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Tips on aiding faster? 2.5 hours to lead a pitch sucks

Original Post
randy88fj62 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2010 · Points: 293

I love aid climbing and I want to switch from a big wall theorist to a big wall climber. The first pitch on the prow took me 2.5 hours to lead this past friday and was a disappointing way to start a weekend.

Things I found difficult:

Top stepping seems easy in theory but is extremely difficult on basic steep terrain for me. Back to steep bolt ladder practice at my local crag.

I didn't place any nuts on the first pitch and need to work on placing more passive pro.

My setup: Yates shield harness, 2 Yates adjustable daisies, 2 ladders, and a daisy chain with fifi as a third point for cleaning traverses and extending my rappel device when rappelling.

Anything else I am missing? Any advice on breaking through from lazy slow aider to efficient big wall climber?

John Wilder · · Las Vegas, NV · Joined Feb 2004 · Points: 1,530

Back when I first learned to aid climb, i used that same set up and was slow as molasses.

Then a buddy told me to lose the adjustable aiders and I went from taking 2-3 hours/pitch to 45 minutes a pitch or less on C1 immediately.

Keep your system as simple as possible, keep the clutter to a minimum, and fifi into the piece you place as quickly as possible- dont dink around getting settled.

Place piece. Climb ladder to piece, fifi in. Find next piece- 2nd step or top step to place piece. Repeat.

Time slows down on hard aid (although I know guys who can move just as fast on the hard stuff), but C1/C2 should be mostly the above process with the occasional thinker placement.

claytown · · Boulder, CO · Joined Sep 2006 · Points: 1,201

I'm no expert but I've aided a bit. I like 3 etriers. One on each adjustable daisy through the same oval biner. Place your high piece, clip the daisy/etrier to it then clip the free etrier into that. It's easier to step up with the second etrier on the high piece. Also easier to top step with two etriers on that piece. FWIW, I use BD oval wires for on each of those aider w/ etrier and the free etrier.

As soon as you trust the high piece, unclip the daisy from your low piece. I took a full length daisy whip this year and it really hurt.

Also, maybe you're taking too much gear with you? Sometimes it's best to take less and tag up more stuff later if you need it.

Otherwise, aiding is kinda slow and you'll get faster with more practice. Hard pitches can take over 2 hours. With more practice, hard pitches will feel easier and be faster.

Best of luck

Shelton Hatfield · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2011 · Points: 585

If the route is suited for them and you're comfortable using them, cam hooks will make you fly up the wall. I don't think they ever left my aiders when I did the prow.

randy88fj62 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2010 · Points: 293

I know I waste time with the adjustables by pulling them in and then having to reset them out again for the next placement.

Not sure I am ready to ditch them and go back to regular chains and a fifi.


kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350
randy88fj62 wrote:I didn't place any nuts on the first pitch and need to work on placing more passive pro.
There's plenty to say and I'll let others say it. In this specific instance, (and with full understanding that many will disagree for their own reasons) placing more passive gear is NOT going to make you move faster.

1. Passive gear that's been weighted is going to take your second longer to clean because they'll need to stop jugging to work it out. With cams, they reach it, grab it and go.
. . . . a. Of course, there's also the trick of place cam, use cam, get above cam, retrieve cam, replace cam with nut that's now not been weighted unless you fall. But then there's still the issue of time, see below.
2. Every cam placed is more weight off your rack than a nut placement. Need that cam later for a crucial placement, you can always lower down to it and retrieve it and jug back to your high point. (This happens less often that our fears would have us believe)
3. I personally rack all my cams on their own biner so with that in mind, placing a cam is grab, place, go, whereas placing a nut is grab, find correct nut on biner full of nuts, place nut, unclip nut-filled biner, grab new biner/draw, clip new biner/draw to nut, go.

Caveat: Obviously you use the best piece for the placement and if a nut fits the placement better than a cam then you go with the nut.
kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350
randy88fj62 wrote:I know I waste time with the adjustables by pulling them in and then having to reset them out again for the next placement. Not sure I am ready to ditch them and go back to regular chains and a fifi. hmm.
No need to ditch them as adjustables are not intrinsically slower, it's the process you outline above that makes them slow. I use adjustables and a fifi.

On slabby terrain you don't even need your fifi or to muck about with your adjustables, just step to the very top of the steps and lean into the rock, repeat.

On less than vertical terrain (but not slab) you never really need to shorten your daisies, just step up in your ladders until your fifi can clip in.

On vertical terrain, you just need to prep yourself to make multiple steps up the ladder in one fluid motion until your fifi can reach.

On more than vertical terrain, don't worry about time, that stuff is exhausting and if you creep up the ladders on each cinching of the adjustable, that's fine as that's what they're there for.
Kevin Mokracek · · Burbank · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 200

What Kevin said. Passive pro is fine and all but Kevin is right, takes way too much time. Even when non aid climbing I try to place cams whenever I can for speed and ease of cleaning. I have a few partners who pride themselves on good nut craft but following their pitches is a pain in the butt and takes much longer to clean. It's a good skill to have but keep it in your tool chest until you absolutely need it.
Adjustable daisies are great, stay away from adjustable aiders at all costs, there are very few who are fast and fluid using them. Your ladder aiders are perfect, stick with two, no need for more.
I keep a cam hook and a regular hook on each aider depending on the route. Seems to work good for me.

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350
Kevin Mokracek wrote:I keep a cam hook and a regular hook on each aider depending on the route. Seems to work good for me.
I stopped doing this when I started FAing instead of doing other people's routes but really, having a medium camhook, a hook, AND a rivet hanger permattached to each ladder is a great way to keep yourself thinking in terms of hooking and camhooking and will immensely speed your process up. I def recommend it. (But remove them when jugging because they're a pain in that situation.)

Image here
Climbing article

(Obviously, don't carry everything they say to in the linked article as that's overkill and I know NO ONE that would keep that much permanently attached like that. - although, maybe for desert walls with miles of cam jugging...)

(I use a quicklink to attach everything to the top of the ladder to keep the ladder closer to the hook and I don't recommend the webbing loop if you're going to be switching off leads due to the issue with jugging with them.)
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

Time, time, time and more time in your aiders. You need to learn how to move in your aiders and you need a catalogue of placements in your brain to pull from.

Clayton Knudson · · Moab, UT · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 35

So I didn't see this mentioned but it sure sped me up a lot. Wear comfortable climbing shoes and don't be afraid to step out of the aiders and climb. Once I started doing this I realized I don't need aiders for a lot of pitches that are C1 or C1+. Just climb until it gets hard, then start grabbing your pieces. Fifi in if you need a rest, clip the ladder on if you really need it. Once you're out of the hard part, free climb again.

I know this is a much more strenuous way to climb these pitches but if you really want to speed up the process, this is a mega time saver in terms of the long haul of doing something like climbing big walls. Lots of topo descriptions, especially the Valley Big Walls book, indicates the easier sections of pitches. I think its for exactly this reason. If you're comfortable climbing 5.8, why aid it. Blast through that shit and get to the hard part.

Dave Vaughn · · Simi Valley CA · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 10

Mark knows ... more time

randy88fj62 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2010 · Points: 293

There's a 2 pitch bolt ladder in my area. I plan on time trials with different setups. First pitch is positive walk up slop and second pitch is severely overhanging so I should have a good balance of terrain types.

The Blueprint Part Dank · · FEMA Region VIII · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 460

I found that switching from a system with just traditional daisies to one using two adjustable daisies and one traditional daisy made things MUCH faster for me. And depending on how splitter the cracks you're aiding are, then getting good at leapfrogging cam hooks for upward progress with your gear used primarily as protection is a big time saver as well

Eli · · GMC3500 · Joined Nov 2010 · Points: 2,707

On the first pitch of the prow I placed only micronuts up that 5.11 seam. I'm not good at aid climbing, but I think a big time saver can just be placing gear and stepping on it - not necessarily making the perfect placement everytime, just something you can stand on.

Addem Bursh · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2012 · Points: 885
Mark Hudon wrote:Time, time, time and more time in your aiders. You need to learn how to move in your aiders and you need a catalogue of placements in your brain to pull from.
Yeah but do you even aid bro?

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

As is often the case in climbing, video yourself and spot where you are not fluid. There are no doubt many alternative ways/systems, some faster than others, and even adjustable daises can be used at a reasonable pace, but the key is to use whatever system you are using well. This means videoing yourself and looking at the footage and asking, was that bit fluid? If not, practice that bit in isolation until it is.

It is much the same with anchor building - tons of ways to do it, but it doesn't really matter as long as you are good and fast at the way you like.

PS. if you are into using passing pro and nervous, then sometimes when back cleaning it can be comforting to very occasionally throw in a stopper as pro before you remove the cam and not weight the stopper. the time lost will be regained by you not being quite a worried on the next few moves

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 60

I agree with the Kevins and Mark. Just focus on getting in your aiders and climbing up them until you're ready to place your next piece. I think part of the problem that some people experience, particularly nowdays is an over reliance on daisy chains, adjustable fifis and the like. A daisy chain is to hang off of if the pitch is awkward, or as a leash to keep you from dropping your aiders when you're bounce testing your piece.

First of all, it's important to know that everyone is slow when they're new. It's not a function of placing passive or non-passive gear. It's the clusterf#$% of the gear and being unfamiliar with the system. Here's the system that I eventually adopted for full aid pitches: two pairs of aiders on a single biner, one daisy and either a fifi or even a biner clipped to my dogging loop.

Assuming that the wall is pretty steep and you need a fifi to go hands free for placing your next piece, this my drill. From the piece I'm standing on, I climb up my aiders until the piece is waist height. I'll hook my fifi to the biner clipped to the piece (though I've typically just used a biner). Now you can relax and have your hands free. I'll clip the lead line through the piece I'm standing on, which means I can unclip my daisy from that same piece since, if my piece pops, I'm not going to lose my aiders.

I place my next piece, clip my aiders to it, clip my now free daisy to the aiders and then bounce test it by standing in the aiders. If it doesn't blow, I unhook my fifi and fire up the aiders until the piece is waist level again and then clip in again with my fifi and repeat. You don't need to dick around with two adjustable fifis to assist with each step up your aiders. You're not going to fall with your feet in the aiders and hanging on to your aiders, so why do you need to winch yourself up. Note: this approach will work if you're on moderate aid. If you're on a new wave horror show (though those are disappearing with all the enhancements that take place over time), you'll want to be a lot more circumspect with your bounce testing and probably want two daisies for the added security. You don't want to be cavalier when you're looking at a 60 footer onto a ledge. For most trade routes, however, this works well. Also, as I think Kevin noted, for less than vert stuff, you really won't need your daisy other than as a keeper sling. You can use gear, holds, even the crack you're climbing to assist you when highstepping. And learn to trust your gear. 2.5 hours is fine for an involved pitch on the P.O. Wall. It is pretty slow for the Prow. Just practice more, see what works for you and keep honing your system.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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