intensity of the climber will be seen in their gaze. Make sure to stay present and look for that look. You’ll know it when you see it.

7. Duct tape for the win

Take it with you and tape sharp edges that the rope is rubbing on. The last thing you want to worry about is having your rope fraying and start cutting due to a sharp edge of the climb.

When you do those practice climbs in advance, make sure you identify where you need to place that tape. Don’t forget to pack it away afterward!

Climbing With a Camera
Photo credit: Alex Eggermont

Climbing With Your Camera: Don’ts

1. Don’t bother with lens caps

Use filters to protect your lenses, but you want to avoid the number of parts you need to deal with when hanging on a rope. Remember, stay light! The less you need to carry around with you, the better. Take only the essentials.

2. Don’t let your rope hang underneath you

Pull it back and clip it to your harness, or make it shorter so it doesn’t hang (don’t forget the knot)! The fewer pieces of gear dangling and flying around you, the better.

Ensure you’re staying compact while you’re hanging and moving around the wall to get different angles. No need for any tangling while you’re in action!


Alex Eggermont has over 10 years of global photography and videography experience. He’s traveled and climbed on multiple continents, and worked as a guide in Iceland. He started teaching photography 3 years ago.

Climb Away offers festivals, day trips, virtual classes, and more to help grow — and get people into — climbing. You can learn more about programs with Climb Away here

cliffhanger julie ellison

Cliffhanger: What a ‘Life in the Vertical’ Is All About

Climber and photographer Julie Ellison explores how a small subset of athletes turned their pastime into a professional sport and worldwide phenomenon.  Read more…

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.