Climbing Partner, renamed, GR (short for Gear Rescuer) and I just got back from a fantastic trip to Index, WA, and on the way home, conceived of a new feature for RockClimberGirl.com…
Girl Tested, Girl Approved.
This goes beyond gear reviews, and cool new stuff. An item doesn’t qualify for Girl Tested, Girl Approved until I’ve used and loved it in the field, and it’s exceeded my expectations in some big way. The very first Girl Tested, Girl Approved item is the Black Diamond Camalot C3 Purple / size 00.
I still consider myself a beginner with small cams, since I’ve only been placing them off friends’ racks for about two years. I don’t personally own C3s yet, but I have a few climbing partners who have the set, so I’ve climbed on them a handful of times and cleaned them quite a bit. I’ve seen C3s catch falls in serious situations, and I’ve read up on them while trying to decide which small cams to go with to round out my own rack, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger (tee hee) on a commitment to one line of small cams. I have three Metolius Master Cams (orange, yellow, and blue) and am very happy with them, but for my smallest cams I’ve been undecided between the various choices. Until now. I’ll be picking up a set of the Black Diamond Camalot C3s, thank you very much.
My first C3 placement was on a mixed 10a at Red Rock. The piece — the purple / 00 — was marginal to my eye but not tested; it was easy to place and clean, and I found it easier than with some other small cams I’ve used to judge the placement.
On day two of our most recent fantastic weekend at Index, the first pitch (10a) of Thin Fingers (11a) caught my eye. The pitch is a lovely 5.9-ish crack system ranging from small nut/cam sizes (fingers) to hands (Red / #1 Camalot C4), leading to a 10a crux with very delicate footwork off a large ledge protected by small nuts to the chains.
I was inspired to climb it, despite the grade being a bit above my proven capability, and despite being bruised, battered and tired from Day 1. GR was encouraging, and willing to rescue my gear if I couldn’t finish the route, so I racked up and set off.
My first attempt was a no go; I climbed higher than my instincts told me prior to placing my first piece, got scared, and downclimbed off to avoid shaking myself off the wall with fear.
After a solid pep talk from GR, a chat through of the route so that I could see it better in pieces, a few minutes of attitude adjustment by me, I tied back in and set off with a much better attitude and outlook, put on a huge smile, and started climbing. And sure enough, the climbing was stellar.
I cruised up the start confidently, placing a lot of pro from pretty decent stances, which was great practice. After getting in about six closely spaced pieces, I was flummoxed by a section below the crux that would involve climbing above my pro to pull about three or four difficult, delicate and precarious moves, without an obvious stance for putting in additional gear. My last two pieces were bomber nuts, I was at a decent stance, and saw a possible placement for the purple Black Diamond C3 a couple of feet above my last piece. It was a marginal placement to my eye, without textbook lobe contact and the head was behind a tiny flake (which would have ruled out placing any gear without a flexible stem).
Other reviews on some of the gear sites have commented on the stiffness of the trigger on the C3s. I have relatively weak hands, and I’m relatively prone to pumping out while gear leading, and I have absolutely no problem with the trigger on these little puppies.
I placed the purple / 00, and climbed on, a few feet above the piece, then realized…
I was just about to take my first lead fall on gear. And, my high piece was a marginally placed, teeny tiny cam.
I couldn’t go up, so called out “I think I’m falling” to GR, and he reminded me to downclimb as far as I could. I made it a few steps down, then let out a blood curdling scream as my feet lost their smears and I dropped a couple of feet onto the marginal C3.
Like a champ.
I attempted the moves several more times, each time, falling* on the C3, and each time letting out a blood curdling scream. To the other climbers, and the entire town of Index, and perhaps, most of the Highway 2 corridor, I apologize sincerely for the commotion.
I felt that taking that fall* was an acceptable risk because even if the C3 hadn’t held, I would have had two bomber nuts right below it, and I was well off the deck with a good belayer so didn’t risk a ground fall.
I realized after the fact that we’d had a fantastic “tolerance test” of the C3 as a result. I always aim for the best possible placement I can make, but, now I know that the C3s may hold under conditions I consider “marginal,” which is a useful bit of knowledge for my gear arsenal. The flexible stem allowed me to place the piece despite the little flake that stuck out, and the cam held (without budging) with the rear and middle lobe were on with good contact; the front lobe was slightly less retracted than I’d like. I was pleased that the cam held, and impressed that it held under non-ideal conditions, especially since it’s the smallest C3 rated for free climbing.
The grey / 000 C3 is only rated for direct aid. I’ve seen the grey used as a free climbing piece by partners, but the strength rating on that piece is 4 kN, as opposed to 6 kN on the purple, and — for folks less acquainted with small cams — 14 kN for the Black Diamond C4 Camalots green (.75) and up.
Even after multiple falls, the purple C3 cleaned easily, and on inspection, appears flawless.
I’m extremely happy with the purple C3, given the relative ease of judging placement quality, the flexible stem which allows placements a rigid stem unit would not, and its relatively wide range for such a small unit.
As a result, I’m putting the C3s on my wishlist, and I’m proud to award the Black Diamond Camalot C3 my very first Girl Tested, Girl Approved seal of approval.**
For more information:
For full information on the Black Diamond C3s (read and understand before buying and/or using) visit the Black Diamond C3 detail page, including the Tech Tips and Instructions.
Where to buy:
* GR quibbles with my use of the word “fall,” since he felt that what I did was more like a “take” since each time I was in the process of downclimbing, having backed off the moves rather than committing to the moves and trying upward. We agreed on the language, as opposed to my first gear “falls,” that these were my first “weighting of gear with some force” instead. But, that’s just too long to type over and over, and, seriously – these were falls, whether I was going up or down immediately before they happened. I was above my pro, I slipped off each time, and gravity kicked in. I’m going to call ’em falls. So there.
** Climbing is dangerous. Read the instructions (a lot of folks don’t) and climb and use any piece of gear, under any conditions, at your own risk. I’d rather write fun stuff than disclaimers, so I’ll just keep it simple and ask that you don’t sue me, please, if your experience with the C3s is different than my own.
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