In Switzerland the most common tools are nuts and camming devices. In this rubric of “exotics” we would like to introduce some rather special clean climbing tools which can work very well in the fields they are designed for.

Omega Pacific Link Cams

This relatively new invention by Greg Lowe’s works just like a normal friend or camalot but with a much larger range. Thus one link cam can cover ranges of 2-5 conventional camming devices. This valuable upgrade is made possible by a mobile division of the cam lobes into three parts. A disadvantage that needs to be mentioned is the increased weight of this construction. A link cam weighs twice as much as a normal friend and about 30 % more than a camalot of a comparable size. For that reason link cams are especially useful on tours, where only every once in a while a placement is necessary (alpine climbs,  classic mountaineering).


The Tri-Cam of C.A.M.P is, at least in Switzerland, a relatively seldom used tool. It is a combination of an active and a passive camming device. It can be used conventionally like a normal nut, but also with a torque effect which leads to seizing up. Here you find a description of the tool.

A set of hexentrics (Source: Black Diamond)


Before modern camming devices were invented, hexentrics or rockcentrics (depending on the manufacturer) were an indispensable tool for the protection of wider cracks. Hexentrics mostly have an asymmetric hexagonal shape, so that one hexentric serves for three different crack widths. Just like nuts, hexentrics are passive protection tools which only work in cracks narrowing  in fall direction.

As a result of their easier handling characteristics, camming devices (camalots, friends, etc.) have almost eradicated hexentrics. But recently there is a little hexentric-revival happening – as the camming device of the poor. Hexentrics cost about one fourth compared to camming devices – considering a complete set this means a lot of money-saving-potential.  

How to use?

Hexentrics are used very similar to nuts. They can be placed in all cracks that narrow in fall direction. The rock needs to be solid as a fall causes huge forces on the sidewalls (blasting forces of over a ton!). Hexentrics behind loose flakes are useless and might only cause additional rock fall.

The hexentric  should have a large contact surface with the rock and should be placed already in fall direction. Further it should be pulled thight so it does not move when you continue climbing. If it is the last piece before the crux it is possible to use light hammer hits to make sure it doesn’t come out. Of course, this will cause your following partner to curse and it is also not really an anti-aging treatment for the tool. It is often enough to extend the hexentric with several quick-draws or a sling in order to keep it from coming out.

Ball Nuts

Ball Nuts are a mixture of nut and camming device and were invented in 1987. Like camming devices they can be placed in parallel cracks. They also fit in the narrowest cracks where usually the only option are pitons. The range of protectable crack widths is relatively small though and lies in the dimension of millimeters (see size comparison table). Therefore the placing in parallel cracks demands a lot more precision than placing usual camming devices – otherwise they come out immediately. Just like the smallest cams and nuts, the smallest ball nuts are, above all, a psychological support.  

How to use?

Ball Nuts are sort of a mixture between nuts and camming devices. When placing them the two moveable elements are pulled together and put into the crack. Letting go, the two elements become wedged together and the whole tool is stuck in the crack. The clever thing can also be placed behind solid flakes from the bottom up. High precision is demanded when placing the tool, as it has such a small range. In case of a fall the two metal parts become wedged together so hard, that it is difficult to ever remove the device in one piece. But at least ball nuts hold much harder falls than usual camming devices for the same small crack size.

A Set of Ball Nuts

Big Bros

For people who want to climb REALLY wide cracks or chimneys, Trango delivers the solution in form of a telescopic protection pipe. The „big bros“ allow protection of cracks up to 46 cm wide! Unbelievable! The ranges are enormous compared to other tools (check size comparison table). The big bros mechanism works similar to a shower curtain bar. It takes quite a bit of experience and precise placing skills, so that the wedged pipes are actually useful. They are great in parallel, even cracks: Press release button, fasten sleeve and on we go! 


How to use?

The big bros can be used in wide cracks or chimneys. The sidewalls should be solid and the rock clean. The protection pipe has to be placed horizontal. Both ends are  slightly angled and are ideally placed in little dells so that the protection pipe won’t slip out. The length-adjustement happens by pushing a trigger-button and then fastening a sleeve. Clip a draw into the permanently attached accessory cord and continue climbing.

Unfortunately Trango delivers the pipes without the appendant kevlar cord which is, at least in Switzerland, quite hard to get. It also works with a normal accessory cord, but with a knot in it it only holds about 4-5 kN while the big bro can handle 15kN. Not very clever! Solution: Thread the accessory cord twice around the pipe.

Not for the shower curtain but for really wide cracks: the big bro (source: Trango)

At MountainTools (California) you find a pretty good overview of different Clean Climbing tools.

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