Thursday 29 October 2009

…uses for a nutkey

Nutkey, aka proddler. A climbing tool used primarily to aid the removal of leader placed protection when seconding.

Quite simple little devices really – basically a short, flat metal stick with a hook on the end. So, what are they really for…

  • thwacking nuts/wires that are ‘solidly placed’, usually when seconding (where it is your responsibility to recover all of the gear the leader has placed, no matter how masochistic you may think they were being)
  • re-seating’ non-optimally placed wires, when leading (of course, as a leader you won’t ever place bad gear, nor will you ever have to resort to the kind of violence for which your second is well known when removing your extremely secure gear placements)
  • hooking’ the trigger bars of cams/friends that have walked too deeply into a crack to be released by hand. This is what the hooks on the end were originally designed for. (Ok, ok, so I know this one is a bit of a stretch – has anyone EVER managed this?)
  • gardening’, that is, removing moss, mud, crud and other substances (eww) from cracks and holds
  • animal control’ – mainly removing large spiders from cracks, usually with a deft and elegant flick of the wrist in order to send said creature into a section of space a LONG way from you, and hopefully not onto your belayer’s head. (Other ‘animals’ may include all manner of insects, from flies, woodlice or earwigs, to man-eating furry caterpillars – anything larger is often best dealt with by running away)
  • fishing’ – retrieval of dropped items, sometimes achieved by tying the nutkey onto a section of rope which is then dangled (similar to ‘hooking’, but generally more useful)
  • as cutlery
  • as a stirrer (not the same as cutlery)
  • as a bread knife (although probably more accurately described as a bread disintegrator)
  • scratching those hard to reach areas
  • pointing at stuff, especially obscure guidebook references
  • torture, i.e. in transportation (how often do the damn things end up digging in your back through your rucksack? And what’s more it nearly always happens when you’ve made an extra special effort to prevent it – it’s like they know…)
  • for aiding with mud bank top-outs to routes – the ‘mud-axe
  • the ‘universal toolkit’ – knife (very blunt), saw (even more blunt than the knife so you’ll have to be very persistent, it should also be noted that the universal nutkey saw is generally less than effective on any material with a hardness or density greater than that of lukewarm butter), chunky flatblade screwdriver (try it!), can opener (maybe? could be painful though…you have been warned), scraper (although possibly not ideal for scraping ice off of car windscreens…), etc
  • poking unidentified items you don’t want to touch, but for some inexplicable reason, you just need to


  1. I would as:

    universal scratching device: usually used but males to scratch ones balls

    ranged weaponary: every thrown a nutket at anything? they fly well and damage well

  2. Hi Lauren, is it called nutkey in UK? Here in US we normally call it nuttool!

    Btw, love your articles and blog! Keep us posted on the good stuff about aviation and climbing!

  3. BsngBang, hi! Thanks for dropping by :-)

    Yes, here in the UK we tend to call them nutkeys or proddlers mostly, although nuttool is also perfectly acceptable (along with some more profane names they're often called when you end up sitting on them).

    More good stuff will hopefully be coming up in the near future, lots of cool things afoot :-)