Climbing Art History: The Origins of the Passive Aggressive Tricam Design

March 28, 2021 2 min read

Climbing Art History: The Origins of the Passive Aggressive Tricam Design - Dynamite Starfish

At pop up shops, there is one design I get the MOST questions about. Hands down. It's this Passive Aggressive Tricam design.

If you're a tricam lover (or hater), you'll probably already get this joke. But if you're new to trad climbing, and specifically trad climbing on weird gear, here's a very brief summary.

Tricams can be placed passively, like a nut. They can also be placed actively - meaning they exert outward pressure when pulled down on, like a cam. Tricams are passive. But also active.

When I first started learning how to place tricams, I could never remember which way was passive and which way was active. I'd spend so much time trying to figure it out my calves would burn and my arms would get pumped, and finally I'd yell, "Screw it!" and place something else.

My climbing mentor made fun me for this. A lot. He learned to climb on tricams, nuts, and hexes, and kind of made it his duty to pass on the tradition.

He also got me into what I call... weird climbing. Chimneys, offwidths, and many other assorted styles of groveling.

Vedauwoo rock climbing the Nautilus
Vedauwoo, WY

After a few years of climbing together, we went to Vedauwoo, WY. Known for it's incredible diversity of crack climbing and some really spectacular wide cracks, it seemed like the perfect place to have our style of Type-2 fun.

It was a great time, and we worked hard for our lunch every day. Every inch we climbed cost us about 300 calories, we approximated.

Near the end of our trip, we were scoping out a new climb, and saw a near perfect placement for a #5 cam from the base. "I'm leaving it" my mentor said. I was confused. "I'm bringing this instead!" he held up a GIANT #7 cam.

"You flew with this thing?" I wondered. We brought it up, the huge chunk of metal danging awkwardly on his harness. It was placed. (Did you expect any less?)

On the way back to the car, we reminisced about the climb and about how actually great that #7 tricam placement was. It was solid and not too difficult to remove.

#7 camp tricam vedauwoo rock climbing
If there aren't any pics, was it really placed?

"Hey, why hasn't anyone made a passive aggressive tricam shirt?" He asked.

I thought of all the times I had passive aggressively put my tricams back on my harness, irritated about how to place them. I thought of the ridiculous mission we had just completed - placing a totally unnecessary (but great) #7 tricam.

I laughed even though my belly hurt from days of offwidths. It was perfect.

So in honor of one of my favorite climbing partners, I had to make this t-shirt happen!

Like it? We also have this design on mugs!

Leslie Kim
Leslie Kim

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