Tinkering with the Guillotine


A technical drawing of Version 1 of the Anticam with a removable bolt that allowed Maddaloni to expand and place the gear with one hand and a cord to engage the lobes with the other. Though Version 1 did hold short falls it was bulky, had a limited expansion range and required two hands to place. [Photo] Matt Maddaloni

Once Maddaloni assembled the Anticam, he tested it on a similarly unprotectable flake on the Neat and Cool Wall in Squamish. He tied into the sharp end and placed some natural gear on a large detached flake to prevent him from decking in case the Anticam failed. Just above his last piece, he carefully placed his invention, giving it a few stout tugs to build his confidence. He positioned himself in a wide stance and gently weighted the rope. It held. He climbed above it and jumped off. Instantly it popped free. Failure. He quickly moved back into position on the climb, this time placing the Anticam on a thinner, more uniform section of the flake. He weighted the rope. The gear held. With more confidence, Maddaloni climbed until the Anticam was at his toes and bounced backwards off the wall. Again, it held. A fifty-fifty ratio of success so far.

Though the first Anticam successfully held short hops down the wall, Maddaloni knew it could be improved. The prototype was bulky, weighing 2 lbs and measuring 10 by 12 by 3 inches. It wasn't nearly as versatile as Maddaloni had hoped for, and it failed to fulfill his original requirements: able to be placed with a single hand and highly expandable to fit both fat and thin flakes.


Maddaloni's five subsequent versions of the Anticam featured small improvements over the prototype. He drilled coin-sized holes in each of the three aluminum arms to decrease the weight while maintaining strength. He also altered the springs on the lobes so that they rolled in the opposite direction of a normal cam, which enabled him to forgo a trigger. The most important alteration was that of the perpendicular bar, originally used for stability. In later versions, Maddaloni used the bar to increase expansion of the Anticam's arms by using a threaded rod. The alterations gave the Anticam a huge expansion range—from zero to nine inches—and enabled it to be placed with one hand.

After tinkering with every feature—from the size of the cam lobes to the number of coils in the springs that manipulated them—Maddaloni felt ready to test the invention on the Guillotine Flake itself. He brought the three most promising versions of the Anticam to The Chief to "mock lead" the traverse, placing the gear on lead while also supported by a toprope. He quickly realized that only one of the three Anticams would work. The version that worked best was the one without a trigger, which had allowed Maddaloni to adjust each lobe independently. Without this adjustment, the rock would need to be completely level and flat so all the Anticam's lobes would have good contact with the slab. Maddaloni headed back down the wall and back to the drawing board. A week later, with three copies of the most successful version of the Anticam jingling on his harness, he returned to the Guillotine.

Version 2 of the Anticam with a few improvements over the prototype. The most notable change is the threaded rod that gave the Anticam a broader expansion range and allowed it to be placed with one hand. [Photo] Matt Maddaloni

Beginning at the top of the Split Pillar pitch on The Grand Wall, Maddaloni climbed 20 feet up the famous Sword Pitch where the flake first splits from the wall. Here the flake is only an inch thick and frighteningly hollow. The flake then curves out right for eight feet before drooping down another 15 feet. Maddaloni placed a few nuts and traversed out onto the brittle rock to the low, five-inch-thick point of the flake. Belayer Adam Hart watched as the whole feature flexed with the careful balance of tension between the pull of Maddaloni's arms and the push of his feet.

Just past the apex Maddaloni began placing Anticams every 10 feet. The flake had thickened enough that a fall onto the gear wouldn't break the edge off the slab but would still fit the Anticam's nine-inch range. To let go with one hand and place gear required getting his feet high on the blank wall and locking off with a 90-degree bent arm. The prototypes were awkward and required care to place properly. After placing three Anticams, his arms were "screaming" for a rest, but Maddaloni still had to run it out to the point where he could finally place normal cams. Halfway through the unprotected section, he didn't think he would make it with the little energy he had left.

"I looked back and imagined my fall—popping off the three homemade, alien-looking contraptions and slamming into the corner at full speed," Maddaloni said. "At that point it might as well have been the ground I'd slam into."

He tried to place a friend before reaching the "safe zone," but didn't have the strength and knew it wouldn't hold anyway. He had to trust his invention. Maddaloni continued the traverse, placing his first solid cam a full 20 feet from his last Anticam placement and finally shaking out on the only foot hold on the entire pitch.

"I couldn't stop smiling all the way to the bar... After that route I realized climbing still held a lot of unknowns for me. Exciting challenges awaited, and I didn't need to get stronger or climb scarier things to achieve that," Maddaloni said.

Later that summer he discovered the biggest roof in the Squamish area—a "whopping" 60-foot horizontal line that required every technique, including some he hadn't perfected yet. Maddaloni challenged himself with the technical and delicate knee bars, upside-down offwidths and dynos into hand jams.

"There were endless possibilities. I just had to look with new eyes."

Sources: Matt Maddaloni, The Season web TV series, mattmaddaloni.com

Four versions of the Anticam on display on the door frame of Maddaloni's workshop. [Photo] Matt Maddaloni

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Canadian Bacon

Very cool, Matt. I'm a Squamish dude too and just looking at those f***ing flakes always gives me a butterfly or two (or sixty!)

2010-12-03 05:29:08

Matt worked crazy hard on this. From the computer to testing it himself. Way to go Matt!

2010-12-03 02:33:59
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