Choosing Between C4s and Friends
I'm a big guy, a novice, and am wondering which cam will be more reliable for me, the Black Diamond Camalot or the Wild Country Friend?
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 at that.
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.
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.