New Cams: 2016

by Topher Dabrowski

With so many manufacturers introducing new cams for 2016, I wanted to take a quick look at the newer cams on the market and do some comparisons to see how much of a benefit they offer. Obviously there is a lot of talk about light weight and improved features,but how much lighter and what is it going to cost you?

I'm going to focus on Black Diamond (BD), Metolius, DMM, Wild Country and Totem cams, since those are the main newer offerings for the year.

Black Diamond and Metolius both announced an ultra light (UL) cam which will supplement their current offerings of Camalot C4s and MasterCams, respectively. Only Metolius has gone as far as putting its entire set of MasterCams on a diet as well as adding two more sizes on the upper end, a number 7 & 8, which is in the range of a Camalot 2 & 3. The larger sized MasterCams of the previous generation tended to be a bit wobbly due to the single flexible stem and the larger mass of the cam lobes. However, with the reduction in mass, it seems like Metolius was willing to go a little bigger and also add a stiffer cable. Black Diamond's new line of UL cams does not include the .3, 5 or 6 yet, so if you wanted a complete set those would have to be made up with the C4s. There is no news yet if BD intends to update those cam sizes and offer a UL version.

DMM has changed up the design of the lobes on its Dragon cams to be a bit "stickier" and profiled to be thicker in the sweet spot for more contact with rock. They offer a full line of cams with extendable slings from size 00-6, which is equivalent to the BD sizes of 0.3-4. It is interesting to note that DMM has color coded its twin axle Dragon cams to match the colors of the BD Camalots for a given size. One would guess this was done to ease interchangeability and familiarity of cam sizes for Camalot aficionados.

Wild Country, too, has updated the Friend to offer a twin axle design cam which also closely resembles the Camalot C4. Wild Country has taken the cue from DMM and added extendable slings to the new units, while also matching the size and colors of the Camalots. Could this be a trend towards an industry standard? Unfortunately, the Friends only come in the 0.5-4 sizes for now so the equivalent smaller 0.3 and 0.4 sizes would have to be made up with either the previous Helium Friend cam or another brand entirely.

Totem, a lesser-known Spanish company, offers a unique cam that is a dual independent stem design. It allows the cam to function in a quasi-offset nature which helps it perform well in flaring cracks and also affords aid climbers the ability to actively place only two lobes of the cam. Totem is expanding the range with two units, one which will be similar in size to the 2.0 Camalot size, which Totem calls a 1.8, slung with orange Dyneema. The other is the 0.5 size, equivalent to a 0.2 Camalot and is slung in black Dyneema.

I wanted to compare the new UL cams to the existing C4 cams as well as the DMM, Wild Country and Totem cams for a common 0.3-4 size set. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a challenge since only the DMM Dragons came as a complete set that covered the range. To try and make a reasonably fair comparison, I supplemented what each manufacturer might have available for the missing sizes. For the Wild Country cams I chose the equivalent Helium Friends. To make a complete set of Camalot ULs I threw in the 0.3 C4. I couldn't do much for Totem since they don't make an equivalent size to the BD 3 or 4. Similarly, the MasterCam ULs don't have a BD 4 equivalent, so I used the Camalot UL 4 to complete that set as it seemed the logical choice.

I made three main comparisons and summarized the mass and costs of a chosen cam set between manufacturers. I highlighted the lightest set and lowest cost in the second set of tables.

(01) - Wild Country offers the smallest set of new cams (six in total) from 0.5-4, so I used this as a basis for the first comparison and substituted in a Camalot UL 4 for the Metolius set. The lightest and lowest cost set is the MasterCam UL with the Camalot UL C4 added as the biggest cam. The new BD Camalot ULs were the most expensive set while the C4 and the new Friends were almost the same mass.

(02) - This comparison is for the common 0.3-4 Camalot set. Again,Metolius has the lightest and lowest cost set of cams and BD has the most expensive set with its ULs. The Friends, Dragons and C4s are all very close in mass but the Friends and Dragons do have the extendable slings.

(03) - Here I tried to bring Totems into the mix. Since they have a set that is limited in the upper range by a Camalot 2 size equivalent, I simply compared an equivalent set from 0.3-2.0. Metolius, again, has the lightest and cheapest set of cams. The Totems are not overly weighty given their added functionality, but they are pricey.

I suppose one could start to look at the savings with reduced number of runners when considering the cams with extendable slings. My typical sling is a Mammut Contact 8 mm with two CAMP Nano ‘biners, all of which weighs in at 78 grams. Given a set of DMM or Friends from 0.3-4 with extendable slings, I might be able to leave those runners behind and save 624 grams off my rack. It would really depend on how much the route wanders and if those extended slings are long enough.

I have yet to get my hands on any of these units but, from a preliminary look at these specs, there are already some glaring differences. In the end, though, only getting out on the rock with these on my rack will tell whether or not these design discrepancies are significant or not.

About the author: Topher Dabrowski started his climbing endeavors early and has been adventuring and climbing all over planet Earth for almost 3 decades. His activities include mountaineering, big walls, alpine, mixed, rock, ice, bouldering and long distance trail running. As an active member of the local ASCA rebolting chapter he can often be found replacing suspect anchors and reducing your chances of an expensive hospital bill.


IT Project: Status Report

by Sarah Bradham, Mazamas Marketing & Publications Manager 

In 2014 the Mazamas received a major gift from the Weinstein estate, which gave us the resources we needed to tackle one of the longest-awaited projects at the Mazamas—overhauling our information technology (IT) systems. Our existing systems are clearly not meeting the needs or expectations of our members, students or administration, and need to be modernized.

The goal is to create a centralized, online database that directly integrates with our website to manage everything the Mazamas do—from membership renewals to class administration, to volunteer management and donor relations, it'll all run through this new system.

 In 2015 we went to work identifying the needs of the Mazamas. We hired a web development firm, OMBU Web, to complete the Discovery Phase of the project. This involved meetings with staff, key volunteers, and committee members to fully understand what we needed in a new system. The outcome of the Discovery Phase was a comprehensive Features & Requirements list, a Data Model, and Workflows.

We then sent out a Request for Proposal for the Build Phase of the project based on these documents. We received five proposals, which were narrowed down to two serious contenders. Then, in 2016 and after numerous meetings with each company, we decided to proceed with OMBU for the Build Phase of the project.

The Project Kickoff was in May and we are finalizing the Features & Requirements of the new system now. In March, we also hired Peter Tung, an Encore Fellow from Social Venture Partners, to act as our IT Project Manager. This will ensure this important project gets the full support it needs to meet all benchmarks of timeline and quality. Peter comes to us with experience gleaned from 25-years at Intel as an IT Engineering Director.

 We will keep you informed throughout this project in several ways: quarterly project update meetings that are open to the public, and a website, mazamasitproject.org, that will be updated weekly. We look forward to sharing the exciting details of this project as they continue to unfold. Until then, make sure to keep up with us on our website.
Project Objectives
  • Web application for members, volunteers, and the community to access and administer Mazama programs & services.
  • Visually appealing, streamlined, and easy-to-use Mazama website.
  • Robust online calendar that includes all events, activities, and classes that is easily searchable based on a multiple criteria. 
  • Centralized data system that can be accessed anywhere.


When Fireworks on the Fourth Just Won't Do

Just an hour east of Portland, man and dog find peace and quiet on the noisiest nights of the year

by Matt Carter

When the neighborhood fireworks begin each July, my dog Lily becomes an inconsolable mess of panting, pacing, whining, and shaking. In recent years I have used this as justification to get out of town and into the mountains with her.

In 2014, the Fourth fell on a Friday. The weather forecast was unusual, as it did not include rain, making it a perfect weekend for a backpack. I checked with Lily to see if she was available. She cleared her schedule for me and was ready to go in under a second. It took me a bit longer to load our packs. Our plan was to hike up Tanner Butte Trail to the Tanner-Eagle cutoff, down Eagle Creek to the Wahtum Lake Trail, around the lake past Chinidere Mountain to Benson Plateau, and out Ruckel Creek.

We encountered our first hikers as the trail levels out then grades gently up Tanner Ridge: two young men and their freshly groomed Collie. They were trying without success to coach their pup to jump a log crossing the trial. Without a pause, Lily walked up to the log next to the Collie and hopped over. “This is how it is done newbie,” she wagged. The Collie watched and shortly thereafter hopped the log.

This young team was keen to get in front of us, most likely to secure what would surely be the last spot at Dublin Lake on such a beautiful weekend. I picked up the pace to no avail. Youth won out and they arrived at Dublin Lake minutes before we did. I tossed some sticks into the lake for Lily to retrieve and then hiked on. We would not see another person that day.

Shortly after the lake junction the trail picks up an abandoned road. Along the road we encountered two large patches of cut bear grass arranged to make beds. Not aware of any forest critter that cuts bear grass to form a bed, I was allowed to speculate on the cause as either Bigfoot or space aliens. Lily’s nose showed no interest in the piles of vegetation, so we moved on.

When Lily and I arrived at Tanner Springs Campground, we were amazed to find ourselves alone on such a beautiful weekend in the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness, which lies barely an hour east of Portland. We set up camp along the stream and prepared for the evening. Lily sleeps at the tent door with just the bug screen. From there she can monitor the olfactory action of the night forest as I drift off to sleep.

The next morning, we encountered a few Boy Scouts and their leader, who reported an arduous adventure up from Big Cedar Springs that included losing the trail many times and being trapped in thicket. They looked beat. Lily wasted no time putting their unoccupied hands to use.

This is a well-practiced routine for her. She slowly moves into position alongside of a hiker and places her head into the hiker’s unoccupied hand. Without being much aware of what they are doing, they begin petting her. And if they stop, her head presses gently against their leg and the petting resumes. In the early days of hiking with Lily, I would try to stop her or at least alert the person that they were petting a dog without knowing it. More recently, I’ve just let it happen. When they depart from our trailside conversation, most are unaware they spent the last minute or so petting a dog.
I put Lily in the lead whenever a trail goes faint. She has the advantage of being able to follow scent beacons and can tell the difference between lost and not-lost scents. We are a well-integrated team. Thanks to her, we had no difficulty passing the section described by the scouting group as nearly impassable.

Once past Big Cedar Springs the trail improved and we found our first muddy tarn. Like a magnet, Lily is drawn to water features, and in she went, despite having been trained not to do so while wearing a pack. What emerged from the muck was a half white, half black dog and a pack filled with goo.

As we approached the west fork of Eagle Creek she began her water happy dance. Leading out and turning her head frequently, “Can I?!! Can I?!!” her eyes asked. The siren call of Eagle Creek again defeated her discipline; in she went, pack and all. On the plus side she and her pack cleaned up nicely.
Some time later we meet a young woman coming out from Wahtum Lake. Lily moved into position to receive pets. After the young woman reported that everyone out hiking that day is at Wahtum Lake, I told Lily to knock it off. The young woman pulled her hand away quickly, surprised to realize that she had been petting a dog. Before she departed, she called Lily adorable.

True to the young woman’s report, Wahtum Lake was packed with tents in every available space. Lily retrieved some sticks for me from the lake. On the move again, we headed past Chinidere Mountain toward Benson Plateau. Near Camp Smoky, we encountered a lone hiker. While Lily was working him, he reported a large group ahead of us was headed to the Plateau to camp. Again, the race was on. There are several trails in the Plateau. We took the shortest to Hunters Camp and turned up the wick. Arriving at Hunters Camp, we found ourselves alone again. Lily settles into camp life quickly, taking a position where she can comfortably track my progress setting up camp. Her keen sense of smell allows her to monitor me with her eyes closed.

The next day we began the hike out down Ruckel Creek. Over the years Lily has day-hiked all the trails we covered on this Fourth-of-July excursion. As we started to head down she stopped frequently to bark and stare at me. The message was clear: “This trail leads to the car. No, this can’t end!”

Our last encounter was with a young couple. They were headed up Ruckel Creek just past the Indian pits. The young man pulled out a map and began to tell me where on the map we are (not even close), and asked how much further to Cascade Locks. They had taken the alternate route on the Pacific Crest Trail down Eagle Creek, and rather than walk the Old Highway to Cascade Locks, they were headed back up Ruckel Creek. I advised him that Ruckel Creek via Benson and the PCT to Cascade Locks was a very long way. He assured me I was wrong and they pressed on. Lily had scored pets with the young woman. Near the road they passed us up, retreating without a word.
We returned to a quiet Portland neighborhood. A tired dog is a good dog.

Author Bio: Matt Carter has been a Mazama member for 22 years, as well as a Climb Leader, BCEP Leader, Advanced Rock leader and has served on many committees and Executive Council. Lily, (aka The Lovely Miss Lily to her climber friends), is a nine-year-old Golden Retriever who can be found with Matt most weekends on local trail and off trail adventures. She is an accomplished mountain dog comfortable in pack and harness. 

The Beauty of BCEP: Doing what's not comfortable is the point

by Maureen O’Hagan

The first week in March, twelve students meet for the first time. There is a doctor, a teacher, a salesman. There is a social worker, an IT guy, an engineer. I don’t know any of this at first; it will all come out later (along with a lot of other life-affirming details.) These are utter strangers to me. But it doesn’t take long to understand a few things. First, that these strangers differ in their experience, their fitness, their age, their politics, their backgrounds. But also that they have one thing in common: they want to learn. And somehow, it works.

This is the beauty of the Mazama Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP): take a bunch of strangers, dump a boatload of information on them, put them under just the right amount of stress, and they come out the other end better in more ways than they could have imagined. At least that’s the way I see it.

Why worry?

I applied to BCEP with some trepidation. At age 50, I was convinced I would be the oldest among the group. The slowest. The least experienced.

In retrospect, worrying is always a waste of time. (I know, I know!) But it’s also true that the whole idea of BCEP is uncomfortable. As an adult, it’s not often that you willingly put yourself in a position where you have no idea what you’re doing. Especially when it could actually be dangerous. Mostly, we grownups just keep doing what makes us comfortable.

Yet this kind of discomfort is exactly what we all signed up for.

The second and third rings

At our first lecture, our team co-leader, Patrice Cook, made the point in graphic form, drawing a picture on the blackboard of three concentric circles. The innermost circle was our comfort zone. This is where we live most of the time. The next circle represented activities that are outside our comfort zone. The third represented activities that made us scared out of our wits. For BCEP, she told us, we shouldn’t reach the third ring. But the second one? Well, that’s the whole point.

Our first hike helped clear up some baseline questions for me. Would I get wet? Yes. Cold? Yes. Tired? Yes. Would I have the right gear? No. But will I manage to enjoy it anyway? Again, yes.

It was on another outing where I would learn the more important lessons. The hike itself, up the Elevator Shaft and towards Devil’s Rest, was a bit steep at the start. But then we veered off to practice some of the rope skills we had learned in the previous weeks. And this is where one member of our group began approaching the third circle. We were to travel on a fixed line, then rappel off of Cougar Rock. To my new friend, this was scared witless territory. As she told me to edge past her as we approached the ropes, her fear was palpable.

For a long time, she just sat there. The rest of the group did our rappels. She sat there some more. And we waited.

When we saw her finally setting up for the rappel, the rest of us gasped. When she safely reached the ground, we all cheered.

Later, when I asked her how she managed to change her mind—how she decided to move forward rather than give up and walk away—she talked about the circles, about getting outside her comfort zone. That’s when it occurred to me that courage doesn’t mean fearlessness. It’s a willingness to trust even when you’re scared—to trust the system, to trust your instructors, and to trust your own body. That’s what we were privileged to witness that day. In some ways, it was a small moment, but it’s a moment I don’t think any of us will forget.

A set of keys

Over the course of BCEP, there were other such moments. There was frustration. (I admit it: I got lost trying to find the starting line for the navigation exercise.) There were challenges. But there were so many stories we all shared. I learned that one of my teammates recently suffered a profound loss but had a look of pure joy on her face as she bounded towards a meeting point. That another used to weigh 400 pounds and had utterly changed his life. That a third had a new baby. I learned several of my new friends practiced meditation. That they had climbed peaks that I couldn’t even imagine. That they may look mild-mannered, or live otherwise conventional lives, but that they were adventurers at heart.

So, what do you get over the course of the eight-week BCEP class? A set of keys that can open doors to new adventures. That’s the practical part. But more important are friends that I hope to get to know even more. And concepts that I hope will serve me in life beyond climbing.

What’s next? I mustered the nerve to apply for a Mt. Hood climb. Sure, it will be hard. But it’s an opportunity to meet even more perfect strangers.

About the Author: Maureen O’Hagan is a journalist who’s written for Willamette Week, The Washington Post, and The Seattle Times. She currently works as a freelance writer, editor, and ghostwriter and is nearing completion of a cookbook project. Shortly after this essay was submitted, she summited Mt. Hood.