Need a Friend?
Jardine revolutionized trad climbing with invention of Friends in 1970s
In the early 70s, like many Yosemite Valley climbers, Jardine's climbing abilities were exceeding the current state of climbing gear technology and pushing the boundaries of climbing difficulty.
Jardine had a background in aerospace engineering, and had been pushing the limits into the 5.12 range (a level that only a handful of people could climb at that time.) He had run up against the limitations of passive nut protection and hexes on routes. He could also see the inherently destructive nature of continuing to use fixed pitons and other hammered gear in pristine Yosemite granite.
So with the help of a buddy and a fully equipped machine shop, he began working on the first of what would become modern SLCDs, or spring loaded camming devices. His early prototypes had a rigid stem and no trigger or cables--you needed four hands to retract the cams. He carried the prototypes around in a bag and kept the secret quiet.
While they were preparing for a climb on Washington Column, a buddy asked him if he had his bag of "friends" with him, refering to the crude but incredibly helpful prototypes. The name stuck.
Later, after he refined the design, Jardine was able to put the Friends into full production with the Wild Country company in England. The devices revolutionized climbing, making it possible to safely do routes that had never been done before, and to do routes that could not be climbed safely otherwise. The camming devices were incredibly strong, versatile--expanding or contracting to fit a wide range of cracks, and they were easily placed and removed.
The modern version of the original Friends that you have on your rack with strong, flexible stems, double-axels, expanded camming range, and bomber breaking strength are direct descendents of Jardine's ingenious homemade gagdets.
For more on the first 'Friends', check out Ray Jardine website
Labels: climbing, tips, Yosemite