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Metolius Offset TCU Editorial Review


Submitted by vegastradguy on 2007-01-16

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.   Votes: 3 | Comments: 32 | Views: 11674

by John Wilder


Submitted by Kate R (holdplease2)

Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com --1/15/07

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Metolius

Photo: Metolius

Diorite crumbling, wind howling, ropes whipping violently, water freezing, park service towing the car…

K “Dude – Send up the mystery Hybrids!”

M “Umm…Huh? Wha?”

K “The Mystery TCU’s…I left them at the belay! Send ‘em up!”

M “What if I can’t find ‘em?”

K “F-ing find them!”

OK, so maybe it wasn’t quite so dramatic, sometimes it sure did feel that way. So went a conversation between me and my partner, Stinky/Dirty/Handsome Mike on our test route for the Metolius Hybrid TCUs on El Capitan’s Shortest Straw...on a sunny September day in Yosemite Valley.

This route is known for its thin aiding, including three pitches of A4 (so says the topo, anyway) and many more A3/A3+ pitches with the tiniest, loosest pin scars we’d ever seen. The perfect testing ground for Metolius’ latest offering.

We were armed to the gills with our standard three sets of Hybrid Aliens (to facilitate a cleaner climb) 4/5 of a set of Offset TCUs, and about 35 pitons if all else failed.

If you’ve climbed the pin-scarred free climbing pitches in Yosemite and Zion or spent any time on a big wall, you’ve likely run into many flared placements resulting from beat-out pin scars in which the inner two lobes of a four cam unit fit perfectly but the outer lobes find next to no contact with a the rock. While this may be a way to build a story to tell over beers of your radness of standing on a “two lobe placement” on your first big wall, it does no good for the free climber getting ready to sketch above said placements.

In this day and age, it’s practically the responsibility of every big wall climber to own some offset gear to prevent further scarring of our limited resources. It’s basically a known fact…unless your balls are made of titanium, you will nail more if you don’t have hybrid gear.

Free climbers seem to use the offset cams only rarely, probably because they are so hard to come by. But after spending a few weeks climbing in Joshua Tree with the ultra-light Metolius Hybrid TCU’s on my rack for less than the weight of one .75 Black Diamond C4, I can tell you that free climbers who love the dicey thin stuff should take a second look at this new Hybrid option!

Until now, only one offset or “hybrid: cam has been on the market…if you want to call needing to scour the country for months on end to find a set or paying a premium for used gear on EBay for a set of CCH Hybrid Aliens “available.” Combine this with some reticence over recent quality control problems at Colorado Custom Hardware, and the market comprised of thin-climbing aficionados, and aid climbers, are turning an interested eye towards Metolius’ new offering: Offset TCUs.

Because offset placements most typically exist as pin scars, and pin scars are typically finger-sized or smaller, these offset cams are small…with a low-end range of .34 for the smallest and up to 1.4 inches. For the largest.

The Specs

These sweet new double-stemmed units from Metolius are of the “ultralight” design, meaning that they are the lightest small camming units available, with the smallest weighing in at just 1.4 ounces and rated to 5kn. The equivalently-sized CCH alien weighs (The typical hand-sized cam is rated to around 12 kn, for reference)

  • Smallest Offset Metolius TCU: Range = .34-.55 inches (8.5-14mm), width = 1.4 inches, weight = 41gm, Strength = 5kn, price = 49.50
  • Smallest Hybrid CCH Alien: .Range = 33-.54 inches (8-14mm), width =1.4 inches (35.56mm), weight = 66gm, Strength = 5kn, price = 55.00
  • Smallest Black Diamond Camalot C3 Range = 8.5-14mm, width = 1.125 inches, weight = 45gm, Strength = 5kn, Price = 69.95

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Kate R.

Photo: Kate R.

You may be wondering why we are including the BD C3 in this table. That is because folks often substitute a narrow-headed three cam unit for a wider offset FCU in a placement. Given the exceptionally narrow head unit of the C3, we feel that this is a viable option for pin-scar protection.

The Features

Cam Stops: The Metolius Offset TCUs offer cam stops, the aliens do not. While these units are not frequently used as passive pro, like a larger cam might, the cam stops do provide a last-ditch effort to stop a cam which has begun to slide through soft or fragile rock in the event of a fall.

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Kate R.

Photo: Kate R.

Stem Design: Either you love U-stem cam design or you don’t. I, for one, do not. For this reason I only carry one piece of Metolius gear on my rack, a bombproof Orange TCU. Double stems mean that in unusual placements where the axel of the cam is not horizontal to the ground, ‘strange’ forces may be transferred to the head of the cam. Additionally, in super-thin placements, the width of the stem close to the outside of the head of the cam could thwart your placement. For dicey aid and free placements, I personally prefer a single stem design or the double stem design of the C3, which places the stem inside the outer lobe of the cam.

Number of Lobes: The number of lobes on a cam impacts the surface area over which the cam can apply friction and over which the force of the fall is distributed. I, for one, prefer more surface contact with the rock. Here’s why: Force Distribution: With just 1-2mm of crushed rock, your small cam placements can fail. A force of just 400 pounds on a cam creates about 1000 pounds of force on the rock on each side of the cam. In sandstone or crystalline granite, this is a heck of a lot of force. I like to distribute it beyond what is available on the single lobe of a TCU.

Historically, using three lobes rather than four has resulted in a narrower head profile for the cam. In this case, however, the Metolius Hybrid TCU and the CCH Hybrid Alien Four Cam Unit have identical head widths. Only the Black Diamond C3 sports a narrower head profile.

Rockclimbing Article Image4_large
Kate R.

Photo: Kate R.

Rockclimbing Article Image5_large
Kate R.

Photo: Kate R.

The Verdict:

Aid Climbing: While I prefer the versatility and the number-of-lobes to width ratio of the hybrid alien to the double-stemmed hybrid TCU for my first set of offsets on a big wall, I believe that the Metolius Hybrid TCUs make an outstanding second set of hybrid cams. They will add a little diversity to your hybrid cam options, providing just enough of a difference to allow you to optimize placements between the CCH Hybrid Alien and the Metolius Offset TCU.

Free Climbing: Because they are super-light these will ride along on my free rack for dicey-thin stuff, all on one ‘biner. They are a great “save your ass” piece. Whereas I might not carry a full set of alien hybrids due to the clutter and weight, I think that I will often slip these onto the free rack for those “just in case” placements.

So thank you to Metolius for offering us an ultralight offset camming unit backed by Metolius quality control and production/distribution capacity. I look forward to carrying my set as a backup on big walls and as a primary piece on my free rack. And in the event that I want a double set? I hope to see plenty of these floating around for those who have the luxury of such specialized gear on their free rack.

Go to this item in the Gear Database.



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32 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

 holdplease2
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 2007-01-16
If anybody has any other questions about my experience with these cams, I'd be happy to answer them here. Post up! :) -Kate.
 shimanilami
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 2007-01-16
Do they have two small lobes (side and middle) and one big lobe (side)? I can't tell from the pictures.

 vegastradguy
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 2007-01-16
Yup- two small lobes, one larger.
 112
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 2007-01-17
Which direction (right or left) does the Metolius Offset TCU tapper as compared to CCH Alian Hybrids (outside lobes down). I assume they only manufature the taper in one direction?
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-17
112: Wow, that's a great question, and the answer is even better! The outside lobes on the metolius face left while the outside lobes on the alien face right. This is important for the hard-to-get placement, and all the more reason to have a set of these hybreds to compliment the hybred aliens. Each MFR only makes the taper go one direction...and it turns out that they compliment one another in this way. -Kate.
 jeremy11
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 2007-01-18
are they any good for mostly parallel placements? I'd guess not...
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-18
Hi Jeremy - You'd have the same problems with these in a parallel placement that the normal cams have in a hybred placement. One set of lobes would be good, the other would be at too wide an angle. Basically, if you climb in mostly parallel areas like Indian Creek, these might not be for you. However, if you climb a ton of pin scars or rock with alot of irregularities, they could make for more secure placement than just using a regular cam with one set of lobs cammed sub-optimally. Hope this helps. -Kate.
 112
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 2007-01-19
Interesting. Thanks Kate.

I was wondering because one day gear shopping I found a nut that was a mirror as compared to the rest of the set of my metolius astro nuts. I bought this particular nut as a single. I didn't know if you could specify right or left handed.
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-19
Hi 112: I thought it was a good question. I am betting that if someone really wanted to go out of their way they could contact CCH and have some "mirror" image hybred aliens made. Possibly the same from Metolius, but I don't know. They are very customer service oriented over there.
 chossmonkey
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 2007-01-20
Kate- thanks for the review! I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a set.
I would like to point out that the cam stops on the smallest sizes are worthless as such and should not be trusted in an open placement. I've sheared them off on a #0 on a very short fall when the cam slid out of a bad placement. As to the head width, over all the Metolius TCU and CCH have the same head width. But the outside cable of the TCU doesn't need to be in the crack. If stuffing straight into a pocket it might be an issue, but shallow bottoming cracks the TCU will sometimes work where the CCH won't. It would also be interesting to see how much surface area each unit has as a whole on its cams for a comparable size, C3 vs. TCU vs. CCH. The cams on the TCU look thicker than the CCH, it hard to see the C3 vs. TCU. -Nate
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-20
Hey Chossmonkey: Great comments on the cam stops, thankfully, I didn't get to test them like that. ;) When Vegastradguy and I were on the phone last week he compared the lobe widths on the three camming units. I do know that the Metolius lobes are slightly wider than the Alien lobes, probably bringing overall surface area closer to the same. Also, BD made an extra-fat center lobe for this very reason. John, do you have any comments for Nate?
 vegastradguy
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 2007-01-21
Well, the whole TCU v FCU argument is sort of interesting here. I have three cams from three folks- the Green Alien, the Yellow C3, and the Blue TCU- all relatively the same size cam, give or take. The TCU and the C3's outer lobes (at maximum contact for the C3- as it tapers) are bigger than the lobes of an Alien. At its thinnest point of contact, the outer lobe of a C3 is only a millimeter or so smaller than an Alien. Now, the center lobe of a TCU is the size of two lobes of an Alien- while the center lobe of a C3 ranges between 1.5 lobes on an Alien to about 2.75 lobes on an Alien! So, for surface area, i'd say in an ideal placement, the C3 has the most contact with the rock, and the TCU and the Alien have about the same, with possibly a little more for the TCU, due to the center lobe being one solid piece and the Alien having two lobes....even in a less than ideal placement (but one that would still be good enough to climb above), the C3 would still maintain a large amount of contact with the rock, perhaps being equal to or microscopically less than the TCU and Alien....and then in a marginal placement...even though the C3 would start to lose the battle (by a millimeter or so), if you've got a marginal placement on any of these cams, you're running on a prayer (and probably a screamer) anyway.....
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-21
Make that Hopefully a screamer. BTW - Check out the "Shock Absorber" by Mammut for a screamer alternative. They use spectra and nylon and are much smaller and lighter than the Yates "Screamer." I carry a few as quick draws, they're hardly more bulk than the big petzl quickdraws with "Petzl" written on the dogbone. -Kate.
 j_ung
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 2007-01-22
5 out of 5 stars Mine is a comment about the review, rather than the gear. The ensuing discussion increases its already considerable value by plenty. Keep it up guys.
 habitat
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 2007-01-22
I'm disappointed that many manufacturers have gone away from making offset cams. My 1.5/2 friend is one of the best pieces for odd pods in sandstone or granite.

Nice job, may look into these.
 crotch
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 2007-01-22
Vegas - I think surface area with respect to 3 vs. 4 lobes is a non-issue in a real-world flared placement as it's unlikely that you'll have the entire length of a lobe in contact with the rock.
 vegastradguy
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 2007-01-22
Crotch- i'm really comparing width of lobe, not so much the length of the lobe....in any placement, the length of the lobe is really irrelevant- the width is what matters.
 crotch
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 2007-01-22
Right, I gotcha. I meant by 'length' what you mean by 'width'. The point still stands. In a flare, the entire "width" of the lobe won't contact the rock, just the inside edge. Fatter lobes won't change that.
 vegastradguy
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 2007-01-22
Point taken- of course, i probably should have caveated my whole comment with the fact that i was comparing standard cams, not hybrids. i wasn't thinking in terms of flares, which, in hindsight is sort of silly, but what are you going to do? i do believe, though, that in many flares you get much more than partial contact of the lobe with the rock, and in those cases, this argument does hold some water.
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-22
Hey Guys: Crotch brings up a point. If I look at the wear marks on the lobes, they are decidedly to the outside edge of the lobes. If you want real contact from the lobes in these placements it would be best if the axel holes were drilled at an angle. That would be asking a bit much, though, and might impact trigger pull. But it makes sense. -Kate.
 holdplease2
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 2007-01-22
And anyone longing for some larger offset cams...think about trying some OP LINK cams. They work awesome in flared placements, as one set of lobes can be contracted much further than the other. I swear by these things and they have replaced my camalots green thru gold on my rack. -Kate.
 jeremy11
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 2007-01-23
interesting point brought up on hybrids usually contacting on the lobe edges - why don't they just make the lobe edge angled so it is parallel to the ideal flare? yes, obviously it would cost more, but would it hold better in real life usage?
 mattm
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 2007-01-24
Angled edges would start to create an outward force vector - not exactly what you want...
 jeremy11
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 2007-01-24
but, do the non-angled edges avoid the outward force vector? that should be there no matter what in a flared placement, so angled lobe edges would increase surface area and therefore friction to counteract the outward force vector
 darkside
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 2007-01-27
One factor to mitigate concerns regarding lobe contact on the edges is that aluminum lobes will deform slightly given a large force such as a fall may produce. Also the rock may become crushed, either of which will result in slightly more rock/cam contact and corresponding increase in holding power. How much? - I've no idea and it's still possible that it could lead to the cam ripping out if the rock was soft enough or the cam at it's outer camming range. Hmmm... comforting thought to start with but then again....... !
 flamer
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 2007-01-29
K “Dude – Send up the mystery Hybrids!”

M “Umm…Huh? Wha?”

K “The Mystery TCU’s…I left them at the belay! Send ‘em up!”

M “What if I can’t find ‘em?”

K “F-ing find them!”

Hey kate....is that anything like...."how much f-ing rope is left?"?

HaHa!!!

josh
 psprings
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 2007-05-30
Kate-
Adding this late so I may have to PM you, but which sizes did you find you used the most? You said you took 4/5 so I'm guessing you dropped the largest one...
Peter
 holdplease2
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 2007-06-01
Hey Peter:

Thank you for the head's up. Actually, one of the mid-sized ones was missing from the set we recieved, so I had the largest ones. I would have carried them all if I had them. :)

If I had to choose one or two for the typical trad rack/climber, it would be the second from the largest and the largest, if you climb in areas with pin scars. These fit perfectly in the scars left by popular sizes of angle pitons, making them useful. Also, they fit in tips/finger crack constrictions, which are frequently popular sizes for climbing.

The smaller sizes are quite good if your specialty is super-thin climbing with barely any pro, or if you really find your self fiddling with super-small gear on your rock type. As in...if you always carry a bunch of small or micro nuts on your rack and find yourself using them alot, you might really like these cams. They are about the size of the black and blue aleins, which are frequenlty not included in free racks because climbing that thin isn't what people tend to do.

I hope that this helps, and thank you, again for the PM heads up!

Kate Robertson
773.255.3638
 psprings
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 2007-06-01
Thanks Kate. Looks like I may just have to pick up a small and a larger size :D I have some thin tendencies in me, lol.
 psprings
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 2007-06-11
I would just like to add that I bought a 1/2 size (blue/yellow) this weekend. While I was at the store, I noticed that of the several sets that they had displayed, the offsets were going BOTH directions. Unless it was a fluke, I'd bet that metolius is standardly making both directions of the offset lobes from my observations of the several sets that I saw at the store.
 psprings
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 2007-06-15
One more comment: when comparing my UL tcus and my 2 new offsets, I discovered that the stems are longer on the offsets... more like the old style stem length on the TCUs... it's only like 1/3" more than the new ULs, but if that length matters to you, you'll like that feature.
 ddailey
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 2007-08-19
Nice comment on the outward force vector from beveled/tapered lobes of cams.... reminds me of the problem with trapezoidal nuts... they create an outward force vector when placed in flares. What's up with that? -dave- cam physicist/engines

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