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Friends call him “the Matt scientist.” Climber Matt Maddaloni works as the lead construction rigger and mechanical designer for Ziptrek Ecotours, a company that specializes in zipline-based eco-adventures. The 32-year-old Victoria, BC, native and self-taught engineer also founded a company that produces the Sea to Sky Cable Cam, a remote-controlled robotic cable cam that allows smooth aerial views for filmmaking. Most recently, Maddaloni was featured in the web TV series “The Season” (theseasontv.com; created by Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith), in which he unveiled the Anticam, an experimental, vice-like piece of climbing protection created specifically for the Guillotine Flake on Squamish’s Grand Wall, a climb on which traditional gear wouldn’t suffice.
As a kid, Maddaloni was “pretty much bad at all sports I ever tried,” he says. “I didn’t fit into any sort of field, so I got into climbing and completely immersed myself in it.” Up until several years ago, Maddaloni was a sponsored, full-time climber, with major first ascents at Squamish, the Bugaboos, and Baffin Island; in May 2000, he spent 25 days establishing Midnight Watch (VII 5.10 A4+) at Gibbs Fjord, Baffin Island. But he endured too many injuries. “I lost motivation and got into white-water kayaking pretty heavily,” he says. He also started kite boarding and surfing. Ironically, these other sports began to build up opposing climbing muscles, and then “I was able to get strong again [for climbing] without any complications.”
Tell me about the Anticam.I came up with the idea about eight years ago. It was centered around a particular route that otherwise would have required bolts to climb it—a huge, thin, expanding flake that weighs thousands of pounds. Most climbers in Squamish knew about this feature and knew it was unclimbable. The first version of the Anticam didn’t have a large expansion range, so it was severely limited on where it could be used. The first time I placed it, I needed two hands, and when I fall-tested it with back-up gear, it blew off the rock and whaled into my hand! This made me realize the need for two things: a one-handed operation and a larger expansion range.
What was unique about the Guillotine Flake? The route is an endurance workout as the wall is truly vertical with absolutely no feet—not even one. Just power underclinging while pasting your feet to a blank wall.
Any setbacks in the process? I broke my ankle while kite boarding last August in Squamish. I received a metal plate and eight screws. But the injury meant I was left with a lot of time on my hands, and was able to solve the issues of the Anticam. After exploring many similar machines on the Internet, I discovered a device that I could modify to give a huge expansion range with a large degree of settings, and make it possible to place with one hand. I quickly learned that a simple solution is always the best, and once it’s fi gured out, it seems incredibly obvious.
How’d it feel to finally send the route? It represented everything I like about the sport: adventure, problem solving, physical diffi culty, a challenge that seemed impossible. I’m not sure if anyone will ever use the Anticam again, but the point was to not bolt the pitch, and free climb it using natural gear. It was a grand adventure every step of the way.
Did you ever think of patenting the gear? I knew I wasn’t going to sell a lot of them, so instead I decided to give away the ideas. I put all the info and blueprints on a forum and started the discussion with whoever wanted to keep developing it. Hopefully, one day, it will become commercially available.