It takes balls to use nuts...


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Nov 21, 2006 - 12:57am PT
Ron, you on the other hand are ready to go out and blow up your TV. I don't think it's the election results though.

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Nov 21, 2006 - 04:38pm PT
Haven't I seen pictures of Ron machine-gunning his TV?
Ron??? Post 'em up if you've got them.

right here, right now
Nov 21, 2006 - 07:43pm PT
Man you'all have ranged nicely on this here thread so far.
...And no arguments even; I guess cuz no body said the word Bolt very loud. I certainly ain't gonnah sour the milk.

So, we grew up on the cusp of the clean climbing revolution:

I recall having arguments with my buddy, AKDog, not about the implementation of nuts on free climbs at that point, but as to their application towards an accepted challenge to supplant all hard nailing. I said no way that was happening at that time.

I also drove a couple pins on free routes, (really, just a couple) where I thought nuts were dum 'n dangerous. Then AKDog would go around later and take 'em out.

Our first 5.9's were on nuts and it seemed fine at the time, cams as they came out didn't warrant immediate grasp, or so it seemed, until 5.10/11 became a goal.

Yabo said that 5.11 on nuts was often a life or death proposition and not at all routine. Nevertheless we saw a bit of it done, like Augie Kline walking up Insomnia at Suicide; the crack is tight hands and overhung, but he could cruise it. Yabo bemoaned Kauk's strategy of sending him up on Tales of Power, with a single #5 hex, just to get it up high enough before Yab would wig out and lower off, having pushed the pro a bit higher for Ron.

Chapman said, and I still do it with cams, that on 5.11 he'd place two good nuts, then just gas it through the hard stuff. Never, ever, he said, allowing himself to get pumped, well, in plan anyhow.

One day at Taquitz while heading for Open Book, a fine 5.9, still on nuts, I got off route onto Zig Zag, a 5.10. Things didn't feel right so I down climbed to where I could get lowered off, which worked great until I weighted the improperly tied rope and after the knot released I bounced about 30 feet down along a ramp into a bush, just before another hefty drop.

Now that wasn't the fault of any nut. Well you know what I mean. Later that day Larry and I sat by the car, somewhat dejected and he sullenly grabbed his piton hammer and pounded one of his aluminum bongs deep into the dirt, until it vanished from sight.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 21, 2006 - 08:30pm PT
(multiple) TV destruction scheduled for a week from monday.

Anyway, back on topic; I think that many of today's "trad" climbers are quick to cam and fail to fully appreciate the full utility, economy, and efficiency of nuts.

And you don't have to lubricate your nuts (at least for climbing...)
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Nov 26, 2006 - 02:19pm PT
Historical note: Up-thread Steve Grossman mentioned the original machine nuts that were adopted for climbing protection. The story goes that it was British climbers walking up to Clogywyn D’ur Arddu (Cloggy) in North Wales who first picked up machine nuts taken from the railroad tracks that go to the summit and began using them for climbing.

Here is one of the nuts that I picked up from the tracks when we climbed at Cloggy in 1977.

This is the train and the cog railway.

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 26, 2006 - 03:31pm PT
Hey Ricky, big fan of your routes and still plan on telling the tales.

To follow up on that cool archival nut, sometime later those bold fellows started Clogwyn and got to work. The photo below shows several variations on the theme of runner nuts that were carried over the shoulder. The I-beams are Troll Parba nuts and the wedge nuts are Clog, and the three oddballs are Dolt TRUnuts which were the first anodized pieces of gear if I recall. Not long after this stuff came out, steel cable began to figure prominently in nut design.

More from the old funky gear box later.



Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2006 - 03:45pm PT
Neat to see that history, Rick. In about 1966 or so, Robbins wrote an article in Summit about a trip he took to England. He talked about what you described. I was immediately taken with the idea, so made a complete rack of slung machine nuts, from tiny ones with holes just big enough for parachute cord, to 3" clunkers. Of course, you had to drill the threads out so they wouldn't cut the slings. I also tapered the sides with a grinder on some of them, to make them work better. Below is a route on Mt Ogden that Bruce Roghaar and I did (it was a first ascent, as well) in 1967 or '68, with these machine nuts only, about 8 pitches (and some scrambling) from 5.6 to 5.8. I think it was the earliest route in the US of any length to be climbed in this style.

Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 26, 2006 - 03:48pm PT
Boy! You guys carried up a hell of a flagpole!

Steve, if I hadn't used some of those items 30+ years ago I'd swear that was a troll...

Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2006 - 03:54pm PT
Steve, thanks for posting those pics. The transition from pitons to nuts only took 5 or 6 years, but there were a number of designs that were introduced during that period that did not survive the test of time, such as those in your photo. Pretty quickly it settled down to stoppers and hexes, and variations on those themes.
Can't wait to see your other historical stuff. I never hung on to any of mine.

Social climber
No Ut
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 26, 2006 - 03:56pm PT
Ron, the flagpole was used horizontally in r-e-a-l-l-y w-i-d-e cracks. Went out of style, though...

Nov 26, 2006 - 04:30pm PT
For several years now I have been in communication with Stephane Pennequin in Corsica. Stephane has been working with just about everyone in the world involved with nuts to build a very substantial museum. His web site where you can also read some of his writings:

Well worth a look see. He has been at it a long time with very interesting results.

Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Nov 26, 2006 - 04:52pm PT
What fun this is! It's a (very) snowy afternoon in Vancouver, so what better than a stroll down memory lane?

I started climbing in the early 70s, when a typical Squamish route was mixed - part aid, part free, some nuts, some pins. Given our techniques and equipment, we learned well albeit slowly about placing gear, all the while feeling a bit guilty because we weren't really "clean" climbing. The first nuts we had were the Clog wedges and the Peck crackers - the former design has stood the test of time, the latter hasn't. The first Chouinard stoppers and hexcentrics (symmetrical hexes) appeared here in 1973, which was quite a relief. Finally something that worked.

If I remember rightly, the hexcentric was the first version, followed by the drilled lighter hexcentric (1976?), then the eccentric (1979?). The latter had thinner solid walls, but was asymmetrical and so more versatile, and is pretty much the same as what is available today. (There may have been a thin-walled version of the original hexcentric in there somewhere.) The original stoppers came in seven sizes, but an eighth was soon added, then half sizes.

Looking back, I think one of the reasons that nuts caught on so quickly, apart from leadership within our community about reducing environmental impacts (the famous AAJ article, Doug Robinson and the Chouinard catalog), was that they generally are easier to use than pitons, and fairly intuitive. Perhaps not quite as reliable as pins, and rarely omni-directional, but when you're hanging on by one arm, they're definitely easier to use. Plus you didn't have to carry a hammer, once most things had been done clean.

In my sometime role as a climbing teacher (certified climbing instructor, in Norway), I've often found it made sense to limit novices to use of passive protection to start. It helps learn them to really pay attention to what the rock offers - sometimes I even get them to go aid climbing just using nuts, perhaps with a slack top rope. Placing lots of gear, and having to immediately depend on it, is a good teaching aid.

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Nov 26, 2006 - 06:05pm PT
Jello-Wow, you were a very early adopter of clean climbing technology. I always thought of nuts coming into first use in the US in the early 70’s with the Robinson article and the Chouinard catalog, but now I realize it was much earlier. I can still recall a line from one of those articles where the author hoped for the day when he would no longer hear the sound of hammers and pitons ringing at the crags, “only the joyous yodeling of cragsman climbing clean.” Or something like that.
Steve- thanks. You have a great collection there, I only recognize a couple of them.
Anders- Fun stuff indeed.
Jstan-Thanks for pointing out the nut museum site. Ranks right up there with the Key Museum at the Bald Pate Inn in Estes Park, Colorado and the Bottle Cap museum in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico (I made up only one of these). Seriously, though, if it were a little closer, I would get an annual membership!I find this stuff fascinating.
Largo-You should tell the little-known story of how you and Richard H. invented the curved stopper (the “Banana Nut”) in Richard’s basement. When Chouinard came out with curved stoppers in the early 80s, Wild Country sued Chouinard for patent infringement. Chouinard’s lawyers came out to Denver to record my deposition .The purpose was this: if Chouinard could show that the curved nut was already in use before Wild Country patented it, the patent would be defeated, what patent lawyers refer to as “prior art.” It was a bizarre experience to have three or four lawyers and a court reporter surrounding me in a conference room, with the lead counsel for Chouinard asking me with deadly earnestness if I could remember particular placements of the “Banana Nut” on particular climbs. I did have a vivid memory of being very skeptical about the usefulness of the nut, until I first slotted it on a route down at the Gran Trono Blanco in Mexico, so I withstood the cross-examination well!

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Nov 26, 2006 - 08:08pm PT
Along with John and others, I've also been working with Stephane and his Nut Museum in Corsica for the past several years. My work has mainly consisted of funneling pieces of interest from ebay and helping him track down folks of interest in the U.S. Stephane really tries to research every piece, get the patents, contact the inventor, and try to get the story on each. He's also been working on a permanent home for the collection.

While I have no interest in personally collecting this stuff, I'm am very concerned that as much of it as possible survives along with the history behind it. What Stephane has accomplished to-date is really remarkable; doubly so given he and his family have very modest resources in general.

Any contributions of older pieces and / or prototypes would be welcome additions to the Nut Museum. I believe he'd also like to get ahold of Ron Kirk, David Oldridge, Don Best, and Bill Antel if anyone knows where they are or how to get ahold of them. Anyone that would like to contribute can contact John or myself for Stephane's email. Thanks all...
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Nov 26, 2006 - 08:58pm PT
Here are some more goodies from the Way Back Machine. I'll post a few more later.

As soon as wired swaging entered the game, Clog produced several designs. The three stopper shapes worked well. The Truncated Cone Nut with its garbage can shape could be the worst ever. The nut on the right is the largest Peck Cracker. Unfortunately, I sold my horribly useless set of Clog wired hexes including the treasured tiny brass hex which was one of the best tools in the early arsenal. Surely, someone out there has some of these old Clog nuts for show and tell.

Pictured here are the two smallest wired Peck Crackers, an unslung medium and a blue anodized CMI No. 610 tiny wired hex. The biners which were mostly available include the original SMC oval, the infamous Eiger oval (available in several anodized colors), and the massive Clog.

Forrest Mountaineering contributed several successful shapes using single strand swage and loop design encased in a cast aluminum or plastic shell. The three available sizes of Foxhead nuts are shown including the large size in plastic. Forrest was the first to market the now familiar Copperheads in regular and aid lengths. It was a great idea that surely earned him a lot of money until the local yacht supply figured into the equation. One useful offshoot is the Forrest Arrowhead (on right) which was a Copperhead formed into a stopper shape in one aspect.

Ricky, Chouinard hexes came out in 1971, stoppers in 1972, and Forrest put his nuts out later still. Prior to that it was lean times and I think all the avaiable gear has been mentioned to date with the exception of Moac products.

The call to clean climbing arms that you are trying to place is probably Royal's "Save South Crack." During the same time period, if I'm not mistaken, with the aforementioned equipment, Royal and Liz did the first ascent, hammerless, of the Nutcracker, on Manure Pile Buttress in the Valley. They did this ascent in order to personally make a point about what was possible with this gear in its infancy and a little enterprising pluck. Tragically, all of the piton scarring visible on that route happened needlessly after their brave and notable ascent. Everybody out there, when you do this route, try to put yourselves back in that era. Pretty exciting stuff!

Once Chouinard and Frost entered the picture, the entire protection situation improved dramatically. The 1972 Chouinard Equipment catalog was the catalyst to a much needed low impact ethic.

If you Google Chouinard Equipment Company, you'll find Ken Sauls' posting of the entire contents. A much needed and valuable resource. Thanks much, Ken.

Trad climber
New York, NY
Nov 26, 2006 - 09:03pm PT
Reading threads like this and seeing old phots with historical anectdotes is what makes Supertopo such an amazing place. Though I wasn't climbing back in those days, I am so glad I am around now, to enjoy this incredible wealth of stuff.

Thak you, Supermen!
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 26, 2006 - 09:39pm PT
Hey Steve, where did you get my rack?

I still have three of the smallest Clog Crackers (A3, A5, and A7)—on their way to Ken. They are in new condition, since they were essentially worthless. I have never seen the tapered barrel shaped nuts. The few stopper shaped wired nuts I had worked well--I may still have two.

In the earlier photo you showed the tapered blocks with the single hole. Aside from the difficulty in placing it--with the sling going into the crack, it worked pretty well. The only one I remember having, I drove as a mashie to protect the face climbing above the roof on 'Hoodwink,' in July of 1972. It wasn't good enough for me, and we returned with a drill.

I had heard that there were pin scars on 'Nutcracker.' That seems incredible to me, since it was very protectable with nuts--even the crappy ones Royal used. Maybe it just tells the story of what happens when only a small proportion out of a very large number of climbers use pins. John's (jstan) efforts in the Gunks were very presentient.

john hansen

Nov 26, 2006 - 09:51pm PT
I remember thinking of the idea of a half ball on a wedge about 82 or so. I'm sure alot of people thought of it. The hard part is following thru. Great thread.

Social climber
So Cal
Nov 26, 2006 - 09:56pm PT
I still have the two smallest Peck Crackers as pictured on my rack. There are several classic climbs where they are still the "secret piece" that reduce a frightening lead with marginal pro to the mundane.

Nothing else seems to fit.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Nov 26, 2006 - 10:08pm PT
I thought that the pin scars on Nutcracker came early on when climbers scoffed at the "new" technology.
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