Omega Pacific, one of the original makers of climbing and rescue hardware, is closing its doors after 38 years in business in Washington. The brand was most-well-known for its multi-lobed Link Cam designed by Greg Lowe.
Rob Nadeau, CEO of the company, confirmed the closing, but declined to disclose any other details. “As you can imagine, we are very busy at the moment as we handle customer needs, while working to ensure our employees land as softly as possible,” Nadeau said. “At this moment, I do not have the time to focus on anything else.”
Needless to say, the company will be winding down business with its vendors and customers.
Nothing on the website signals the change, but word has spread in the climbing community. “I’ve never used their gear, but that doesn’t matter,” said Kevin Jorgeson, the California-based big-wall climber. “It’s sad to see a legacy brand call it a day. I’m not attached to a carabiner, I’m attached to the people and the fabric of our outdoor community. We’re family.”
Malcolm Daly, the founder of Trango who currently works at Boulder’s Neptune Mountaineering, said that even though he and Omega Pacific were competitors, they were also friends and would climb together. While he hasn’t been in touch with people at the company for years, he sensed that the brand’s energy had fizzled and the Link Cam was its last great innovation.
Omega Pacific explained the unique device on their website, “Link Cams operate on a simple concept of trisecting a cam lobe so that, as the device is retracted, the cam unfolds and permits an amazing range for a unit of its size. Utilizing a reliable, single-axle design and with a camming ratio of over 2.5:1, Link Cams provide more range per size than any other spring-loaded camming device available!”
“I climbed with them everyday I climbed,” Daly said. “I thought [the Link] was a great, innovative product. I don’t think anybody ever built an entire rack out of them because they’re heavy and expensive, but they definitely had their place in the climbing world. For people like me, they were an important piece.”
Omega Pacific had faced a major consolidation in 2004, when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Omega Pacific and six other companies would no longer be allowed to employ inmate workers at the Airway Heights Medium Security Correctional Center. Inmates employed by Omega Pacific were paid from minimum wage—$7.16 an hour at the time—to over $9 an hour for a variety of jobs, from measuring the breaking point of carabiners to keeping the factory clean, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Some competitors perceived the program as an “unfair business advantage,” but President Bert Atwater told SNEWS in 2004 that they didn’t receive any wage breaks and inmates who participated were 87 percent less likely to reoffend. At the time of the restructuring, the sales and marketing director was quoted as saying, “I can’t wait to show our critics that Omega Pacific is successful because we’re Omega Pacific, not because we operated out of a prison.” The brand was able to survive the shift, and remained stable for the next 15 years.
Spokane’s climbing community has taken a hit recently. Mountain Gear, a premier mountain shop in the city since 1983, is shuttering, too. The store was one of Omega Pacific’s vendors.
“Two of the biggest climbing/outdoor companies in Spokane closing doors within 30 days of each other is a shock and sign of the times,” Spokane resident Steve Reynolds wrote on Facebook. “Omega Pacific shutting its doors leaves a huge void; the closing of retailer Mountain Gear is leaving an even bigger hole in our regional community.”