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Saving cams on trad climb


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drewdogg2112 · · halifax, MA · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 20

Anyone else do anything like this when they were starting out on trad?

To start off, I am a newish trad climber. Im not climbing anything significantly hard. 5.4-5.7 range stuff so Im not crimping my way out from huge roofs or anything like that.
I also don't really care about "red pointing" clean sending or whatever. Im out to climb for fun and if I need to hang on a piece for a rest that doesn't bother me.
My rack consists of BD C4 #.3- #2, 2 sets of nuts, and hexs #6,7,9,11, and all sorts of slings and alp draws etc.

Sometimes when I place a cam, if I am in a pretty decent position and have the energy Ill try and place a nut within reach then pull the cam and re rack it to save for a later placement when I cant use a nut.

I know sounds like a lot of extra work but hear me out.
1. Ive got more nuts than cams
2. Can usually place a cam a little quicker so If I can I like to re rack it and save for a harder placement spot.
3. gives me the chance to work on nut and hex placements while still feeling relatively secure with a piece placed while I fiddle around.

So don't bother with the "just buy more cams" comment cuz if I could I would.

Anyone else do anything like this when they were starting out?

David Appelhans · · Medford, MA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 410

This can be tempting, but you are better off training yourself to place the nut in the first place. You are off to a good start, you know when a nut would be better placed, so just do it.

Just reach for the nut first next time and place it right away. You will save time and energy.

Ancent · · Reno, NV · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 42

I did similar things to that (especially starting out with a half single rack and many nuts), and still may sometimes, but really you should aim to place the nut first by itself. If you're about to fall and want to hang, sure place that cam quickly, rest, and then place your bomber nut... But if you're comfy, try to just train yourself to place the nut first and keep moving.

I will often semi-backclean if I notice a bomber piece higher than my original piece, especially if it saves a cam I may need for later. But really, the goal is to scope the route well enough that you place the correct pieces in the correct places, saving what is needed for higher up without these "correction steps." You should try to know what cams are needed higher up, and only worry about saving cams if you will need one higher up.

Another fun technique is to keep those two pieces near each other, and run out the climb a little more than you normally would, assuming the landing is clear. This strategy can use the same number of pieces per foot climbed (1 piece every 5 ft, or 2 together in a 10 ft section, for example), but allows you to get into a nice climbing rhythm with the knowledge that you've got a pretty bomber protection if you do fall. Some places require such a run out anyway so its nice to be comfortable with that.

Kiri Namtvedt · · Minneapolis, MN · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 30

Yep, I've done that, and I still do. Nothing wrong with it. There's a trad climb at my local crag (Taylors Falls, MN) where I have a habit of placing a nut that's really only good for a straight down fall, but at least it protects me while I move up to a spot where I can place a bomber cam. Then I clean the not-so-good nut.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745

Some placements need a nut, others a cam. Use the right tool for the job. New trad climbers have no business backcleaning gear or using anything less than the best pro they can place.

/harsh reality

Ryan Hill · · Oakland, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 30
Gunkiemike wrote:Some placements need a nut, others a cam. Use the right tool for the job. New trad climbers have no business backcleaning gear or using anything less than the best pro they can place. /harsh reality
Silly.

Back cleaning is pretty standard practice. Nothing wrong with protecting a move, moving up to a rest, and then back-cleaning to use said gear later in a climb. I wouldn't rely on it for every climb and over time you'll learn to be more efficient, but there is nothing wrong with back-cleaning gear.
Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745
Ryan Hill wrote: Silly. Back cleaning is pretty standard practice. Nothing wrong with protecting a move, moving up to a rest, and then back-cleaning to use said gear later in a climb. I wouldn't rely on it for every climb and over time you'll learn to be more efficient, but there is nothing wrong with back-cleaning gear.
I'm thinking maybe you missed the point that we're talking about NOVICE leaders? They shouldn't be: backcleaning, skipping placements, placing blindly, "making do" with the wrong piece, getting cute or fancy e.g stacking nuts, "gunning for the anchor" or otherwise running it out.

All my opinion of course, but it's my job (literally) to keep people safe.
Ancent · · Reno, NV · Joined Apr 2015 · Points: 42

You're contradicting yourself. Playing it safe for the NOVICE leaders may mean putting in extra gear to find that bomber piece (if need be, due to inexperience, lack of foresight, or anything else), but it also means saving gear to not need to run it out (or "gun it") to the anchor. That's how it goes in trad climbing. Keeping nests of cams to make sure its safe and never backcleaning will only lead to more dangerous climbing later in the pitch.

I would argue that the two things newer trad climbers need to learn is (1) placing pieces properly (obviously #1 by a long shot) and (2) gear management. Getting to an anchor spot with no gear is bad news for everyone, and backcleaning with bomber gear would be much better.

drewdogg2112 · · halifax, MA · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 20
Gunkiemike wrote: I'm thinking maybe you missed the point that we're talking about NOVICE leaders? They shouldn't be: backcleaning, skipping placements, placing blindly, "making do" with the wrong piece, getting cute or fancy e.g stacking nuts, "gunning for the anchor" or otherwise running it out. All my opinion of course, but it's my job (literally) to keep people safe.
Just to clarify,
Im not just blindly sticking a cam in a crack then blindly jamming a nut in on top of it and pulling the cam.

If I know I can place a nut I place it first. IF I feel like a cam is a good placement then I place that but sometimes after I place the cam Ill take an extra second to scope out another placement for a nut, Place a nut, and pull the cam and then climb on.

Mentally sometimes I feel more secure on a cam (multi directional, usually a quicker placement) but once I have a move protected I can have a little head space to look around for a different placement for a nut.

I think I just need to trust my gear and when I run out of cams I am stuck with nuts n hexs and then I just deal with it.
Louis Eubank · · Portland, ME · Joined Nov 2008 · Points: 253

When I was starting out, I separated getting stronger and placing gear into separate categories. For placing gear I just built anchor after anchor on the ground, when I could focus all energy into placement, then moved up to C1 aid climbing. Easy aid climbing that's backed up with a solo TR (just use a Grigri) let me really get a feel for what gear does when it's weighted.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 190

So...as far as the forest of this thread: yes, absolutely. If you're at a great stance and have the option of a great nut or a great cam placement, go with the nut. As you said, you have a lot more of those, and are much more likely to need the cam up above, particularly if the next placement is not at a great stance.

But, please...carry on with your discussions about the trees. ;)

IJMayer · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 90

Drew,

Just wanted to say that I enjoyed reading your perspective on climbing and how you choose to enjoy it.

I see the fact that you're looking for and recognizing good placements at all times as an advantage. I think that working on the ability to recognize a wide variety of bomber placements is great, even if you don't place a piece there. I think this will help you when you're building gear anchors and need to get creative.

Patrick Shyvers · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 15

Placing nuts where possible makes sense.

Cams are great, but it's a simple matter of fact that a nut is far smaller, lighter, and cheaper. Even more bomber, sometimes. Even if you were as rich as you please, a triple set of cams is darn bulky.

It's also widely agreed that nuts are superior to cams in many placements, so it's good to practice with them.

When you're backcleaning though, mind you aren't leaving too little gear below your top piece. Think about how likely the top piece is to blow, and if it did what would catch you next.

eli poss · · Durango, Co · Joined May 2014 · Points: 456
Patrick Shyvers wrote:Placing nuts where possible makes sense. Cams are great, but it's a simple matter of fact that a nut is far smaller, lighter, and cheaper. Even more bomber, sometimes. Even if you were as rich as you please, a triple set of cams is darn bulky. It's also widely agreed that nuts are superior to cams in many placements, so it's good to practice with them. When you're backcleaning though, mind you aren't leaving too little gear below your top piece. Think about how likely the top piece is to blow, and if it did what would catch you next.
This is good advice. If you have a good stance and you've got a bomber nut placement and bomber cam placement, just place the nut and don't bother with a cam. It can be beneficial to save your cams for later in the pitch, especially if the upper section is unknown in size and you have a bomber nut placement. After all, a cam works better in a nut placement than a nut in a cam placement.
Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,745
Ancent wrote:You're contradicting yourself. Playing it safe for the NOVICE leaders may mean putting in extra gear to find that bomber piece (if need be, due to inexperience, lack of foresight, or anything else), but it also means saving gear to not need to run it out (or "gun it") to the anchor. That's how it goes in trad climbing. Keeping nests of cams to make sure its safe and never backcleaning will only lead to more dangerous climbing later in the pitch.
Let's see... did I suggest that novices place "nests of cams"? Hmm... no, I didn't.

On the contrary, YOU are recommending "putting in extra gear". Of course that practice - meritorious as it is in some instances - might go hand in hand with backcleaning. My advice ("Use the right tool for the job." - note singular "tool") is consistent with not needing to backclean. Now, if you want to suggest that OP may be leading sustained 55m pitches where a typical rack is inadequate without backcleaning, go ahead. I also think that newbies shouldn't be doing THAT either.
anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70
drewdogg2112 wrote:Anyone else do anything like this when they were starting out on trad? To start off, I am a newish trad climber. Im not climbing anything significantly hard. 5.4-5.7 range stuff so Im not crimping my way out from huge roofs or anything like that. I also don't really care about "red pointing" clean sending or whatever. Im out to climb for fun and if I need to hang on a piece for a rest that doesn't bother me. My rack consists of BD C4 #.3- #2, 2 sets of nuts, and hexs #6,7,9,11, and all sorts of slings and alp draws etc. Sometimes when I place a cam, if I am in a pretty decent position and have the energy Ill try and place a nut within reach then pull the cam and re rack it to save for a later placement when I cant use a nut. I know sounds like a lot of extra work but hear me out. 1. Ive got more nuts than cams 2. Can usually place a cam a little quicker so If I can I like to re rack it and save for a harder placement spot. 3. gives me the chance to work on nut and hex placements while still feeling relatively secure with a piece placed while I fiddle around. So don't bother with the "just buy more cams" comment cuz if I could I would. Anyone else do anything like this when they were starting out?
This happens with me occasionally. It shouldn't be too often for you either, otherwise you are not spotting the rock face very well and applying the knowledge of your own rock protection with it. Might I suggest that you take some time to do a lot of ground placement practice with your gear? This seriously helped me a lot to improve what placements I see, what I want to place, and what size to choose. That being said, as much as possible I always try to look for a passive gear placement first before plugging a cam or tricam (in active position). Hope this helps you.
ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235

Always place a nut when you can. I only place cams if nuts won't fit or if I am not in the best position and don't have time to fiddle with nut.

Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,135

Often one gets to a stance and just wants to get something in. Once that is done one tends to relax a bit. The tunnel vision clears and viola a better placement appears. Happens to all of us regardless of experience.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125

It sounds like you are climbing as efficiently as you can, given the limitations of your experience and rack. I've protected a cruxy move, gotten above it to a solid spot, placed a second piece and then cleaned the lower piece, but never because I was looking to save gear. In the few case I have done it, it is either because of rope drag or because as I moved above the lower piece, directional forces make it less secure (or it was marginal to begin with).

But I almost always carry more gear than I need on a given climb, and between myself and my partners, I we can triple or quad up almost every cam size, until you get to the boat anchors.

Keep doing what you are doing, with one caveat. Don't trade a good placement for a marginal one just to save a cam. You may not be doing it intentionally, but passive gear can be bomber when you are below it but susceptible to getting pulled as you climb above it. Make sure the replacement piece is going to stay put as you continue up.

Owen Witesman · · Springville, UT · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 113

I've shared this before. I find Will Gadd's perspective in this video very clear-eyed, and I think it will resonate with the OP.

m.facebook.com/story.php?st…;id=28723810227

Brian Banta · · Pacifica, CA · Joined May 2012 · Points: 30

I am curious.... When we make blanket statements like "Novices shouldn't back clean, or run it out" are those statements really useful to helping novices to learn and ultimately be safe climbers?

Case in point: I recently climbed "Physical Graffitti", on the second half of the first pitch there is a relatively long stretch that takes #2 or #3 cams but not much else and I had used up all of my bigger pieces already. Luckily that section is pretty easy but running out for what seemed like forever, but was probably only 10 meters, certainly made me pucker a little bit. Instead I focused on staying calm getting through it and putting in a bomber piece (or two) first chance I got.

The answer to how we learn to manage risk is more complicated than just carry more cams.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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