CAM TRANSFORMER PROJECT (CTP)

This is a new project aimed at climbers getting more from their cams.
DOWNBEAT NEWS, 22 AUGUST 2019

With the popularity of fall-protection camming devices (particularly SLCD’s) it easy to overlook the fact that they, like most appliances, have limitations of use. The mainstream rock-climber may never experience these limitations, but this will not be so for climbers specialising in winter conditions, or those climbing softer rocks.

Winter climbers know that their trusted cams of summertime do not work reliably, if at all, in icy cracks. Climbers of soft rocks know that cracks may not withstand the high localised compressive forces exerted by cams. Increasingly, premium rock-climbing regions of medium-hard rocks, where cams have been used for many years, show signs of accumulated rock damage.

The reason why cams do, or do not, work well in some rock types/conditions depends on one basic factor – friction. It is easy to forget when placing a technically impressive camming device that the crucial fall-arresting force developed at the rock crack/device interface depends primarily on the frictional properties of the interface, and secondarily on the rock crack being able to support this force without fracturing (which particularly applies with softer rocks). The importance of friction to the working of camming devices is aptly summarised in the covering UIAA/EN definitive Standard Title “Frictional Anchors”.

The problems confronting a widening of application scope of camming devices into fields of low friction rock and soft rock are inherent in device design, and accordingly difficult to remedy. Cam material frictional properties are largely constant, being set by other important factors of design and use, and although the soft-rock problem can be mitigated to some extent by increased device/rock contact area, the latter is unavoidably subject to and limited by cam curvature and weight concern.

The CTP is about resolving the above-described inherent limitations in camming devices, by introducing a new inventive apparatus which functionally operates between the camming device (be it active or passive) and the rock crack, the apparatus utilising the positive features of the device, whilst providing selective fall-arrest conditions at the rock crack. A significant additional feature of the CT is that crack-fitting size is readily increased above that of the host camming device by a simple tool change procedure, without detriment to the CT fall-arrest capability.

Initial prototype testing has confirmed and established the principles of the CTP, proving that placements in low-friction rock, including placements of extended size, hold firm under applied load, whilst state-of-art directly inserted camming devices, placed under identical conditions, slip without developing load. Though exciting, and representing a technological breakthrough, these early results are merely the leading edge of what could become a wide field of development in climber fall protection.

Posting CTP information on the Downbeat Website at this time is intended only as advance news for rock climbers interested in fall protection gear development. Functional details on the CT are necessarily withheld pending Patent proceedings and the consolidation of manufacturing aspects, leading eventually to hardware availability. The Website will issue further news on CTP progress from time to time.