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Oh the Tricam! While the majority of the nation has neglected our odd little friend, Gunks regulars have climbed with Tricams on their racks for generations.
The horizontal cracks and roofs of the Gunks lend themselves well to protection with CAMP USA’s Tricams, but their use in other rock is limited only by a leader’s imagination …
What is a Tricam? Uses and benefits
Tricams blur the line between cam and nut. They consist solely of a loop of webbing attached to a metal head, usually the same size as a large nut. While they have no moving parts, they use clever geometry to convert a downward pull on the webbing into an outward push against the rock. This makes Tricams, without a doubt, the lightest weight camming devices on the market.
Tricams fill a critical gap in the protection ability of a leader. Placements of even the most flexible traditional cams in horizontal cracks can cause kinks after a fall, but the webbing of a Tricam will perfectly conform to the curvature of the rock.
Oftentimes, shallow vertical cracks will not accommodate all lobes of a traditional cam, but the narrow head and unique design on the Tricam can fit where other devices cannot. When it comes to solution pockets, the most creative leaders may be able to contrive a nut placement, but the most efficient leaders will effortlessly slide a Tricam into place.
See these many placement options:
Critiques of the Tricam
As with every piece of gear, CAMP USA’s Tricams have critics. Some argue that once weighted they can be difficult to clean. While this is true to an extent, the difficulty is easily managed by practicing cleaning the pieces on the ground rather than learning on the fly, 100 feet off the deck.
Some may also tell you that Tricams are too difficult to place properly. Again, these are the climbers that did not take the time to practice on the ground before heading up. No Tricam will place as easily as a cam, though with some practice they can be placed one-handed in any orientation necessary.
Professional climber Ben Rueck shared this story about his first experience with a Tricam …
“My first multi-pitch tower as a student in high school was Independence Spire in Grand Junction, CO and it required the use of a Tricam. Wingate splitter sandstone in the desert is notorious for sketchy, scary rock that both eats cams and spits them back out of seemingly perfect placements. I was fortunate enough to have a desert guru guide me up the four-pitch tower–a classic called Otto’s Route (5.9) with a group of my schoolmates.
I was lucky to follow and remove the gear to learn how to place cams and nuts, and the tricky Tricam. I was mortified as evidence of previous cam placements had exploded out of the crack gouging an epitaph of failed gear and depending on the distance from other pieces–a very painful fall. Nuts were just as scary as a slight breeze would dislodge them from a small constriction. My imagination blocked my ability to climb as I thought about pitching off the line and whipping onto these pieces of gear.
My faith in trad climbing dwindled until I met the Tricam. Carefully placed into the active position and lodged into a shallow pocket it looked like it was easily the least secure placement on the whole tower. That was until I tried to wretch it from the rock.
It took me a solid ten minutes to wiggle, twist, and coax the protection from the pocket. What I’d thought was terrible turned out to be the best placement on the route.”
It is easy to see Tricams as a specialty piece, reserved only for those with large racks who are always looking for a new piece of gear; however, Tricams will make the biggest difference on the rack of a new leader.
Check out this overview and demonstration at the Tricam and its capabilities:
Understanding Tricam sizing
A leader who wants to expand a rack on a budget should strongly consider purchasing the four most common sizes of Tricams: pink, red, brown, and blue, which roughly correspond to the Camalot sizes of #.5 to #1.
For the true lover of Tricams, they are available in sizes up to Camalot #5 and down to Camalot #.3, though the smallest Tricam is not rated for leader falls and should be treated as an aid-only piece.
What Tricams are right for you?
Consider sticking with the tried and true standard Tricam—a simple yet versatile piece of pro capable of serving as a passive chock or active cam without any springs, added lobes, or cables. This standard set includes six pieces, with sizes 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0.
Tricam EVO Set
CAMP USA, their manufacturer, has also released the Tricam EVO, which features redesigned webbing that facilitates one-handed placements and an additional passive chock placement mode—making these tools even more useful.
This EVO Tricam set—a more versatile version of the standard Tricams—comes with four pieces in sizes: 0.25, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5.
Tricam Dyneema Set
CAMP has also released a Dyneema version of the Tricams, which also come in their most popular sizes (0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0). These Tricams offer slightly greater strength in camming mode without any added weight.
Additionally, unlike nylon, Dyneema performs better in maintaining strength in wet and icy conditions; something especially valuable to consider for alpine/mixed climbers. Sizes: 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0. These Dyneema Tricams offer the same placement options as the original Tricams.
If you doubt the utility of these amazing pieces of engineering, look no further than Charles Danforth’s Ode to the Pink Tricam. Gunks climbers have had a long love affair with Tricams; give them a chance and you might be writing poetry too.
So pick up a Tricam, head up on your next route, and sink the pink!
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