Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2020).
Nuts are the bread and butter of climbing protection, relatively cheap, carried in quantity, very strong yet simple and almost unbreakable. All climbers begin their apprenticeship using nuts (aka ‘wires’), and although they don’t have the razzmatazz of cams, or the guilty pleasure of bolts, they are the gear you place the most, and the gear that’s most likely to save you ass.
This months Climb Gear is dedicated to these wonders of twisted cable and alloy, aimed at both the novice; with lots of geaky info on getting the most out of them, and for the pro, with some wire types they may not have considered.
WHAT’S ON THE MARKET
Just about every hardwere manufacturer makes nuts of some shape or another, with the majority being either of the simple boxy Wild Country Rock shape, or exotic curvy Dmm Wallnut variety. Generally though a nut is a nut, and although in some circumstances shape will make or break (not literally) a placement, all nuts conform to a standard basic shape and function. This article is not about micro are large nuts (RPs, Rockcentrics etc), but about standard alloy wires from wafer thin to slim hand sized.
To start off I thought I’d list my personal top 6 nut designs (it would be better as top five, but there happens to be six). This is not to discount other manufactures brands (Camp, Zero G, Cassin etc) but merely my personal choice of the nuts that can most commonly be found on most climbers racks.
#1 Wild Country Anodised Rocks
Size 1- 14, Price range: £8 - £12 (Full set prices work out cheaper)
In at number one we have of course the carbohydrate of nuts (not sure what that means, but it sounds good), the humble Wild Country Rock. These seemingly simple alloy nuts are where passive protection really moved up a gear. The curved design of the nuts (most nuts like Moacs were relatively flat) gives the Rock three points of contact, making it stable, and able to be placed securely in irreguly sided cracks, yet due to its simple shape it cleans easily and is the least likely nut to stick (well not unless you want it too that is). This increased the stability of the nut and the speed of placement makes this the best nut for a novice to begin with, and probably remains the design that dominates most climbing racks in the UK.
Size and strength wise all sizes are strong and very useful, and I really like the new larger sized nuts, as you no longer have to swap from Rock 10 to Hex once the crack gets too large, plus the big nuts are very light for their size.
The new Rocks are colour coded, which does make them easier to identify, and helps in the old problem of identifying which nuts you’ve placed, so your second doesn’t spend ours trying to dig out a jammed wire that was left behind by Mallory, thinking it was placed by you (well that is until we get loads of coloured wires stuck as well).
#2 DMM WALLNUTS
Size 1 -11, Price Range: £8 - £10 (Full set prices work out cheaper)
DMM walnuts are the perfect match for the Rock, having a slightly more complex shape which allows them to seat better in some placements, especially flared cracks and pods. The scooped face also allows more secure ‘half in’ placements. In fact these should be in at #1.1 as they could be straight replacemts for the Rock, but personally I think because of their more complex geometry they sometimes require a margin more thought, and a bit more technique when it comes to cleaning. As such most climbers will carry one set of each, so as to exploit their slight differences.
Like the Rock these are now anodised, and in an unprecedented show of solidarity DMM and Wild Country have used the same colour coding in both ranges.
#3 METOLIUS ULTRALIGHT CURVED NUTS
Size 1 -10, Price Range: £7.50 - £8.50 (Full set prices work out cheaper)
The Metolius Curved Nut is one of those pieces of gear that most people would discount out of hand as it looks a little radical, with it’s curved surfaces, and sort of ‘wrong wall round’ kind of shape (they work very much like the old Faces Gems in some respects). Well the people at Metolius aren’t daft and these nuts really work well, after all most cracks are pretty radical aren’t they.
The redesigned Curved nut features a swagles cable design that reduces weight by 30% (come on DMM and Wild Country, lets see you do this as well and damb the cost!), and with colour coding I think these nuts deserve a place on most climbers racks.
The downside of this kind of nut is that because it works so well, that it’s often harder to clean a Curved nut over a standard shaped nut – which isn’t bad if you consider that nothing else would have gone in otherwise.
Buy one and try them out.
#4 BLACK DIAMOND STOPPERS
Sizes 1 – 13, Price Range: £6.50 - £7.50 (Full set prices work out cheaper)
Where as UK climbers where brought up on a diet of Wild Country Rocks, American’s had their own home grown Black Diamond Stoppers, a variation of the good old Rock. Like the Wallnut there are some slight differences in the shape of the Stopper, having a more subtle flare, and slightly smaller shape. For those who are carrying two sets of wires, then a set of rocks and a set of walnuts should cover most bases, but those who need more wires, a third set of Stoppers is a perfect addition, being close enough to a Rock for easy integration, but with enough variation to offer up the possibility of achieving a better placement.
The biggest appeal of the Stopper is it’s low cost, perhaps making it an attractive Wild Country Rock alternative (their anodised colour coding doesn’t match the walnuts though).
#5 DMM OFFSETS
Sizes 7 -11, Price Range: £8 +
I can remember when Wild Country brought out their offset Friends a few years ago, how those who hadn’t used them thought the would be crap, and those who used them thought they were great. The point people made was that half the cracks in the world are probably irregular, so having a cam were all four lobes were the same side was just as weird as having offset cams. Well the exotic now fefunked HB Offset wire was designed for just such cracks, and like the offset cam, was ignored by most climbers as being too exotic. Unfortunatly people had started to reliese how great these nuts were – when HB shut down, creating a wave of panic amonst Offset fans.
Luckily for climbers everywhere DMM have taken the Offset into their stable of nuts, and with a few tweaks, will be producing them again. I hope more climbers take notice this time and buy a few for their racks to try out.
#6 WILD COUNTRY SUPERLIGHT ROCKS
Sizes 1-6, Price Range: £10
Although they look like micro wires, the brilliant Superlight Rock is infact a ful sized rock, only cut in half. This not only gives you a nut that matches the thickness of your full sized nuts (1-6), but with half the bulk , lower weight and the ability to be set in very shallow cracks. The Superlights are more expensive, but the take up much less room on a rack, and a perfect 3rd option for those who probably only need two sets, or to further expand the placement possibilities of those who use a lot of nuts.
Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.Follow @ Instagram