[A note on cams in general: Non-climbers could live a lifetime without ever needing a cam device. For a climber, though, it is an essential piece of equipment used to protect against the consequences of a fall. Cams are a type of protection device placed on rocks as temporary, removable, non-defacing (and thus “clean”) anchors while climbing. Spring-loaded and controlled with a “trigger,” cams are designed to expand and grip the rock securely, thus protecting against a climber’s potential fall.]
When designer Tony Christianson approached Chouinard Equipment founder Yvon Chouinard with his design for an exercise device, he was politely turned down. Chouinard instead told Christianson that he would be interested in any new and innovative camming devices he could produce. In response, and after months of hard work and false starts, Christianson came up with the idea of using two parallel axles instead of one, which appreciably increased the cam’s range of expansion—the first cams with a greater cam angle, a small but incredibly significant adaptation.
With extensive testing and the innovation of individually loading the cams with torsion springs, (suggested by the great Argentine machinist Julio Varela with additional input from colleague Hong Kyu Kwak) the Camalot was born. The name is a nod to the group effort towards perfecting this design at the old Skunk Works (aka Chouinard Equipment), with the final product first marketed in 1987.
With the innovative designs of the last forty years, cams can now be considered one of the greatest leaps forward in the development of clean, fast, and safe climbing on both free and aid routes.