Prototype Valley Giant cams, 2002, for an ascent of Excalibur, El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California
The first rack of Valley Giant cams, June 2002.
Shown after an ascent of Excalibur, El Capitain, Yosemite Valley

This is the very first Valley Giant #9 cam, made in May/June of 2001. The general configuration has not changed since then, but many of the details have. Notice, for example, the pattern of lightening holes, the resting angle of the lobes, the machined aluminum trigger bar, and the excessively long cable loop. This first Valley Giant never touched the rock - it was pull-tested to destruction to validate the design. At a bit over 5000 lbf, the lobes deformed enough to allow the cam to pull out of the eight-inch wide steel testing frame. Subsequent tests of Valley Giant #9 samples have had similar results, with failure in excess of 5000 lbf (22 kN).

This is the first Valley Giant #12, and one of the two VG12 cams in the photo above. This cam (or its twin) was beta tested by sticking it into a wide section of P9 of Excalibur, and using it. It passed the test, and later was used on that route's last pitch, in another very wide section. The VG12 shares most of its design and components with the VG9.

A limited number of #12 Valley Giants have been made using magnesium alloy instead of aircraft aluminum for the lobes. They were much lighter, but the magnesium alloy was so soft, the lobes could be rather easily bent and deformed. The magnesium VG12 cams worked perfectly well as pusher pieces, which was their original purpose. This one was a special, ultralight experimental MVG12 model that weighed about as much as a Black Diamond or Wild Country #6. The magnesium Valley Giant cams are no longer available. 

By mid-2003, the Valley Giant design had evolved with a new hole pattern for the lobes, black nylon trigger bar and black nylon spacer between the cable fittings. These "New Generation" Giants (VG9, left, and VG12, right) were more economical to manufacture, which allowed the original Valley Giant pricing to remain the same for years, despite substantial increases in material costs.

Cams 4-16

This photo dates from Fall, 2004. At the left are a Black Diamond #4 and #5 (what they now call a #6). At the right is a fully functional plywood #16. The three SLCDs in the center are VG7, VG9 and VG12. Notice that the VG7 is the same size as the BD5 (now called a BD6). The original numbering scheme for Ray Jardine's Friends meant, "maximum span in inches", and this has been followed with the Valley Giant cams - the number corresponds to the maximum span, in inches.

Valley Giant Lineup 2007

 This photo commemorates the construction of a massive (and massively impractical) aluminum VG16 that was specially requested by a customer. The Godzilla Cam was designed to withstand even severe leader falls. It is very likely that carrying and placing such a heavy cam on lead would fatigue a climber so much, a fall would be inevitable.

Wally Karabin Cam
Wally Karabin
This is a more reasonable version of the VG16. The lobes are birch plywood, and it only (sic) weighs 3 pounds. It's rated for body-weight only, and is a pusher-piece. The axle is a hollow stainless steel tube, and the the center spacer is a thin tube brazed to the cable fittings, to reduce weight. Notice that the rather thin cable has been silver-brazed to create solid rods, so that they don't buckle when pulling the trigger bar. This cam is in the Karabin Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.