I have been slowly piecing my trad rack together, adding gear as my
experience increases. I have been using the Omega Pacific Link Cams
because I am 6’ 7”, weigh 265 pounds and need a solid cam that can take a
fall. I am in the market for other cams and am deciding between the
Black Diamond C4s and the Wild Country Technical Friends. I want
versatile cams for horizontal and vertical placements.
—mongo via rockandice.com
Your notion that you need less gear than an experienced climber is so
ass backwards it would take a three-handed proctologist to get you
squared away. Let's roll up our sleeves and dig in.
As a novice leader (or any level leader, actually) you should stitch up
those pitches tighter than a $1,200 Armani suit, and that requires gear,
a lot of gear. Buy all the cams you think you need, or just want. Do it
now! This will be expensive, but cheaper than being on life support and
will spare your family from having to empty your bedpan every week.
At 265 pounds you are wise to factor your heft into the safety equation.
Climbing gear standards are set by bony European drones, not by
freedom-loving fatsos like us. The CE drop-test weight, for example, for
a single rope is 176 pounds—the mean weight of a 9-year-old school girl
in Biloxi. You are 50 percent heavier than that. Your additional
ballast could contribute to gear failure, though to what extent is
unknown since little to no testing has been done in this area. Let’s
just figure that you are more likely to break or pull gear and leave it
Any of the top-shelf cams that you mention are manufactured using rigid
quality control procedures and meet the standards for cams. Both designs
have flexible cable stems for vertical and horizontal placements. That
is how they are the same. They are different in ergonomics, slinging,
ranges, weights, rated strengths and price. The ones you prefer will be
the ones you buy and get used to using.
The key to stacking the odds in your favor isn’t so much which brand
cams you use as it is your ability to lower your impact force. I would
clip a load-absorbing draw, such as the Screamers by Yates, to critical
pieces of pro and to the smaller cams. Rip-apart slings might reduce
your impact forces.
Rope selection is another concern. A rope, more than anything else in
your system, can take some of the sting out of your falls. Get a single
rope with a low maximum impact force. A rope with a maximum impact force
of 1,600 pounds will be gentler to fall on than one with a maximum
impact force of 2,200 pounds. Last, wear a helmet, and remember your
loyal and brave belayer on Valentine's Day.