The finer points of placing Camp Tricams in their active postion


Original Post
anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

One of the recent Tricam threads made me wonder if I'm limiting myself in what size parallel sided cracks I can safely set a single size Camp Tricam in it's active position.

What I mean by that is in my ground placement practice of weighting and bounce testing I found that it held best with the fulcrum point at a 90 degree angle of the crack walls it's placed against. So for example, in a horizontal parallel sided crack the fulcrum point would be straight down or up depending what orientation you want it in. So that's how I've been using them when actually climbing and needing to rely on them. This does though limit what size Tricam you can use for a particular crack for active placement.

All my ground placement tests with the fulcrum point angling outward from the crack, or downward in a parallel vertical crack did not hold. Although I don't recall having tried putting the fulcrum point behind a small bump or dimple in the rock in this scenario.

The pictures I've included in this thread from the user manual seem to imply that fulcrum point angling forward to all the way forward such that the stingers are against the rock, to fulcrum point angling back and also to the point that the cam shoulder contact the rock is ok. Perhaps though this is inaccuracies and poor perspective in the drawn pictures?

Naturally once Spring arrives again I'll get out there again and ground place, weight, and bounce test more Tricam positions to see what works. Until then getting some other users experience would be helpful...

What different positions and/or angles have you found to be secure for placing Camp Tricams in their active position in a parallel sided crack? (Let's disregard constricted placements since that's quite easy and obvious to protect.) Thanks!

Standard

Tight Fit Camming

Fulcrum point angling upwards with cam shoulders contacting rock.

White sling Tricam: Fulcrum point angling forwards with stingers contacting rock.

Fulcrum point angling backwards.

Parts of a Tricam

Alexander K · · The road · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 45

In my experience the dimple, lip, crystal etc... is critical for a good placement, regardless of horizontal/vertical. In a perfectly parallel crack, the best approach is to use a cam. Alot of these placement ideas originate before Friends came out. Tricams excel in narrow pods or flared horizontals, as long as there is a dimple to catch the fulcrum point. Since they are so fiddly I would never consider making a marginal placement where a cam would work perfectly, especially if free climbing.

I've built anchors before where a tricam was bomber until I shifted my weight, at which point it just fell out. As the direction of pull is so important I'd never consider using them in a parallel vertical crack, unless there was a very nice dimple to set it and hold the fulcrum point in place.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,865

Contrary to what some folks believed years ago, in a horizontal crack, it doesn't matter whether the piece is placed "rails up" or "rails down". What IS critical is that there is something to hold the point. IME that's why these are so popular at the Gunks - the cracks have pebbles and dimples that make Tricam placements especially secure. Notice in the photo below that the upper surface of the crack it rather featureless, while the rock on the bottom is full of pebbles. Hence the placements are point down.

Gunks anchor with Tricams only

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

Well then, these are not the answers I expected at all, but certainly interesting. I could see the dimple, lip, crystal as being critical if the fulcrum point was tipped forward out of the crack or backwards, but straight down into the crack has always seemed solid for me weighting and bounce testing it on the ground. And I've fallen on a pink 0.5 in just that configuration with nothing in front of the fulcrum point that held quite nicely.

And yes, you are indeed right that with a wide enough parallel sided crack a cam is the first choice unless I don't have the correct size. I'm just trying to see if I'm missing out on other placement options in the active position. They are useful pieces of protection that when nothing else fits, it's often a Tricam that does.

nathanael · · Riverside, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 204

If nothing else fits but a tricam in a parallel crack with nothing to hold the fulcrum I think I'll just keep climbing.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

So far all three commenter's feel having some sort of small obstruction in front of the fulcrum point is necessary for a solid Tricam placement in it's active position. What has led you to this conclusion?

I ask because it goes contrary to my own ground placement weighting, and bounce testing and the one fall I took such that I'm wondering if I'm missing something critical that we could be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

JSH · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2007 · Points: 926
anotherclimber wrote:... some sort of small obstruction in front of the fulcrum point is necessary for a solid Tricam placement in it's active position. What has led you to this conclusion?
Both tricams and SLCDs rely on some amount of initial friction at the contact point, after which camming action takes place. For SLCDs, this 'bite' is mainly accomplished by the springs, and to some degree by the softness of the lobe material, and notches in the lobes.

The nose (fulcrum point) of tricams is pretty rounded, and as such doesn't do as good a job of providing the initial bite into rock. So some obstruction like a pebble for the nose to sit behind, a subtle divot for the nose to notch into, or constriction of the placement itself, is helpful in securing a placement.

It's all about the friction. Note that in particularly smooth rock (Devil's Lake for one) SLCDs are considered suspect.
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 45

Oh boy...here we go again, lol.

Cams are bomber at Devil's Lake, and people fall on them all the time. We have speculated to the end of time about why this is the case, but contrary to popular opinion, cams hold just fine at the lake. If cams are in any way ineffective there, it is because of the lack of plentiful truly parallel cracks, not due to a lack of friction. Despite this, most leaders place and fall on plenty of cams, and usually don't die (any more than any other trad climbing area).

On the same token, tricams are also bomber at the Lake, and pebbles are rare (aside from Sandstone crag). You do get lots of nice divets and irregularities (same things that make placing cams a pain), but I wouldn't say having something to block the stinger is essential. They can still rotate themselves out, which is why extending is essential, and I pretty much only ever place them in horizontal cracks, as placing a cam in that situation runs the risk of badly kinking the cam wires, whereas a tricam rests comfortably on its sling. Easy to place 1-handed, great where everything else is s$&!.

J. Albers · · Colorado · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,228
Ted Pinson wrote:Oh boy...here we go again, lol. Cams are bomber at Devil's Lake, and people fall on them all the time. We have speculated to the end of time about why this is the case, but contrary to popular opinion, cams hold just fine at the lake. If cams are in any way ineffective there, it is because of the lack of plentiful truly parallel cracks, not due to a lack of friction.
Yeah yeah, they hold fine most of the time. That doesn't change the fact that DL quartzite can best be described as a glassy substance smeared with crisco, which means that cams have a much higher probability of slipping and sliding than on God's Chosen Rock (otherwise known as granite). I have personally witnessed cams (in particular TCUs) sliding around in parallel DL cracks just from rope movement. Does that necessarily mean the cam will fail? No. But it does mean that you need to be much more careful that the cam doesn't skate itself into a bad orientation. On granite on the other hand, you can usually 'set' the cam and it won't walk at all. Saying that DL cam placements don't suffer because of a lack of friction is not a solid argument. A nut in DL rock on the other hand when properly set will hold the weight of a small planet. And a Tricam can be similarly truck. Thus I would always prefer a Tricam or nut to a cam on DL glass...er, I mean rock.
Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 163

If we can get everyone in forums to stop referring to the fulcrum point as the stinger everything else will sort itself out.

On a serious note, if the tricam will "set" then I am not concerned with an irregularity for the fulcrum point but do prefer it.

Also, according to what I have read on these forums, tricams suck and should not be on your rack so I am flagging this whole thread.

Alex James · · Ballard, WA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 138
Gunkiemike wrote:Contrary to what some folks believed years ago, in a horizontal crack, it doesn't matter whether the piece is placed "rails up" or "rails down".
I'd disagree with this comment. Although the rails up or rails down doesn't matter for the bite of the tricam, I think it still is better to have the rails up in a horizontal placement. This keeps your sling resting on the lip of the crack at a less sharp angle instead of bending 90 degrees over thereby reducing wear and tear.

As for the original question, I generally am fine placing tricams up to the point where the contact point on the rail is just short of where the pin is. I do concur that finding a hollow for the nose the tricam is good for getting a good placement. If I don't have that slight hollow then I tend to not place tricams in an otherwise splitter vertical crack. A splitter horizontal will hold the tricam just fine especially in the smaller sizes. The larger sizes sometimes have a tendency to tip over sideways if pulled funny and they aren't set or have something holding the nose.

I'd argue that tricams are most useful for pod shaped cracks where a normal cam that fits the front doesn't cam wide enough for the center of the pod, and for horizontal cracks. If you allow the tricam to rotate all the way up to basically the pin on the rail side then it gives a much bigger range I find than an equivalent cam.
eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

One thing i've noticed with tricams in horizontals is that they set much better the less "retracted" they are, especially in the larger sizes, and are more stable. On the other hand, if you're climbing on choss, you may choose to place tri-cams more "retracted" as this gives more distance for the crack to expand/flex/break without the tricam pulling out.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 165
Alex James wrote: I'd disagree with this comment. Although the rails up or rails down doesn't matter for the bite of the tricam, I think it still is better to have the rails up in a horizontal placement. This keeps your sling resting on the lip of the crack at a less sharp angle instead of bending 90 degrees over thereby reducing wear and tear.
I would agree 100% from experience here. I know they will set either way but I have had to retire one from placing it rails down 1 time due to damage to the sling. Always go rails up unless you have no other choice in how to place it if the rock is sharp at all. If it is a slopper edge it probably doesn't matter much at all.
Russ Keane · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 90

"If we can get everyone in forums to stop referring to the fulcrum point as the stinger everything else will sort itself out."

^^ cracking up!

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

I've finally been able to get out and ground place, weight, and bounce test tricams this week. What I found is that I've been seriously under utilizing my Tricams in the active position. In addition, placing one in a parallel sided crack with no rugosity or feature in front of the fulcrum point works fine and holds no problem with vigorous and repeated bounce testing with the fulcrum point at a ninety degree angle to the walls of the crack to tilted somewhat away/back from the direction of pull. All other active positions such as, fulcrum point tilted forward towards the direction of pull, and fulcrum point and cam shoulders touching one side of the wall with the stingers touching the other require at the least a slight to large dimple, bump, or lip of rock in front of the fulcrum point. And that little bit of rock needs to be solid. 

Don't just take my word for it, go out and do this yourself and you might change your mind about how you place them. It really helps build trust in the gear placements to see them hold so well. And you won't get this from just placing them while climbing, unless you are aiding. It's amazing the weird and strange features tricams will fit into in their active and passive positions, in addition to standard parallel sided cracks. Where I ground place there is not a lot of classic and super obvious constrictions that fit nuts well, but tricams work really well there. That being said, please keep an eye on where the slings are when you weight and bounce test them. I accidentally sawed through about 1/4 of the width of the carabiner loop part of the tricam sling. That piece is now retired. Always inspect your gear.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136

Tricams in a true parallel crack may hold a bounce test but you don't really want to climb past it. If there aren't any features to keep the tricam secure in its original placement then it is suspect once you move past it. One of the issues with using aid climbing to "test" your placements is that bounce tests may deceive you into trusting a bad placement that manages to hold body weight.

The real value in aid climbing is simply to get a lot of experience and mileage with the "art" of placing gear. It may also force creativity which will further help you learn. Don't over-estimate the quality of your gear. That is one mistake that you may not live to learn from. 

Back to the OP, one thing I've come to learn about tri-cams is that most of the time you're better off placing a tricam in active mode in constrictions unless the geometry of the crack really matches the geometry of the tricam. Because tricams don't have the curve that most nuts do, they tend to be less secure than nuts when used as a chock

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 0

Eli, Thank you for your input and warning. I'll keep that in mind, but I'm not sure that I agree with you. I only have a few falls on trad lead, and the last one was exactly this scenario you warn about and it held. It's in my first post on this thread. Maybe that's luck on my part, but I went into this whole trad leading having done a lot of testing of pieces on the ground for my own piece of mind and education. This to me was part of not over estimating the quality of my gear placements. My experience with these few real lead falls, and ground placing, weighting, and bounce testing is that the latter is seemingly far harder on the gear than the former. There is no give of a dynamic rope and belayer. The person is bouncing on static nylon, or perhaps dyneema depending on what people are using to step into and what type of sling is on the gear and you get several hard bounces as opposed to one softened bounce on a lead fall. 

I have some wired passive gear that has a colored rubber sheath on the carabiner loop. One I took an accidental real fall on as the first piece and it barely bent the wire carabiner loop and left the colored rubber sheath intact and undamaged. These other sizes of the same pieces that I ground placed, weighted, and bounce tested severely bent the wire carabiner loop and completely chewed through the colored rubber sheath covering it the first time I did this with them. This seems to imply to me that weighting and bounce testing the piece several times is a much harder force than most real lead falls. 

I do though also get the impression that you are also talking about how well the piece sets in the rock regarding the geometry of rock. And yes, I'd agree with you there. If the Tricam doesn't set hard and stay put in it's position, it's not to be trusted, and if you have a choice, not used in that position and/or location. Having a piece rattle loose and completely walk out, or walk into a bad placement is not a good feeling at all and could be dangerous. This is though what most climbers should know of to not make blind placements and make sure the piece has full contact to the rock. I find if I question the setting of the Tricam, removing it will give me some idea of how hard it's set in there and if it will stay in that position, depending on what I find, I can either place it again in the same area and position, or choose something else more secure.

I also note that Camp does say in their manual that the rugosity is not absolutely necessary. It's unfortunately a little too vague, but I'd only agree with that with the Tricam in the active postion in a parallel walled crack with the fulcrum point at ninety degrees to the wall, or pointed slightly away from the direction of pull. All other placements need a constriction or rugosity in front of the fulcrum point. I would think for a company that likes to have lot's of paperwork attached to each product and that could be held liable for what they say in their manual about how to use them that they'd be super careful about what they recommend.

Xam · · Boulder, Co · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 8
anotherclimber wrote:

My experience with these few real lead falls, and ground placing, weighting, and bounce testing is that the latter is seemingly far harder on the gear than the former. There is no give of a dynamic rope and belayer. The person is bouncing on static nylon, or perhaps dyneema depending on what people are using to step into and what type of sling is on the gear and you get several hard bounces as opposed to one softened bounce on a lead fall. 

While you might have gotten this impression, actual testing shows that the forces on the top piece in a lead fall has the potential to be many times harder than during bounce testing.  Bounce testing generally can only produce forces on the order of 2-4 times body weight while the forces on the top piece in a lead fall can exceed 10 times body weight.   This is both due to the differences in geometry between the loads and the dynamics of a real fall.   Of course most lead falls are short and do not approach 10 times body weight in impact force.

One example: http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1851414/Load-cell-testing-How-much-force-does-a-bounce-test-produce

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 136
Xam wrote:

While you might have gotten this impression, actual testing shows that the forces on the top piece in a lead fall has the potential to be many times harder than during bounce testing.  Bounce testing generally can only produce forces on the order of 2-4 times body weight while the forces on the top piece in a lead fall can exceed 10 times body weight.   This is both due to the differences in geometry between the loads and the dynamics of a real fall.   Of course most lead falls are short and do not approach 10 times body weight in impact force.

One example: http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1851414/Load-cell-testing-How-much-force-does-a-bounce-test-produce

To add to his post:

The reason that bounce testing and aiding wears down more on gear is because of the quantity and frequency of loading. Many trad climbers rarely fail on their gear so a particular piece may only actually be loaded once every few months or perhaps even less than that. On the other hand, if you give something a good bounce test, it's loaded 2 or 3 times and more of you place it again

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

Another thing to think about with horizontal placements, fulcrum up or down.

The rope can walk the tricam out of it's placement. When the sling is down, and the fulcrum is up, the tricam might drop down away from the rock and slip out of the horizontal because the fulcrum won't re-engage.

If the fulcrum is down when it walks, the friction can cause the tricam to re-engage with the rock. It might be best to say that fulcrum down is ideal unless the tricam fits better fulcrum up, and then make sure you set and extend the piece so it won't walk.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 1,865
anotherclimber wrote:

I also note that Camp does say in their manual that the rugosity is not absolutely necessary. It's unfortunately a little too vague, but I'd only agree with that with the Tricam in the active postion in a parallel walled crack with the fulcrum point at ninety degrees to the wall, or pointed slightly away from the direction of pull. All other placements need a constriction or rugosity in front of the fulcrum point. I would think for a company that likes to have lot's of paperwork attached to each product and that could be held liable for what they say in their manual about how to use them that they'd be super careful about what they recommend.

To me, that statement is like telling someone that's it's not absolutely necessary to buckle the strap of your helmet.  It MAY be able deflect a rock coming straight down at the center-top of the helmet, but in reality it will do its job more reliably if the strap is always buckled.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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