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Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line...
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healyje


Sep 15, 2005, 11:18 AM
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Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line...
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This is from a pm conversation with a fellow that asked about some tips on using Ball Nuts. I would preface this post by saying there have been a lot of generations of Ball nuts over the years and many [subtle] changes to each rev by the various licensees and manufactures. The current versions on the market by Trango and Camp suffer a bit in comparison with the original Lowe versions or the Lowe/Byrne versions. My preference is for the Lowe/Byrne version and as I said they come around on ebay every now and then.

A popular myth about Ball nuts is they either come out easy or get welded easy - neither is true and both are a result of bad placements and operator error. Well placed Ball nuts are way better than today's "Microcams" and come out easy. I've taken multiple big [free] dives on about every conceivable placement and never had a single one not simply come right out. That said, 98% of my use of them is for free climbing and there are probably aid situations where unavoidable rotation and undesirable movement can cause problems, but while the following comments apply equally to aid climbing, they are derived from decades of using and falling on them free climbing...

=========================================

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Hi, I appreciated your comments and insight on the subject. I just bought 3 pieces recently. Could you pls let me know, when you "set" or "cinch up", do you give it a tug? (like the way you'd set a regular nut)

Bill

Hi, good for you - they're great. I'll say up front I strive to never "set" a regular nut and rarely do. For me the artistry is matching the nut to the geometry and then slinging appropriately. For me perfection is a nut that slots in perfect, stays due to the geometry, and cleans with total ease backing it out through the path it went in.

For the ball nuts you kind of have to mentally scope everything way, way down to where you are working in the land of millimeters and 1/64". By this I mean it is really worth sitting down with a ball nut and examining it with a macroscopic if not near microscopic perspective to really understand how and why it works and how it can work optimally. The first thing to notice is the relationship of the size of the ball to the blade/paddle slot; second is to really be cognizant of the total range of travel of the ball over the blade/paddle and the slot it houses. On most of them the ball can travel from beyond to slot to before the slot when you retract the spring.

The name of the game is where over the course of that travel will make the most secure placement. Another very important consideration is the "cinching" it will want to do in a fall or if you "set" it. That cinching/setting action by definition implies some amount of ball travel in the slot is going to take place. Anticipating and accomodating that ball travel is the name of the game in using them effectively. To do that you need narrower starting placement where the ball is only about a 1/4 of the way up from the initial bottom edge [widest] of the slot. That will mean when it cinches up in a fall or you set it hard it should end up cinched up to somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way to the end of the blade/paddle/slot. This is the most essential aspect of using ball nuts.

The other important aspect of using them is the [material] strength, texture, and topology of the crack you are placing it in. Obviously the harder the material the better. Surface texture does count in terms of how fast the blade travels in the cinching/setting process - completely slick, polished rock better be damn hard to stop the travel whereas a slightly rougher surface (such as our basalt here) is better as the blade/paddle cinches slower. As for topology, ideally you are looking for at least a slight constriction or contusion as opposed to an absolutely parallel sided affair.

The key to placing them is to get your face and eyeballs in there to the macro level and really understand all three aspects of any potential placement - hardness, texture, and shape. Placing ball nuts is not a slam and jerk affair, but rather requires close inspection, precise placement that takes advantage of every subtle feature, and most of all the resulting placement has to guarantee that the ball ends up in a position relative to the blade/paddle such that there is no possibility of the piece cinching up so much that the ball rides right over the end of the blade/paddle.

Again, to be clear, that means at max load in a fall the ball has adequate slot to travel and still not run off the end. So a placement where the ball starts out 2/3's of te way out the blade/paddle may not hold by the time it really cinches up in a fall unless it is in really hard rock and the topology of the placement won't allow it to travel far.

Hope that helps - shout if you have any more questions now or after you start using them. Just get down to the macro level when using them - get close enough so that you could imagine you're placing a #8 stopper and you can really see the details of what you are dealing with.

Joseph


rightarmbad


Sep 20, 2005, 5:11 AM
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Don't forget that the ball is made of a softer material than ramp. this ensures that the ball bites first and initiates the ramping action. As long as the ball sticks the placement should be good. Thats's where the most care should be taken. Make sure that the ball is in a position to stick when loaded.


Partner tradman


Sep 20, 2005, 5:50 AM
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In reply to:
I'll say up front strive to never "set" a regular nut and rarely do.

Wow.

You're the first person I've ever met or heard of who said that. What an unusual view!

:lol:


healyje


Sep 20, 2005, 9:11 AM
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In reply to:
Don't forget that the ball is made of a softer material than ramp. this ensures that the ball bites first and initiates the ramping action. As long as the ball sticks the placement should be good. Thats's where the most care should be taken. Make sure that the ball is in a position to stick when loaded.

Yes, a excellent point from someone that has also put some real time and thought into how and why these babies work - thanks much.


healyje


Sep 20, 2005, 9:23 AM
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In reply to:
In reply to:
I'll say up front strive to never "set" a regular nut and rarely do.

Wow.

You're the first person I've ever met or heard of who said that. What an unusual view!

:lol:

I suppose it is, but most of the time if you really match the nut shape to the placement really well and sling it appropriately they just don't need it or need only the very slightest tug. Wailing the bejesus out of every piece of passive pro you place to me is a lot like chalking to the elbows for every move - kind of lacks finesse and makes me wonder how well thought out the placement and slinging was. It's also pretty hard on seconds to have to use a nut tool to get out every damn piece. In general, of the good [trad] climbers I've climbed with over the years, the ones I thought were real artisans of the craft of protection all had a light hand and seconding their pitches was a breeze.


lofstromc


Sep 20, 2005, 9:27 AM
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I try not to tug too hard on my nuts either. Just softly :oops:


atg200


Sep 20, 2005, 9:41 AM
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i agree with most rock types that ballnuts are easy to remove, but i have always had lots of trouble in softer sandstone(fisher towers cutler for example). the problem there is that when you bounce test or whip onto them they get welded into the soft rock. easy to remove with a hammer, but very difficult without one. any experience with this issue? i am mostly using the larger 3 sizes in this sort of rock.


healyje


Sep 20, 2005, 9:51 AM
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In reply to:
i agree with most rock types that ballnuts are easy to remove, but i have always had lots of trouble in softer sandstone(fisher towers cutler for example). the problem there is that when you bounce test or whip onto them they get welded into the soft rock. easy to remove with a hammer, but very difficult without one. any experience with this issue? i am mostly using the larger 3 sizes in this sort of rock.

Not so much, but as a general rule you lose the ability to place them starting with the smallest one working up as the rock gets softer. Are there rock types and circumstances they will weld pretty hard? Yes, but as you said, a tap on the base of the blade/paddle will usually get one moving again and very rarely it will require a hammer or something with some heft. This is usually more of an aid issue where placing, bounce testing, and finally diving on one really grinds it deeply into place more so than just diving on it free climbing.


Partner tim


Sep 22, 2005, 9:18 AM
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This is a terrific thread. Joe, if you felt like it, we could make it an article and start playing around with how to link articles to threads/comments/etc., link them to appropriate gear/forums/etc...

Basically, it's the best exposition I've ever seen of the things that go through my head when placing a Lowe Ball. I try to get the ball halfway up the ramp or less (else place the next smallest size), with much rock contact on all relevant surfaces (similar to a regular nut in a constriction, but with a loweball I figure it's fine in a parallel slot as long as it ''bites''), or else I accept that the placement is likely bunk. Stuff like moss and choss are the main things that have caused ballnut placements to fail on me. In a good slot they have been more reliable than tiny cams (#00 TCU, Zeros, etc.) for me, and a couple friends who regularly climbed 5.11 in the Gunks swore by them when I was in college, so I learned to appreciate their merits free climbing, too. They just require a good deal more thought then jamming in a cam when you're cruxing on lead, which might explain why they're viewed primarily as an aid climbing piece.

Great post!


billcoe_


Sep 22, 2005, 10:20 AM
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In reply to:
This is a terrific thread. Joe, if you felt like it, we could make it an article and start playing around with how to link articles to threads/comments/etc., link them to appropriate gear/forums/etc...

Tim I concur, this is the tip of the iceberg for Joseph I'm sure. He's sharper than most and will mod anything he sees needs it. Ask him how he modifies the ballnutz, and get him started on how he racks his nut tool and fixes his beaks to rack better too.

Tip of the iceberg.


Joseph, I think it was a it was a slider nut that pulled on me leading to the 25 footer we were talking about on the FA of Flying Dutchman the other day. It was an impossible placement, blind, shallow and straight up into a mini roof/crack. I was surprised it started to hold my weight, so I crept up on it and it pulled.

Regards:

Bill


welle


Jun 21, 2010, 2:00 PM
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Re: [healyje] Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line... [In reply to]
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Old thread resurrection, but couldn't find better info on Ballnutz other than this thread. I was wondering if anyone could point me into direction of some video or illustrations of correct and incorrect Ballnutz placements? How are they in horizontal crack placements? To me the wire stems look too stiff for horizontal placements, no? TIA!


Partner rgold


Jun 21, 2010, 4:21 PM
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Re: [welle] Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line... [In reply to]
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Welle, I don't think you'll find better info anywhere than this thread. Ballnuts definitely work in horizontal placements, although as you suspect the wires can get crimped by a fall.

As Joe makes clear, you're gonna have to fiddle to get a good placement, but this is often not much different for what you have to do to place small wires. If you are on steep or overhanging ground, you'll definitely pay a premium price for your efforts, but this is part of what makes trad climbing very different from sport.


welle


Jun 22, 2010, 1:43 PM
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Re: [rgold] Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line... [In reply to]
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Thank you, Rich. Yep, I figured I just need to go out and practice on some easy ground. I agree finding that perfect placement right at your climbing limit is one of many thought-provoking ways that makes trad climbing way more rewarding than sport.


Partner rgold


Jun 23, 2010, 1:41 PM
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Dick Williams, deep in the Near Trapps.

Protection: two Ballnuts in a thin horizontal---balls in a line. As you can see, balls are also on the line.




(This post was edited by rgold on Jun 23, 2010, 8:10 PM)


welle


Jun 24, 2010, 10:12 AM
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What route is this and is it in the new guide? You may have guessed by now with my questions about micro stoppers and sliding nuts, I was planning to venture on the newer routes in the Nears ;) O, and nice helmet!


Partner rgold


Jun 24, 2010, 10:43 AM
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Re: [welle] Careful consideration when putting your balls on the line... [In reply to]
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It's in the new guide. I think it is 5.8. I can't remember the name; sorry about that.

Summer is an excellent time for those Near Trapps routes. They are short and, by and large because of the tree cover, out of the sun even before the cliff goes into the shade. The climbing is interesting, the rock in a number of places seems to be a little different from the rest of the Gunks.

Although it isn't any kind of small gear festival, you might want your small gear on some fairly moderate routes.


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