The Most Influential Gear of All Time: Wild Country Friends


A Jardine prototype

A Jardine prototype     Photo: Courtesy of: Stéphane Pennequin/Nuts Museum

Aeronautical engineer Ray Jardine was trying to climb the hardest single pitch trad route in the world, Yosemite’s The Phoenix (5.13a). It was strenuous and difficult to protect with nuts and chocks. Using his own considerable mechanical knowledge and information gleaned from a dinner meeting with climbing’s most accomplished inventor, Greg Lowe, Jardine designed and commercialized the first spring-loaded camming devices. The device drew on the principle that a curved lobe could intercept the rock at a constant angle, all of which was described in Lowe’s 1973 application for a cam precursor.

In 1978, Mark Vallance, working with Jardine, founded Wild Country and began selling Jardine’s cams, called “Friends.” Lowe felt that Jardine had violated the terms of their non-compete, non-disclosure agreement, and filed a suit against Wild Country that was settled out of court. Today, cams are an essential part of every climber’s rack.

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