Upon the shoulders of that breakthrough, a close-knit team of Black Diamond engineers continued to introduce improvements and iterations to the Camalot. First came the C4, and a few years later, the C3. The family of cams was once again supplemented by the introduction of the X4 and X4 Offsets. But still, nearly 30 years after Christianson’s breakthrough, no significant changes to the Camalot’s overall weight had been introduced.
The climbing community, and to some extent the outdoor community at large, enthusiastically celebrated Caldwell and Honnold’s success. History had been made. But behind the curtains, the breakthrough proved to be fuel for a fire that had been slowly igniting inside Black Diamond HQ. The team was once again furiously tinkering. What if Caldwell and Honnold could have lightened up their rack? they wondered.
Continuous Dyneema Core
Dyneema core stem design is strong, durable and low-profile.
Sculpted Cam Lobes
Machine sculpted lobes maintain strength while accounting for a portion of the overall weight savings.
Same Range & Angle as Original Camalots
Double-axle design offers widest range for each cam unit.
The major design challenge was presented by the steel cable at the center of each cam. With steel’s high tensile strength comes added weight, and each Camalot was made notably heavier by this stem. In order to make a significant weight reduction to each cam, the team of engineers would need to figure out a way to replace this component with something much, much lighter.
Ideas were tossed back and forth, and a few even made it one stuttering step past the drawing board, but nothing stuck. Then, Gompert struck gold. While inspecting a piece of Dyneema used in Black Diamond’s lightweight backpacks, he realized that if he could engineer a way to splice the Dyneema together in a continuous loop, it would be strong enough to supplant the steel of the Camalot.
Along with his team, Gompert tested an idea based roughly around the concept behind the design of a Chinese finger trap. Using this technique, and after countless rounds of testing, the engineers were finally able to achieved their goal: a continuous loop of Dyneema. Finally, the heavy steel at the center of the Camalot could be replaced.
With this breakthrough, the team charged ahead full steam, sniffing out every possibility for further weight savings. Each cam’s lobes were meticulously machined, with larger windows that allowed for greater weight savings while maintaining the classic cam angle that first made the C4 famous. Next came the Camalot’s trigger wires and sling. The designers left no stone unturned.
Finally, 24 months after Gompert and crew first struck out to build a lighter cam, they had done it. When compared with a rack of traditional C4s, the rack of all-new Camalot Ultralights was 25% lighter.
“When people started going really light, it enabled them to link these huge mountains chains and climb big faces in a day,” he explained of the time leading up to the Ultralight’s introduction. And now, whether the objective is a new link-up in the Torres or a big push in the mountains of Alaska or a big wall on Baffin, things have gotten much, much lighter. It’s a breakthrough that opens the door for a new era of climbing.
Words: Shey Kiester
Photography: Jon Glassberg & Josh Uhl
Videography: Louder Than 11 Productions
Production: Advent Integrated