Is The 'Fat Cap' A Routesetting Game Changer?
The Fat Cap looks to allow for the use of one screw in the bolt hole to fasten the climbing hold to the wall. This would allow for both the hold's weight to be dispersed properly and the bolt hole to be filled in to prevent its use as a thumb catch.
The vast majority of routesetters fasten climbing holds onto the wall surface using a T-nut and bolt method, which is also the current industry standard for commercial setting:
Picture found on the Atomik Climbing Holds website
Since the T-nuts are typically pre-drilled in the plywood while being installed, they are usually between 4-6 inches apart and sometimes as much as 10 inches apart (depending on the manufacturer). Any routesetter will tell you that sometimes, but not often, you need to utilize the space that lies between the T-nuts.
Therein lies the problem. Since no bolt hole can be used, setters are forced to find various methods to fasten the hold to the climbing wall. This almost always involving drilling screws into the hold itself directly into the wall's surface.
Here are two of the most common ways of fastening a climbing hold to a wall using screws:
Quite possibly the most prevalent technique is to drill through the meat of the hold in two or more locations and use a screw to fasten the hold to the wall. The positive of this method is the ability to disperse the screw holes so that they have an even pull along the surface of the hold. Some negatives of this technique are compromising the aesthetics of the hold, possibly chipping or breaking the hold, and having the bolt hole open for use as a thumb catch.
Commonly (but unofficially) known as the "Dirty Sanchez" or "Dirty Euro" technique, three screws are used inside the bolt hole at various angles to secure the climbing hold to the wall. While this technique allows the hold surface itself to remain unscathed, there have been instances of holds shifting or spinning, and the three clustered screws cause increased damage to the climbing wall as well. The bolt hole is also left open for use as a thumb catch.
Though the Fat Cap eliminates this issue, the question remains in the realm of commercial routesetting as to whether or not one screw is enough to secure a climbing hold safely.
With holds that require little torque pulling away from the wall or downward on the far left or right of the hold such as circular holds, the Fat Cap may not be a problem. For larger holds or jugs, an additional set screw should be considered a necessity if not avoided. On the Fat Cap company website, photos of the product in use are also accompanied with two or three additional screws, indicating that the Fat Cap should be used as an addition to the more traditional method that also acts as a bolt hole blocker.
Check out photos of the Fat Cap in use:
The traditional T-nut and bolt system allows for more surface tension of the steel bolt to come in contact with the steel T-nut, providing much more secure contact with metal as opposed to wood. We asked Mike Veazey, the head routesetter at MetroRock in Newburyport, Massachusetts, his thoughts on how the traditional way compares to the Fat Cap method. He said, "A bolt and a T-nut you've got say 10 threads securely in a nut made out of steel whereas you may have 10 threads of a screw but it's a wood screw in a sheet of plywood. You just can't compare."
All in all, the Fat Cap seems to solve a few smaller issues while eliminating things that are only relevant in very unique circumstances. While we do not think that this small impact will be considered "groundbreaking" in the realm of routesetting, it is a convenient tool to have for when you need it. We hope that this marks the beginning of companies paying attention to the needs of a growing industry of professional routesetters who have typically had to "Macgyver" their way out of certain situations that could easily solved by more products like this one.
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