Tom Frost, with hardware of the day, clips the hauling line before starting
the headwall roof pitch. The Salathé Wall, 1961
JUST OUT, New Product Review, Climbing Magazine, May 1998
Tom Frost, whose engineering hand is evidenced by the RURP, Lost Arrow, Bong, Knifeblade, Stopper, and Hexentric, is back after a 15-year hiatus. As usual, he isn't satisfied with the equipment that's available. Curved nuts in particular. These, he says, are too easy to get stuck but at other times insecure in what should be solid placements. Hmm.
Enter his Sentinel Nuts. These straight-sided nuts, says Frost, have a precise taper that's designed to strike the best balance between security and removability.
I took a set of Sentinels to Joshua Tree to decide if Frost's design was a useful innovation or a sentimental throwback. I also wanted to know if the nuts' foot-long wire cables could actually replace a quick-draw as suggested, or just be unwieldy.
At first glance it's the long cables that set Sentinels apart from all other nuts, but it is really the head design that is their true mark of quality. After years of being sold on curved nuts, I was surprised by how easy it was to place these straight sided nuts, how securely they held, and how effortlessly they removed. Indeed, Sentinels aren't nearly as prone to getting stuck - even after they've been weighted - as curved nuts. More importantly, the nuts' straight sides made them a cinch to eyeball to the placement, eliminating that frustrating moment where you turn a curved nut this way and that to determine which orientation places the most metal against rock.
The long cables work, too. After several days of steady use, I found that the flexible loops work like quickdraws to absorb rope vibration, preventing the nuts from jiggling out. You can oftentimes just clip nuts with a single biner and climb. The feature can, on trad routes, cut your quickdraw rack in half.
The long cables do flop around some, but you get used to this and the six smallest sizes (of nine) stand up more or less straight - a feature I appreciated for tagging those just-out-of-reach placements. For aid climbing, the long cables are a disadvantage, but Frost has this drawback covered: he also makes the Sentinels with standard-length cables.
Tom Frost's engineering philosophy is to build simple, functional, lightweight and aesthetic equipment. The Sentinel Nuts meet all four goals and are now the mainstays of my rack. Their double-length cables are perfect for long free routes, like those in Yosemite, the Tetons, on Cannon Cliff, or in RMNP. Say, those are my favorites, too.
~ Gregory Crouch
Product Response by Kim Graves, 2002
We used the Sentinel nuts for the first time this weekend at the Gunks. They placed like butter, held fast even without a runner and then removed easily. I’m a convert to the long wires. These are even better stoppers than the Chouinard/Frost originals. Much better performing than the modern curved nuts.
~ Kim Carleton Graves
Product Review by Steve Grossman, 2005
With the introduction of his Sentinel Nuts, the Papa of the Stoppa has done it again. In the narrow aspect, the classic flat-sided profile offers security and the superior ease of sizing, placement and removal that is essential to efficient and confident use under pressure. In the wider aspect, Sentinel Nuts have just the right amount of taper rail to rail to expand the range of use without sacrificing crucial holding power. Combine the perfect shape with impeccable craftsmanship and you have tools of exceptional versatility that are a joy to use. Whether you are dancing on the razors edge or placing a fifth belay anchor because you can't pass it up, Sentinel Nuts are the ticket. Thanks for keeping the flat faith alive.
~ Steve Grossman