So, you have decided you would like to venture into the dark art of aid climbing, and would like to possibly tackle a big wall, like El Capitan. Well, you need a toolbox with lots of different tools in it. By this I mean, you need to know lots of little techniques, knots, creative thinking, gear placement, etc… Basically, it is a creative way of solving lots of problems. You may come across some funky gear placements; awkward hauling; jumaring slabs, vertical walls and overhangs; stuck haul bags; setting up a portaledge; rope management; stuck ropes; cut ropes; and the art of suffering. Aid climbing on a big wall may seem straight forward most of the time, but sometimes we need to get creative. This is where your knowledge really comes into play, and there is no one way of doing it.
Where to start?
So before you delve into aid climbing, a good solid base of trad climbing will help you stand in good stead. Efficient gear placements, rope management and anchor building may save you only 10 minutes per pitch, but multiply this by 30 pitches, and your 4-day excursion has just turned into 5 days. Meaning you will need to carry an extra days’ worth of food and water, which may add even more time to your climb. So, efficiency is key.
Some of the other key techniques that are necessary to be efficient at are jumaring (ascending a rope), hauling, setting up a portaledge, and some creative problems solving and gear placements.
Being able to jumar up a rope on all types of terrain is a must; from slabs, to vertical walls and free hanging terrain. When it comes to hauling, it’s a good idea to have several techniques available to you. Whether using space hauling, a 2:1, 3:1 or 4:1 system. Also, what do you do when the haul bags get stuck?
If you are going to use a portaledge, it is worth knowing how you put it together. Putting one up on the ground is a good start, but once you are free hanging, it is very different story, and what seemed like a 5-minute task, turns into a half an hour frustrating battle, with poles everywhere, skin being pinched in gaps, and a lot of swearing. Even knowing where to place you haul bags in regards to your sleeping setup can be helpful.
And then of course, what if shit hits the fan? What do you do when your rope is cut? Or your climbing partner is injured and you need to get down ASAP. Or you have a blank section of wall, with only the tiniest of features to help you.
If you would like some of the above questions answering or would like to know more about aid climbing, you can book onto our big walling or aid climbing courses, see links below: