How To Big Walls Book - brand names of devices vs. generic


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 8, 2008 - 02:34pm PT
in writing the How To Big Walls Book, i have so far been using common brand names. for example, just about everyone climbing walls uses a GriGri so i just use the term GriGri. I guess I could also say "auto-locking belay device" but that seems a little more clumsy and to avoid confusion I feel like i would probably have to write "auto-locking belay device - such as a GriGri."

another example: "you can practice these techniques using a mini-traxion" vs. use "you can practice these techniques using a toprope self-belay device (such as a mini-traxion)"

thoughts on this?


PS: Directory of all Forum posts related to How To Big Walls book:

Trad climber
Oct 8, 2008 - 02:48pm PT
this has always been one of my gripes re: bigwall refrence books.

most techniques and setups are best described using specific products. in a detail oriented approach, the differences between different manufacturers products make a difference.

so yes, please be specific. it will be a better end product.


Big Wall climber
somewhere without avatars.........
Oct 8, 2008 - 02:50pm PT
You might use a one-time blurb about the fact that the "gear used for the techniques listed is the most common practice. However, there are others, blah, blah, blah..." Other than that, keep it specific for the book, itself. GriGri rahter than Auto-locking Belay Device, etc...

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Oct 8, 2008 - 02:53pm PT
Anybody that can't figure out that they can subsitute another device, doesn't belong on a wall.

I've always written jumaring even though I've always used cmi ascenders.

Trad climber
San Diego, CA.
Oct 8, 2008 - 02:53pm PT

I definitely encourage you to use specific products and specific brand names. If someone is getting ready to climb a wall, they should hopefully have a good amount of knowledge already on gear and the basic uses of it.

Another reason to used specific product names is because some techniques are only going to work with specific products. For instance, the Trango Cinch works differently than a GriGri, and thus should not always be used in the same way.

Hope my feedback helps?


Trad climber
Santa Clara, Ca.
Oct 8, 2008 - 02:59pm PT
be specific.

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Oct 8, 2008 - 03:02pm PT
Keep it specific please. Overly obtuse descriptions grate badly, and reak of political correctness (or gear manufacturer intimidation).

A seperate front end chapter that talks about the pros and cons of the most obvious options for common gear (gri-gri vs cinch vs eddy for example) would serve well for those that have different gear. A paragraph each for the top 3 of each of the most common pieces of gear, such as jumars, pulleys/haulers, pigs, harnesses, gri-gris, shoes, ledges, poop tubes/bags/horrors, cam hooks, offset nuts, cams for pin scars (if you like to start religious debates), etc would be an excellent referece. It would also quiet the discent/pestering of those who make or own the alternatives.

Social climber
Flatland, Ca
Oct 8, 2008 - 03:25pm PT
Chris Mac - I would bump the book into the 21st Century by using the brand name items. If you don't know what these things are before heading to the Big Walls.. You're probably in over your head!

Standard Brand names.. Not the long winded explanations of what these things are.

I understand that, as the author, you want all to have access to the book and you don't want some noob walking around asking everyone "What's a Gri-Gri?", but then again... might that just save a life or two?
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 8, 2008 - 03:31pm PT
SLCD (spring-loaded camming device) never really did catch on - everyone still calls them Friends, or perhaps cams.

ALBD (auto-locking belay device) seems even less likely.

Both, of course, are just as good as a Xerox™.

Trad climber
Oct 8, 2008 - 03:35pm PT
Use brands but allow for future, yet-to-be-invented brands to not be left out (i.e. Use an auto-locking locking belay device, like a grigri VS use a grigri. You never know, Russ could invent a better one or something.)
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2008 - 03:46pm PT
thanks for the feedback. that just reminds me of another question:

so far i have been using the term ascenders to describe jumars/ascenders but have been using the term "jumaring" to describe the technique of ascending a rope with ascenders.

is that confusing?

i could just use jumar and jumaring

but I use the term ascenders instead of jumars because i dont know if jumars even are sold anymore.
Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Oct 8, 2008 - 03:50pm PT
It would be a nice touch if you could use some of Sheridan Anderson's classic illustrations in the book. Some may still accurately depict best practices.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2008 - 03:53pm PT
oh yeah, jug and jugging. could just use those terms

Big Wall climber
somewhere without avatars.........
Oct 8, 2008 - 04:05pm PT
I kind of agree with others' sentiments above, Chris. Most will know the difference between jugs, jumars and ascenders. Or, rather, that they are all the same. I also know writing a tech manual, for anything really, is a tough thing to do.

What about taking care of some of this stuff in a Glossary or in footnotes of some sort?

"jugs" and "jugging" works well though, for sure and is proabbly the most commonly used term in the aid circle.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Oct 8, 2008 - 04:25pm PT
here's what I would recommend...

you describe the principles of the technique without reference to specific devices

then use specific examples implementing the technique, some of which involve specific devices.

I believe that if the reader understands the principles, they are a lot better off in situations where they find themselves without the device... I agree that people should be capable of understanding that sort of thing, but if everyone understands all of this, why write a book.

Hauling is a ripe area of description, was it Lauria telling us at that epic FaceLift slide show (600 slides?) that the weight of stuff they carried on the 2nd ascent of the NAWall was limited to how much they could haul hand over hand! That's bad ass no doubt, but actually got me thinking, "gee, there might be situations where that is the fastest way to haul stuff, if it is light..."

Those sorts of stories would also have some utility in the book, just 'cause it was done BITD doesn't mean its obsolete, could mean that its just out of fashion...


Trad climber
Lost Wages
Oct 8, 2008 - 04:39pm PT
The American way is to use the brand name of the highest bidder
Might add another revenue stream to this book business
Greatest results from
FISH ledges $$$$$$$
BLUEWATER ropes $$$$$
ACOPA shoes $$$$$$
YATES harness $$$$$$

etc etc


Big Wall climber
33° 45' N 117° 52' W
Oct 8, 2008 - 05:08pm PT

Hard climbing has so much to do with the right equipment. When I was learining how to climb, most of the time I was learning what I needed to get. It can make or break a climb. If you specify what is the best to use you will be giving a more complete analysis on how walls are climbed. You could say self locking pulley and I'll go out and buy a Protrax, use it and have it break, or you can say Kong, and I'll get it and climb the walls like I know what I am doing. Sure it's almost like a gear review but knowing how to climb is knowing what tools to have and there is some gear that will outperform all the rest by far. People need to know that and gear manufacturers will strive to make better gear.



Boulder climber
Portland, OR
Oct 8, 2008 - 05:13pm PT
In response to an above post:

In my experience the word "cam" has totally supplanted "friend". I have never called SLCDs (yep, awkward acronym) "friends" and in my 12 years of climbing none of my partners have either. For what it's worth, I'm 27 years old.

My partners and I also use Camalots (or Aliens/TCUs for smaller stuff) to describe crack sizes rather than Friends.
Jerry Dodrill

Sebastopol, CA
Oct 8, 2008 - 05:24pm PT
You might explore the origin of the phrase "jugs" and "jugging." Where did that term come from, specifically? Though I of course know what it means, and use it, the only jugs I take climbing are my water bottles. I'd be reluctant to commit to using, or assuming knowldge of slang terminology.

"ALBD" doesn't work for me.

With the grigri, you are referring to a specific tool in most cases. You don't GriGri up or down the rope, you belay and rappel, etc. with it. I'd use "GriGri in that case.

I'd try to use "ascenders" not "Jumars" as a generic reference to the tools used for "jugging."

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Oct 8, 2008 - 06:08pm PT
Ascender is just fine, Jug is more fun.

Jugging, Jumaring are also both in common use, with jugging seemingly the more popular term amongst the kids...
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2008 - 08:32pm PT
ok, this is totally subject to revision, but i am thinking of going with:

ascenders, jugging or jumaring (have not decided)
cams, offset cams
nuts, offset nuts
brass nuts, offset brass nuts
daisy chains
hauling device (to describe waul hauler, pro traxion, mini traxion)
mini traxion

Oct 8, 2008 - 08:36pm PT

Offset aluminum nuts (RIP HB)

I assume you will use Screamers rather than some convoluted "load absorbing/impact reducing device" crap?

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2008 - 08:49pm PT
you can still get the HB nuts here:

UPDATE: those nuts are out stock at the Yosemite Mountain Shop and won't be available till Spring 2009

Mountain climber
Oct 8, 2008 - 09:20pm PT
Jugs have better connotaions attached to them than jumars. Use brand names, be specific with what works the best. If a new toy is invented after your book is published, people will need to learn how to use the new toy with its nuances. Every day we hear about newbies messing up with their GriGri's, so like Ed said, review the principles, then specific on how you set up a haul with a miniTraxion.

I'd prefer referencing Camalots/Cams and Aliens, everyone I climb with uses them, especially on big walls. The DMM offset nuts with a little modification work as well as the old HB aluminum offsets, and it is always nice to go back to magazines/books 20 years later and see specifically what people were using.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 8, 2008 - 09:28pm PT
i could maybe get a few product placement dollars, but i would rather not have any obligations to specific companies. that way i can recommend what i think is the best and change that recommendation as the gear changes

here is my current rack i use:

Trad climber
Oct 14, 2008 - 06:28pm PT
lets put it this way. the guys that told me how to wall climb, pulled gear out and told me what to use, specifically, and in many cases, for good reason. being the c.mac bible to bigwall technique, i'm sure you use certain gear for specific reasons on many occasions. just give us the straight dope and tell it like it is.


Trad climber
Joshua Tree Ca
Oct 14, 2008 - 08:41pm PT
you could always add a short GLOSSARY in the back to explain what a "GRI GRI" or "Mini Traxion" is...

someone probably alrady suggested that...

cost more I suppose...

Social climber
down south
Oct 14, 2008 - 09:00pm PT
Don't forget Fefe!!! She's a daisy.

EDIT: That's right, she hooks to the daisy (not really, but maybe)

Edit#2 maybe it's Fifi.... hehe.. and I do believe she hooks the daisy.. and a fine resting place she provides.

Big Wall climber
Oct 14, 2008 - 09:32pm PT

I'm really new at this aid stuff. I don't even know what a 'set' of hooks is (I have a couple of hooks, but a set?)...

I think that its important as a 'mentor' to us beginners to tell us what you use and what other people use. A GriGri is a GriGri and you use it for a reason instead of other devices. I think it's important to convey that message.

Fashions and names change but I want to know what the experts are using right now and why - so I think using specific 'brand' names is okay.

I REALLY don't want plugs because of some financial agreement with a sponsor - if you can get it, great, but be subtle at least. That really turns me off of a book - I would just prefer to know what the best tool for the job is so I can succeed like you guys.

I do think a section in the book giving examples of various types of the same device would be great... i.e. showing more than one hauling device, what are the pros, cons etc.

Cheers, Graeme.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Oct 14, 2008 - 09:48pm PT
Mac, your list posted on Oct 8 looks good. I also agree with the idea of briefly describing, in an introductory gear chapter, the differences, advantages, disadvantages, of alternatives that exist as of publication date. Also agree with other posters that this isn't a book for newbies to multipitch, complicated anchors, hanging belays, etc., so the amount of detail needn't be excessive.

Big Wall climber
Oct 14, 2008 - 10:07pm PT

Actually - and I never thought of this - Mongrel is spot on. As an experienced traditional climber there are certain things I wouldn't expect to find in the book - if you will, I come to the book as an expert in one field - the prerequisite to big walls. If I didn't know about anchors etc I wouldn't be reading the book. Great point, Monrel!

Rgds, GraemeK.
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Oct 14, 2008 - 11:10pm PT
Chris - ask yourself these questions:

1. Which one of your books has the fewest typos, and the best editing?

2. Who is the best damn editor you have ever used? Does he actually have any big wall experience, and if so, how much?

3. Should you waste time on the general public in an internet forum, or should you just send the right person the damn chapters?

Of all the many questions you ask in your posts above, he has the answers, but he will likely not squander them in a public forum.

Evidently you are a fan of Chongo's book, in which he used incredibly confusing terms like "rope clutch" instead of Gri-gri, because he was afraid of getting sued for suggesting the use of gear in non-traditional uses. There is an answer.

Another thing you might want to avoid is suggesting that a Mini-Traxion - which is a hauling device - is actually a solo top-rope belay device, which it is knott.


P.S. I broke my leg on one of your routes from your McTopo guide, on a pitch that was rated only A3. It was not rated A3R, nor was there any mention of a ledge. Accordingly, my lawyer will be in touch with you.

Social climber
down south
Oct 14, 2008 - 11:14pm PT
PTP... you broke your leg? that sux dude... how ya healin?
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Oct 14, 2008 - 11:17pm PT
It was a few years ago. I took a lob and hit a ledge - it was all McTopo's fault. Plenty of other climbers had climbed this route without incident.

It was a bi-molalular [sp?] fracture where you whack off the ends of your tibia and fibula, which are the two bumps on the outside of your ankle. Four months, two plates, thirteen screws, one crutch and a half-dozen Valley Giant cams later and I was back sending Son Of Heart on El Cap. My ankle is stiff but workable, it doesn't hurt, and I can still climb and cave and hike and schlepp and stuff.

I was lucky. My bone doc said, "Don't break it again." I believe him. Osteoarthritis awaits, I am told. I try to focus on anti-oxidants, like shiraz and cabernet.

Social climber
down south
Oct 15, 2008 - 12:09am PT
you da' man bro!

3hrs to El Cap Meadow, 1.25hrs Pinns, 42min Castle
Oct 15, 2008 - 01:11am PT
You might need to check with the manufacturers to get permission to use a trademarked name. For instance--is Petzl going to be ok with you saying you should use a mini traxion for top rope self belay? If you use a trademarked term without the manufacturers consent, you may be subjecting yourself to legal action.

However, be specific whenever possible. Give a few options if they're available, thus you'll avoid the sense of product placement that turns some readers off.

Sorry if I just repeated others comments. It's late, and I skim read this thread far too fast before I posted. Good luck on the book. Despite my distaste for many of your guides, bigwall climbing is one thing I have no doubt you can teach us all something about.
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