The German-Australian inventor Roland Pauligk died on January 22, 2017 after succumbing to cancer. He was 79. Pauligk’s handmade RPs, named for his initials, revolutionized traditional climbing in the early 1970s. They allowed climbers to protect thin, shallow cracks and fall safely on their placements.
Pauligk began producing aluminum RPs in his backyard shed in Australia in 1969, but soon started experimenting with smaller brass nuts. During this time he discovered the key to a solid micronut: placing the wire attachment inside the brass nut and silver-soldering it in place. This narrowed the nut’s profile, allowing for smaller crack placements, and eliminated a weakness in other designs, which caused the wire to snap during a fall. The innovative RP allowed for bolder, harder trad climbing. Climbers could place and fall on RPs where even the smallest stopper couldn’t fit. The micronuts were used widely. Upon their release, lines from The Pirate (5.12d) on California’s Suicide Rock to entire walls at the Gunks suddenly became protectable.
Pauligk used his initial profits from RP sales to fund a trip to Yosemite in the 1980s, where he sold more of his micronuts to climbers at Camp 4. He would continue to hand-produce RPs for more than 30 years.
Pauligk was born in Germany in 1938 and moved to Australian in 1960, just before the Berlin Wall would have trapped him in East Germany. He began climbing in 1966 and quickly began sending 5.10 and hard 5.11 routes well before his invention revolutionized thin trad protection.
Learn more about Roman Pauligk and the history of climbing nuts in The Nut Chronicles.