I had a chance in recent weeks to get my hands on and test Black Diamond’s updated C4 Camalots, which are slated to hit the market in spring 2019 (January–March). I tested a rack of singles from No. 0.3 ($65) up to No. 4 ($90); the cams will also come in sizes 5 ($115) and 6 ($125) for offwidth lovers. Testing venues were all on Colorado granite/gneiss, from mixed and crack climbing in Dream, Boulder, and Clear Creek canyons to Staunton State Park in the South Platte region, which has a unique blend of overhanging sport and mixed routes on featured, metamorphic granite. Some of the harder climbs there are de rigueur mixed, making it a great venue for testing specific-sized cams as needed at key placements.
As per Black Diamond, the updates for the 2019 C4s include a variety of subtle tweaks that add up to a sleeker, lighter, more user-friendly whole.
For the lobes: Brighter colors (matched to slings) for ease of identification; new tread; lighter sculpted lobes (more cutaway holes).
For the slings: Tag tucked inside to keep it from catching in biner gates; visual update (brighter colors that match lobes) for easier identification.
Trigger: Wider for easier handling; on Nos. 4–6 there is a Trigger Keeper that lets you keep the unit cammed down, with all lobes engage, for more compact racking.
Axles: Wider spacing on the No. 6 for increased stability.
Stems: Larger sizes have stiffer stems and smaller sizes have softer stems.
Weight: Units on average are 10 percent lighter than the previous generation (the Ultralight Camalots remain 17 percent lighter than these new C4 Camalots).
The units were fun and exciting to tinker with, both on the ground and off. Everyone wanted to play with them! They have a sleek, space-age look and feel, bright, easy-to-identify color coding, and trigger action that myself and climbing partners universally noted as “buttery”—the units are light and mega-easy to engage thanks to the wide trigger pulls, even when you’re hella pumped, which I often was on the Staunton climbs. I didn’t get to place the No. 4 during the testing period, but did carry it on me and would like to single out the Trigger Keeper as an amazing innovation for larger cams. We all hate giant cams scraping against our bellies or banging into our legs, and this does away with that problem. You simply hook two paper-clip-sized loops onto a molded slot/hook at the base of the stem and the unit (all four lobes) is fully engaged, taking up way less space on your rack or harness than it would otherwise—basically, this turns the No. 4 into the size of the No. 3. Then, when you’re ready to make a placement you simply pull the trigger and the Trigger Keeper unhooks. Good to go.
In terms of placement and reliability, the new C4s were trucker. I did an overhanging layback corner at Staunton, Zed’s Dead, on which you have to—while fighting a wicked barndoor on a single fingerlock—slam in the No. 2 and the No. 3, then punch it 15 feet to a bolt. Boom, the units slid in easy as pie, slotting deep into the crack, and I felt 100-percent confident going for it. Ditto with the smaller cams (No. 0.3–0.75) on the thin finger-crack placements on the neighboring Soaked in Sin, another half-bolt, half-gear pumpfest with a continuous crack to finish. There was no walking, no inverting, no butterflying of lobes—just good, solid, reliable placements that went in smooth and quick and deep. For the most part, the units were easy to remove, though I did find myself battling to get the 0.75 out from a horizontal crack on a Dream Canyon 5.10, though the traversing nature of the route had made the cam walk a bit. The ridged tread has very good bite, which is great for staying power, but may lead to the need to be selective with deeper and/or complicated placements in which the unit might walk from a larger pod into a smaller one. I look forward to testing more and seeing if this is an issue, or if that 0.75 placement was an anomaly, just “one of those things.” It’s worth noting that I didn’t get any other placements stuck while testing; not even close.
The bright colors on the lobes and slings made the sizes easy to identify, and I appreciated having the softer stems on the small units, to help bury them deep in thin placements and get some play in terms of placement options, and the stiffer stems on the larger units, which kept them nice and rigid for sinking into the gear-swallowing cracks that protect at these sizes. It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the updated C4s, with the kind of micro-tooling and user-focused refinement that ultra-technical gear like cams, perhaps more than any other kind of climbing gear besides rock shoes, needs to continuously undergo to keep pace with both the sport and materials/technology innovations we see with all these relatively new (cams have only been around 40 years!) inventions.
I’m looking forward to testing and climbing with these bad boys more, and so far have been very stoked on what I’ve seen.
$65–125 per unit, blackdiamondequipment.com