History Of Climbing Nuts

A History of Climbing Nuts

On one of 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!  This inevitably led to some discussion about the rather random name we commonly use for this most versatile of climbing protection. Like many sports, climbing has some unique names for things. These often stretch some considerable way into the past and climbing nuts are no exception.  Here is a very Brief History Of Climbing Nuts.

The Early Pioneers

The idea of placing stones in cracks is often credited to Morley Wood during an ascent on Cloggy (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.

A Development From Engineering

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.    

The Commercial Option 

The first commercial nut was produced in the 60’s.  This was said to have been developed by a Sheffield teacher called John Brailsford and his ‘Acorn’ nut. This soon became a popular choice among those in the know.  Things then developed apace and a cast alloy nut was produced in 1962. This would change protection options for ever.  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 inspired by the caving fraternity. Once they could be produced to handle shock loading situations, allowed for the production of smaller sizes.  Every nut that has come since is really a development of these early experiments.

The Current State Of Play

Now, of course, there is a huge and varied choice.  In any climbing shop we can select Black Diamond Stoppers, Wild Country Rocks or DMM Wallnuts. With these and others there is a host of options. Whichever we choose, we are still placing a nut whose existence stretches back to those early pioneers. The History Of Climbing Nuts is part of the broad tapestry of development of our sport.

If you’ve enjoyed this, please also check out our blog post about Mark Vallance, The Man Who Made Friends.