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Starting an NC Trad rack


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Patrick Manss · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 15

I am beginning to build a trad rack for NC. Looking for some input on selections since my budget is a bit limited, I want to make the most of it. There seems to be some wildly different experiences and recommendations for NC, so I was trying to put something as generic, yet effective as possible.

This is the list I am working off of at the moment.

TCU: 00, 0, 1, 2

BD4: ..3-3 with doubles of .5-2

DMM Wallnuts 1-11 

BD Stoppers 5-11

(I have a couple hexes that were given to me, but did not plan on buying any since they don't seem particularly useful)

Significant assortment of slings, biners, draws, etc, etc.

I have not had much experience with tricams yet, so they are omitted from the list at the moment. I plan to climb mostly around Linville Gorge, Moore's, Stone Mtn, and certainly elsewhere. Would appreciate any input (preferably that would not blow my limited budget out of the water).


Heavy on the J · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2017 · Points: 0

That's more than enough for a starter rack. You could probably even cut out the smaller TCUs and BD stoppers and still be fine. I love the DMM nuts. 

Some people swear by tricams in NC, but I've climbed all over the state and never felt like I really HAD to have them (even at Looking Glass)

double delay · · Mancos, CO · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 55

I lived in WNC for years and got tricams early on because I was under the impression they were an essential. I definitely used them at Looking Glass but other than that (Linville, Ship Rock) never thought they were an absolute necessity. 

nbrown · · western NC · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 5,607

Your list sounds pretty good but you could probably skip the duplicate cams to start.

In general, start by focusing on middle range sizes and working your way out (small nuts and large cams) as your budget allows. These will be the most common and useful sizes anyway, especially on moderate climbs. Learn how to place good passive pro, and how to spot natural pro such as chockstones, threads, horns, etc., which are very common on the quartzite cliffs you mention (not souch further west on the granite).

For most Stone routes all you'll need are a couple or so quick draws and a way to anchor yourself to bolted belays... Not kidding.


Patrick Manss · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 15

nbrown wrote:

Your list sounds pretty good but you could probably skip the duplicate cams to start.

In general, start by focusing on middle range sizes and working your way out (small nuts and large cams) as your budget allows. These will be the most common and useful sizes anyway, especially on moderate climbs. Learn how to place good passive pro, and how to spot natural pro such as chockstones, threads, horns, etc., which are very common on the quartzite cliffs you mention (not souch further west on the granite).

For most Stone routes all you'll need are a couple or so quick draws and a way to anchor yourself to bolted belays... Not kidding.


Was also thinking about getting a couple of the mid size C4s (I already own .5 and 1) and then getting the 6 pack of TCUs. Think it would be better to start with the spectrum of C4s, or would the TCUs suffice well enough to justify the savings?

Alexander Blum · · Charlotte, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 143

How much would you save? Backcountry often has great deals (20%) on BD cam packages. I would stick with your original list, but I have always had a preference for four-lobed units over TCU's. They just feel more stable and confidence inspiring to me. Honestly, you will be fine either way.

I don't think you need regular and offset nuts. I went full offset a while ago, and have never looked back. I have never encountered a route where that bit me in the rear, offset nuts seem to fit everywhere a regular nut would, and then some. I am curious if Nathan feels differently though.

As far as carabiners and slings go, I think that the camp photon carabiner is the one to get. It comes in enough different colors that you can rack all of your BD and metolius cams by color, and is very light for its size. Any dyneema sling will work for your alpine draws. I usually carry 8-10 alpine draws and 4-6 quickdraws on most routes. I would skip the cordelette and learn to build rope anchors using the rgold method, or rig something up with slings if leading in blocks.

I think you have a good plan and it will work well for you.

Jordan W · · NC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 30

Scratch the BD stoppers and just get a full set of DMM offsets (7-11) to go along with the regular Wallnuts... I've been on DMM for a while and have never looked back, they're bomber and the offsets are super awesome.

Matt Westlake · · Durham, NC · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 588

When you double up over sizes I recommend going with another brand to complement the C4s. I've found a good economical alternative that offers a different fit (narrower but with a bit less range) are metolius master cams - either the old thumb loop style or newer w/o thumb loop are fine. Go from 00/grey up to 4/red. You likely won't need the tiny ones (00 and 0) for a while but eventually they will be important. Master cams can frequently be found on sale or you can apply a coupon code and find them for $40-50, although a quick scan shows nothing much on sale right now. 

If you really want some TCUs though and wanna save some money I've got a couple extra recently reslung and great condition 00/grey and 0/purple TCUs I'd let you have for $30 each. I'm in Durham. I started with some TCUs but eventually moved on to other small gear.  

Curtis Baird · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 181

I second the Metolius Master Cams.  They are absolutely fantastic and are my small cams of choice.  Recommend getting a #0, I always seem to me using mine in the gorge area.  Get DMM offset nuts, the are great.  One set of nuts will be fine in this area, that changes though if you go to places like Devils Tower which is mostly crack climbing.  I also recommend getting one BD #3.  

My recommended starting rack for NC, this is a solid rack and will get you up a lot of climbs in the gorge (Table Rock, Amphitheater) and definitely at Stone which doesn't require much at all. 

Metolius Master Cams (or TCUs)  #0-4

BD C4s #.5-3

DMM offset nuts.

10 nylon single length runners

1 nylon double length runner 

Adam Fleming · · North Carolina · Joined Jun 2015 · Points: 303

Alpine draws are a must!  Any old biners and single length slings will do, but you'll soon find the 1" webbing too bulky.  

I second those saying mastercams are a good compliment to C4s.  You can climb on a single set of C4s in NC if you know how to place nuts well.  I'll admit the tricam love is a little overstated (not in this thread, surprisingly), but they are just about the only thing you can set in the eyebrows at Looking Glass.  Bring the hexes along while you still have your single rack; you can use them at belays and it's useful to practice more passive placements.  

Moores (summer), Linville/Table Rock (spring/fall), and Stone-really just the Great Arch- (winter), are great places to cut your teeth in NC!

Nick Niebuhr · · Santa Fe, NM · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 465

If you need those small TCUs I have extras in those sizes, as well as 00. They're older but freshly cleaned and reslung, and I haven't climbed on them since getting them slung and cleaned. Let me know if you're interested

Ezra Ellis · · Hotlanta · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 0

The small metolius master cams are far superior to Tcus 

Other than that your initial rack sounds ideal

nbrown · · western NC · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 5,607

Alexander Blum wrote:

I don't think you need regular and offset nuts. I went full offset a while ago, and have never looked back. I have never encountered a route where that bit me in the rear, offset nuts seem to fit everywhere a regular nut would, and then some. I am curious if Nathan feels differently though.

I've always felt that offset wires were only truly necessary in outward-flaring cracks. And while standard wires may not seat as well in inward-flaring cracks as the offsets (less contact with rock) I think they're probably just as strong because they're bottlenecked in there. But that's just me -- I have lots of friends that would disagree.

Now, offset cams are another story. I find them to be super useful in all but the most parallel cracks.

nbrown · · western NC · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 5,607

Patrick Manss wrote:

Was also thinking about getting a couple of the mid size C4s (I already own .5 and 1) and then getting the 6 pack of TCUs. Think it would be better to start with the spectrum of C4s, or would the TCUs suffice well enough to justify the savings?

Patrick, 

I think you'll find the most utility in the C4s, at least down to the smallest size they make (~ equivalent to yellow metolious TCU). They're good units and the 4 cam lobes can sometimes make a difference in slick or soft rock where you want more friction. 

Below this you'll often have more options using TCUs or other narrow units rather than wider 4 cam units. This is because here in NC the smaller the cracks tend to be, the shallower they typically are.Thus wide cams sometimes will not fit in spots where a narrow one will. 

A good compromise are the master cams. They're a 4 cam unit not much wider than the TCUs. And as other's have stated, their sizes also compliment the C4s pretty well.

Patrick Manss · · Raleigh, NC · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 15

Awesome information guys, this has been immensely helpful. Amending my list to as follows based on the feedback from here and elsewhere. I know that it is impossible to come to a complete consensus and that trial and error will lead to the decisions making themselves for me at the end of the day, but I feel like I found a good place to start.

DMM Wallnuts 1-11

BD C4 .5-3

Mastercam  00, 1, 2

TCO 0, 00

DMM Offset 7-11


Ezra Ellis · · Hotlanta · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 0

Patrick,

I'd probably add a 3 master cam, a 0.4 c4 Camelot or both ,

The above rack has a small gap.

Best

Ezra 

Russ Keane · · Asheville, NC · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 150

This is all slightly overkill (although fun).   It's not as if climbing is one part of the country is THAT much different than another.  Get some gear and go from there.  Gear will not bail you out, it's how you climb.  Also, not getting on shit that's over your head is probably the most important thing.

Jim Corbett · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 10

Okay, someone has to make the pitch. Most of my NC climbing was in the Cashiers/Glass area, No point in double nuts, you won't use that many anyway. Pick your poison, I started on WC Rocks back in the day and then switched to DMM over time. Never used offsets. And generally you won't use more than one size of a cam on a pitch, but I can understand doubles at certain sizes. But if you need a second #1 (for example) and don't have it, well, you're going to have to learn to run it out anyway.  

Unlike the disdain of the younger generations, I can think of numerous placements in West NC where the only thing that was bomber was a tri-cam, and often nothing else would even marginally fit. Not just little holes like the one on P1 of Parallelling but many other odd placements that most climbers don't even recognize as protectable because it's not a typical crack or feature. The first time we did New Diversions ~'90, it was with some trepidation since the old Rotert underground guide had most of the pitches as no pro. We found that with TCUs and tri-cams that it was pretty reasonable. I think I used three or four tri-cams on the 'No Pro' P4 (? I think P4, it's been a long time) alone. On New Perversions we found a critical placement for protecting the second on the crux pitch. A yellow TCU just wouldn't quite hack it, while a 'little pinkie' tri-cam was bomber even though they are about the same size. If you don't get this, the second is looking at a massive pendulum into space on the 5.11 crux. No fun mentally, I had to do it that way the first time with the pack on.

I consider them critical on all types of rock (I can think of a route I put up at Lost Wall--sandstone--where the first piece was this absolutely bizarre looking upside down sideways crooked red tri-cam between a tiny corner--side pull really--and a little horn like thing that was totally bomber. Stegg came along later and thinking he did the FA missed the placement and gave it an R/X), but especially on NC granite.  These days I do most of my rock in the 'Daks backcountry, which is kind of similar to NC granite, perhaps more cracks (of an odd nature) where you are looking at multi mile approaches with a lot of elevation gain and bushwhacking, and I am ruthless about weight and space. I don't bother with large nuts, because I can use the tri-cams passively in the same spot, and the tri-cams can serve as those doubles on small cams as well. Get the black through brown (.4-1.5) and maybe the 2 as well (which BITD was purple, but I think they changed it to blue). About as much money as a single cam. Play with them and learn how to use them, they are not plug and play. You won't regret it, and the possibilites can spark a level of awareness and creativity that can only help your climbing in general.

Pete Spri · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2009 · Points: 170

Patrick Manss wrote:

Awesome information guys, this has been immensely helpful. Amending my list to as follows based on the feedback from here and elsewhere. I know that it is impossible to come to a complete consensus and that trial and error will lead to the decisions making themselves for me at the end of the day, but I feel like I found a good place to start.

DMM Wallnuts 1-11

BD C4 .5-3

Mastercam  00, 1, 2

TCO 0, 00

DMM Offset 7-11


may as well convert the TCUs to master cams.  They are the same size.  Just make them 00-3 and you are great.  As a side note, in my part of the country 00 is not often placed.  As a beginning rack, it would be one of the last cams to add.

Austin Goff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 80

Skip the TCUs and the Master Cams go with the Power Cam. Mastercam triggers are a flawed design (imo) especially if you climb heavily on horizontals. I burned through the cords in a really brief period of time. I have both TCUs and Power Cam and i prefer the Power Cam.

Mark Pell · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 70

I like some of the points made by Nathan Brown and Jim Corbett, who certainly are qualified to comment on protecting trad routes in NC. First, a general comment that the current generation of want-to-be trad climbers have often not put enough attention into mastering the art of climbing itself. What this implies is: before you launch out on your own as a leader on challenging traditional routes, you had better be putting a lot of time in bouldering and toproping, and following experienced leaders up the kinds of climbs you think you would like to see yourself leading. And don't neglect strength training and conditioning. You need to learn, as an apprentice, from people who have proven they understand how to use the modern pro and also what its limitation are, and who can do that under pressure while doing hard moves and not falling. Whether that advice applies to Patrick Manss I cannot say so forgive me Patrick if that's out of line, but still, I see too many younger, gym-educated climbers who are in a hurry to climb hard on natural rock because they can do it in the gym or at a sport crag with bomber fixed protection. Modern trad gear does not of itself make this possible so forget that. Far too many of the younger or less-experienced climbers are trusting gear placements made with modern camming devices just because they are able to get them to stick. There seems to be a misconception that because they are expensive and techie that they must therefore work. Be skeptical and survive. Finally- every trad climber should carry at least the smaller range of Tricams.    

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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