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Traditional protection is the protection that is placed as you climb. It is usually used in cracks. There are three major kinds of trad, as it is sometimes called.
The Hex, or Hexentric.
Cams are a little newer than nuts or hexes, and are considered safer. But, this is the case only if they are placed properly. Proper placement of trad is the most important element when using it. This topic is covered in Rock Climbing Techniques.
Cams are the most complicated of the three major families of trad. Examine the picture below:
This is what a normal cam looks like. Lets start at the left and work right, identifying parts. At the far left, the cauliflower-like shapes are called the cams. This might seem a little confusing at first, is the whole thing a cam? Are the heads a cam? The whole unit is often referred to as a cam, but technically, the head of the unit is where the cams are. On this device, there are four cams. They all have a curved shape, and look like they are scored. Moving right, notice that all four of the cams are attached to wires. These wires are in turn attached to the trigger, which is the metal bar on the far right. When the metal bar is pulled back, the cams rotate downwards, and the head of the unit gets thinner.
Examine the picture at right. Notice how the cams are curved and rigid again. When the trigger at bottom is pulled back, the cams on the right half will rotate clockwise, and the cams on the left half will rotate counter-clockwise. This shrinks the head, and allows it to be inserted into a small space.
The cam is clipped into, using long webbing so that it can't be easily rocked out from the drag of the rope. If weight is applied to the unit, the cams will want to spread out wider. Because they spread out wider from the weight, the unit becomes wedged into it's position, if it was placed correctly.
Cams come in many different sizes and shapes. The most common are units with four cams per head, and sometimes three.
As you can see, they vary greatly in size. This is important, because some cracks are variable width cracks. Variable width cracks are cracks that have different widths along its length.
Nuts are one of the staples of traditional pro. Placement is covered inRock Climbing Techniques. Nuts are wedge-shaped aluminum or brass, that are wired or strung with cord to clip into. As with cams, webbing is used to attach to the pro, then the climber clips into the webbing. This prevents the piece from rocking out. Nuts vary greatly in size, but not very much in shape.
As you can see, some of the larger nuts have hollow interiors. This is to save weight. Notice their unique curving wedge shape. It makes the nuts excellent for variable width cracks.
Hexes are a variation on nuts. Hexes have six sides, all different lengths. Hexes, like nuts, are wired if they are small, and strung if they are large. When being big counts, hexes have an advantage over nuts in weight, because the larger sizes are completely hollow. Hex placement is covered in Rock Climbing Techniques.
The above hex is about 1/2 inch wide. It is in a deep crack. Notice the unevenly shaped sides.[an error occurred while processing this directive]