Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Gear Guy

Save Stuck Cams!

How do you get stuck cams out of cracks?!

Lock Icon

Become a member to unlock this story and receive other great perks.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

Intro Offer
$3.99 / month*

  • A $500 value with 25+ benefits including:
  • Access to all member-only content on all 17 publications in the Outside network like Rock and Ice, Climbing, Outside, Backpacker, Trail Runner and more
  • Annual subscription to Climbing magazine.
  • Annual gear guides for climbing, camping, skiing, cycling, and more
  • Gaia GPS Premium with hundreds of maps and global trail recommendations, a $39.99 value
  • Outside Learn, our new online education hub loaded with more than 2,000 videos across 450 lessons including 6 Weeks to Stronger Fingers and Strength Training for Injury Prevention
  • Premium access to Outside TV and 1,000+ hours of exclusive shows
  • Annual subscription to Outside magazine
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. Print subscriptions available to U.S. residents only. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

What’s the best way to retrieve really stuck cams?

— Nettie Bunker

In 1981 I left a cam in a crack. It was an original rigid-stemmed Friend, and my partner had crammed it into a crack. I called for a tight rope, hung and fiddled with the cam, wiggling, pushing, pulling. It didn’t budge. Well, I thought, it’s not my cam. If The Roach wanted it back, he shouldn’t have gotten it stuck.

I gave up, and climbed to the belay.

“Neak neak,” said The Roach in a strange squeak that over many days and routes I’d learned meant he was pleased. He hurriedly re-racked for the next pitch, then paused.

“Hey,” The Roach said as he recounted the cams, “where’s the #1.5?”

“Um, it’s stuck. Had to leave it.”

“Neak neak,” said The Roach in a strange squeak that I’d learned meant he was displeased. “Lower me.”

I did. Moments later he was back, a #1.5 swinging from his sling.

How did he remove the cam when I couldn’t?

First thing, don’t just yank and jerk on a stuck cam. Use thought and discipline. Determine why the cam is stuck. Are the cams over-retracted? Cramming in a unit at its maximum retraction probably accounts for 90 percent of all stuck cams. When the cams are already fully retracted, pulling on the trigger won’t do anything. Stuck cam.

Removing a stuck cam is a two-handed task, and requires hanging on the rope. Do this. If the cam will slide in the placement, carefully push on it. Slight movement might unfreeze the cams, or jam them even tighter. If pushing fails, try retracting the cams or trigger with the hook of a nut tool. No? Loop the trigger with wired nuts or slings, and weight the loop. Now, hit the stem, driving it into the crack. Bang with your hand, a piece of gear, a hammer, a rock. Pounding the stem in while pulling on the trigger will often release the cam.

An improbable yet effective trick that is easier than the above is to pour water on the cam. The water will lubricate the rock, and the cams will usually slide and release. I’ve done this. It works.

“Neak neak,” says The Roach. “You’ve given away my secrets.”

Feature Image by Tony Archie Kim.

This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 265 (September 2020).

Got a question for Gear Guy? Email

We have opted to use affiliate links in our articles. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our articles you’re helping support our magazine.