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Isaac Johnson
Isaac Johnson

Mastercam X5)V14 Crack |LINK|

As a lover of finger cracks, I long anticipated the release of Metolius' Master Cam ever since the rumors of a new single-stem cam started circulating. Last summer I finally got my paws on a No. 1 and 2. My initial impression was "stellar." Since then, this pair has tagged along on all my rock climbing adventures throughout the Northeast. While there is a cam or two on the market that has a wider expansion range and can handle shallower cracks, the Master Cam is a worthy competitor and an expertly manufactured piece of pro.

Mastercam X5)V14 Crack

The cam's most intriguing feature is its stem design. In creating the Master Cams, Metolius strayed from their usual U-stem design, which is used on all their other camming devices. The flexible, single stem, along with a narrow head profile, is made to fit the most awkward micro-crevices a desperate climber can find. Placing the cam in horizontal cracks, I notice that the attachment loop swivels slightly to find its own "sweet spot" in the crack. The movement is not enough to significantly change the placement and instead, it reduces sideways torque on the head of the cam. I am also appreciative of the cam's sleek stem design. I love my Black Diamond C3s, but have never been truly happy with the bulk of the plastic stem housing. Metolius has solved the issue with the Master Cam by leaving out the plastic covering all together.

Thirty-six percent Dyneema and 64 percent nylon make up the cam's Monster Sling. The sling is a little short, but it hasn't been a nuisance so far. In fact, the short sling is just the right length for steep, beeline cracks like Airation at Cathedral Ledge in New Hampshire. When the cam needed more wiggle-room on wandering pitches like Whitney-Gilman Ridge at Cannon Mountain, I just add a long draw.

Ultimately, it's hard not to compare the Master Cam to its peers, like Black Diamond's C3 and the CCH Alien. The Master Cam just doesn't have the range that the Alien has. The difference is slight, but important for some climbers. The proportionate range is comparable to the C3. The narrow head of the Master Cam allows for shallow placements, similar to the C3 and Alien. However, those three-lobe cams will always fit in more shallow cracks better than a four-lobe model like the Master Cam. In the end, a narrow head design, coupled with the Master Cam's single stem and standard expansion range make this a solid competitor in the world of small cams.

Ultralight Offset Master Cams and Ultralight Offset TCU are for aid climbing, pin scars, flares or irregular cracks with a lot of inward or outward flaring. Ultralight Offset TCU range 0.34" to 1.19"

We all know the feeling of trying to select the correct sized cam from our harness and place it while our forearms are burning, our legs are shaking, and we're looking down at a potentially long fall. For free climbing, cams need to be easy to identify, grab, engage the trigger, and place. To this end, our testers prefer a cam with a thumb loop when they are climbing at their absolute limit. A somewhat rigid stem can also make cams easier to place on the fly, as it's sometimes possible to just shove them in a crack without engaging the triggers. With a floppier cam, you will always have to engage the trigger wires. Familiar color schemes are very helpful for quickly identifying the cam on your gear loops, although this is also dependent on which cams you normally use, and how much you've practiced.

Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights are our favorite cams for free climbing. They are lightweight, easy to grab, hold in your mouth, and easy to place. For pure crack climbing, they can't be beat. They are the easiest cam to place when you're pumped, and their lightweight makes a big difference on those Indian Creek splitters where you may find yourself carrying 10 of the same sized piece. Close behind are the Black Diamond Camalot C4s, which make up the majority of most people's racks that we know, as well as the Wild Country Friends, which have a very similar feel and design. Metolius Mastercams don't have a thumb loop, and that's a big turnoff for most of the free climbers we know, but they can be easier to use for alpine climbers who may be wearing thick gloves.

Comparing the weight of cams is a tricky undertaking. Black Diamond C4s come in sizes big enough to protect cracks over 12.5 inches wide. Comparing these to a line of finger size only cams like the Fixe Hardware Alien Revolution won't result in any useful info when it comes to deciding what cams to buy. Additionally, cams with a more significant individual range can protect more sizes with fewer cams. Metolius Ultralight Master Cams cover the same size range with seven cams that Black Diamond Ultralights do with six. Side by side, the Master Cams are lighter, but the BDs can protect more sizes with fewer cams. If you're free climbing at your limit, you'll probably be happy with more cams; if you're cruising easy alpine climbs, you'll want to go lighter with fewer cams.

For range, we considered both the range of the individual cams and the range of sizes each brand offers. A wider range per unit is convenient because it enables you to be somewhat less accurate when sizing the crack. Covering the same size range with fewer cams can also be a significant weight-saving factor.

The clear winner when it comes to range is the Black Diamond Camalot. Their double-axle design allows for larger lobes to be contracted smaller, giving them a greater range. The Wild Country Friends, Black Diamond Camalot Ultralights, and the DMM Dragon Cams all share the double-axle design, but the Camalots are available in the most sizes (12), protecting cracks from tips to offwidths and even squeeze chimneys. This means that with Camalots, you'll be using one familiar color scheme to protect almost every sized crack, making selecting the correct cam much easier.

Cams available in offset sizes like the Metolius Ultralight Master Cam, the Fixe Hardware Alien Revolution all received an extra point in the range metric, though offsets are most often useful in areas with pin scars like Yosemite and Zion. Totem Cams scored well in this metric. Their oblong-shaped lobes and ability to hold in parallel and flared cracks give them excellent range and allow them to fit in some pretty unique and crazy placements. Range accounts for 15% of a product's overall score.

Back in the days of yore, climbers had to tie off their rigid stem cams to prevent the stem from loading over an edge and breaking while in a horizontal crack. Today, all the cams are designed with stems flexible enough to bend in a horizontal placement toward the direction of pull. We're not even sure if you can buy a rigid stemmed cam anymore. The more flexible the stem, the better a cam will hold in a horizontal.

Walking refers to the phenomenon where a cam manages to work itself into a different position than the one you placed it in, most often deeper inside of a crack or to a tighter constriction, and not infrequently to a position where it becomes stuck. As the rope slides through the carabiner attached to the sling it moves the cam stem up and down, which in turn moves the cam lobes, creating the walking action by which the cam moves itself. The more outward pull the rope places on a cam, the more likely this is to happen, and thus cams placed under roofs, or as the first piece on a pitch, are most likely to walk. Check out this video of Beth Rodden for a very clear demonstration about how cams walk (as well as a lot of other good info about cam placements). The best way to negate this issue is to extend protection with a sling or alpine draw so that the rope pulls on it less. In the case of the first piece of a pitch, have your belayer stand closer to the wall to reduce the angle the rope runs through this cam.

The Totem Cams are our favorite cams for aid climbing by a long shot. They're like the Swiss army knife of cams. Totems have two plastic stems that join in the middle, allowing you to load two lobes at a time for more holding power in shallow, bodyweight placements, or you can load both sides equally like a regular cam. Because both sides operate independently, each Totem size essentially functions like an offset when you need to protect flaring cracks. Additionally, their narrower heads fit in more placements than traditional-style cams, and their flexible stems make them great for pin scars and shallow vertical placements.


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