A brief history of climbing nuts

1st Jul 2018

Climbing Protection

On last weekend’s climbing course the participants were intrigued to hear a climber on a neighbouring route telling their belay partner they had placed one of their nuts in a crack!  As is often the case, this led to some discussion about the rather random name we use for this most versatile of climbing protection. Like many sports,  climbing has some unique names for things that often stretch some considerable way into the past and climbing nuts are no exception.  Here is a very brief history of how it all began….

The idea of placing stones in cracks is often credited to Morley Wood during an ascent on Cloggy (Cloggy, or Clogwyn Du’r Arddu) in Snowdonia in the 1920’s.  It soon became quite commonplace for climbers to carry a selection of different sized stones in their pockets and these could, with skill and ingenuity, be wedged in cracks with a loop of rope around them to clip into their main rope.

By the mid 50’s climbers had developed this concept by threading rope through machine nuts.  Initially this was simply threaded through and tied but the sharp edged thread of the nut could cause havoc with the rope, so soon the idea of drilling out the thread to create a smoother radius was adopted.  The concept of the nut was born.  Some Snowdonia climbers of that period found a good supply of discarded nuts at the side of the Snowdon Mountain Railway and others would get them from engineering factories.      

In the early 60’s the first commercial nut was produced.  I have heard this was developed by a Sheffield teacher called John Brailsford and his ‘Acorn’ nut soon became a popular choice among those in the know.  Things then developed apace and a cast alloy nut, that would soon revolutionise protection options, was produced in 1962.  The nut production was sponsored by Mountain Activities (the import arm of Ellis Brigham) and this led to the name 'Moac'. 

A further development of using swaged wire loops was, I gather, inspired by the caving fraternity and this option, once they could be produced to handle the shock loading situations they faced, allowed for smaller sizes to become available.  Every nut that has come since is really a development of these early experiments and now, of course, we have a huge and varied choice.  Whether you select Stoppers, Offsets, Rocks, Wallnuts or a host of other options, you are still basically placing a nut whose existence stretches back to those early pioneers.

Posted by Paul