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following a big wall question


Original Post
neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20

i don't know if this is a ridiculous question.  Does anyone ever "climb" a big wall and ONLY follow and clean, help haul, etc?  Is that a thing?  I assume you could do that if you went with 1-2 experienced partners, a guide, etc.  Then you would be jugging and cleaning and your climbing ability would be less in question.  You're sort of just climbing a rope at that point but it would give you the experience of getting on the wall, bivying, exposure, etc.

I recently read Hans Florine's book and in many ascents he describes doing all or most of the leading which means the other climber(s) were following by jugging and cleaning.  Is that still climbing the wall?  Are there people that do that and then still say they "climbed" El Cap?  I climb multi pitch trad but when I follow I still actually climb the pitch.  I don't jug.

I hope this question makes sense.  Until reading Hans book I had never considered someone might get up El Cap and jug the whole thing.  Which is a strenuous feat in itself of course.  If I ever go the route of big wall climbing I'd like to actually climb some both free and aid and not jug it all but I was wondering..

Turner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 150

Yes

walmongr · · Gilbert AZ · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 85

Yes. My partner and I had a third guy all he wanted to do was jug, hang out and take pics for the experience. He never had done a wall or done one sense..  

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350

Yes. Your understanding of what goes into seconding a bigwall route should not be confused with your experience cleaning a free route. Bigwalling is more like engineering  than climbing. The difficulty in cleaning an aid pitch is completely different from pulling out pieces as you climb past them when freeclimbing and requires quite a bit of systems knowledge as well as understanding of how to mitigate the millions of mini disasters your leader leaves behind for you (in terms of removing a weighted piece, lowering out from a piece when dealing with traverses, etc) 

It may be questionable whether a 3rd who neither leads nor cleans any pitches can say they "climbed" the route, but only someone who hasn't climbed a wall would question whether seconding the entire route would still constitute having climbed it. 

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20
kevin deweese wrote:

Yes. Your understanding of what goes into seconding a bigwall route should not be confused with your experience cleaning a free route. Bigwalling is more like engineering  than climbing. The difficulty in cleaning an aid pitch is completely different from pulling out pieces as you climb past them when freeclimbing and requires quite a bit of systems knowledge as well as understanding of how to mitigate the millions of mini disasters your leader leaves behind for you (in terms of removing a weighted piece, lowering out from a piece when dealing with traverses, etc) 

It may be questionable whether a 3rd who neither leads nor cleans any pitches can say they "climbed" the route, but only someone who hasn't climbed a wall would question whether seconding the entire route would still constitute having climbed it. 

thanks. this helps my understanding.  The other replies did as well.  I guess to refine my question...I see lots of threads about getting into big wall climbing, everyone wants to get on the nose one day or at least thinks they do...myself included.  But do I really want to, or think I want to?  I know a lot of folks are not into wall climbing, aiding, the exposure, hauling, or whatever.

What would you say is an efficient way of deciding if big wall climbing is REALLY something you want to pursue without gaining all sorts of skills for no reason and focusing on other things?  Audit the experience without making such a huge commitment?  I'm in the NE - I know there are climbs in NH you can do to learn and practice but I suspect its much different than being 3000ft up.  I've climbed 8 pitch trad in Red Rock but being 700ft up free climbing is much different than a wall, as you said.  I've read many books on the technical skills needed for wall climbing as well as reading many stories and it really strikes me as something I want to experience as a long term goal in say the next 3-5 years.  But really have no idea - 1000ft up camped on a wall and hauling might not be for me.  How do I find out?  

Or do you just dive in and say screw it - I want to do this...I AM DOING THIS!!! I will like this and succeed at it!!  Which is essentially what I have done in my climbing thus far.

dindolino32 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 25

One doesn't really re-aid a pitch on toprope while following.  There are times where it is possible to leave the jugs at home and short fix. When I did the RNWF route of HD with a partner, we short fixed.  I used 2 microtraxions and toprope soloed when following, he was lead soloing.  When I reached the anchor, I put him on belay.  There were a few times where I french freed, and a few times where I "jugged" with a skinny sling to get up a longer section of aid.  The route is mostly free climbing though.   On climbs with mostly aid, the second jugs the rope.

Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

This man was the first to ascended El Cap without the use of his legs, he has completed many other amazing routes before and after his accident as well.

Link to short article about Mark Wellman

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350
neils wrote:

thanks. this helps my understanding.  The other replies did as well.  I guess to refine my question...I see lots of threads about getting into big wall climbing, everyone wants to get on the nose one day or at least thinks they do...myself included.  But do I really want to, or think I want to?  I know a lot of folks are not into wall climbing, aiding, the exposure, hauling, or whatever.

What would you say is an efficient way of deciding if big wall climbing is REALLY something you want to pursue without gaining all sorts of skills for no reason and focusing on other things?  Audit the experience without making such a huge commitment?  I'm in the NE - I know there are climbs in NH you can do to learn and practice but I suspect its much different than being 3000ft up.  I've climbed 8 pitch trad in Red Rock but being 700ft up free climbing is much different than a wall, as you said.  I've read many books on the technical skills needed for wall climbing as well as reading many stories and it really strikes me as something I want to experience as a long term goal in say the next 3-5 years.  But really have no idea - 1000ft up camped on a wall and hauling might not be for me.  How do I find out?  

Or do you just dive in and say screw it - I want to do this...I AM DOING THIS!!! I will like this and succeed at it!!  Which is essentially what I have done in my climbing thus far.

The height and exposure isn't really an issue (except for those where it is, but those people know if they have issues with heights) 

Stop thinking about Bigwalling as an idea and think of it as the sum of its parts. 

Hauling sucks. You don't need to be on a wall to understand this. Hauling 100' up a 1 pitch climb is no different from hauling 100" after the 20th pitch on a wall. (except for the progression of exhausting which you can do by simply hauling that 1 pitch route 10 times in a row. There's no way to make hauling not suck except to have someone else do it for you.

Some freeclimbers place gear but don't trust it (ie: the kind that will place a bomber cam but still holds onto the wall while resting on that cam) in Bigwalling, you need to trust your gear implicitly. Once you do, the exposure isn't a problem, sleeping in a ledge isn't a problem anymore than taking a fall into space over good gear while freeclimbing isn't a problem.

"How do I find out?

Since you're in the NE, find a trad route with a consistent weakness to practice on: preferably with a TR anchor and with some traversing - choose some that are vertical to overhanging to get a hang of how that feels and some that are less than vertical to see the difference in hauling

  1. practice aid climbing the 1-2 pitch route
  2. practice cleaning those same route by ascending the fixed line on your juggs, 
  3. practice hauling that same route once you finish cleaning (put rocks in the haul bag or any other weight to get it to about 70+lbs) You can do this all while TR Solo because NO ONE is going to be all about belaying the 3-4 hours it'll take at first.
  4. repeat
  5. repeat
  6. repeat 

(If you don't have enough gear, you'll need to either borrow or suck it up and buy the minimum to test this stuff out.)

If you're still stoked, head down to North Carolina and have a blast on Looking Glass Rock

Kevin DeWeese 1 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0
dindolino32 wrote:

One doesn't really re-aid a pitch on toprope while following.  

Kind of a confusing statement for a new wall climber. One NEVER re-aids a pitch when cleaning (unless you're looking at a long traversing pitch like 2nd pitch of zodiac or roof pitch of wet denim daydream). Re-aiding is basically doing the lead moves again as you clean the pitch, normally, your second is jugging the line that is fixed to the high anchor and running through the pieces. 

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

I can add some personal experience here. I "climbed" the The Nose of El Cap last Fall. I got quite dehydrated and sick mid-way through day 2 (we started late on day 1 and we were moving slow). I ended up only leading a handful of pitches and following the rest in an effort to make it to the top and not just bail. I was exhausted, puking and dizzy. I was extremely disappointed at how it turned out. As someone else pointed out above, cleaning aid pitch, especially if it's traversing and you can't clean a piece because it's weighted, is a lot of work. It's not the same as leading, but it's not as if you're just along for the ride, jugging a clean rope.  I feel like I climbed El Cap, because I was part of the 2-man team that did it, and I did plenty. But, I fully plan to go back next year to climb another route on the captain and do my half of the leading. I don't think I'll feel 100% comfortable until I can get that done, but I don't think my first climb is invalidated because I didn't lead half of the pitches. 

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 420
neils wrote:

What would you say is an efficient way of deciding if big wall climbing is REALLY something you want to pursue without gaining all sorts of skills for no reason and focusing on other things?  

Or do you just dive in and say screw it - I want to do this...I AM DOING THIS!!! I will like this and succeed at it!!  Which is essentially what I have done in my climbing thus far.

If you follow Kevin's excellent advice you will learn if you have an aptitude for the drudgery of big wallin'. Anyone taking the time to do this and enjoying it is gonna have a good time on El Cap etc.

But lots more people don't do a full NE apprenticeship and don't think about El Cap or about wanting it until they see it.

When you see it you will know if it is something you must do or if regular cragging is enough. To each his own.

It will call you. You really don't have a rational say in the matter ;).

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20
King Tut wrote:

If you follow Kevin's excellent advice you will learn if you have an aptitude for the drudgery of big wallin'. Anyone taking the time to do this and enjoying it is gonna have a good time on El Cap etc.

But lots more people don't do a full NE apprenticeship and don't think about El Cap or about wanting it until they see it.

When you see it you will know if it is something you must do or if regular cragging is enough. To each his own.

It will call you. You really don't have a rational say in the matter ;).

thank you.  I think Kevin's advice was very good as well.  I first rock climbed in the Gunks in '94 or '95 and did so a little here and there on and off over the years.  I went to Yosemite as a non-climber in 2000 and it was my first exposure seeing El Cap as well as climbers in porta ledges, multi day wall ascents etc.  Gawking at the folks high on the wall from the meadow.  I was really blown away.  A few years ago I watched the Huber's movie and was really drawn in.  

Past 7 years I have gotten into lots of hiking and mountaineering and about 14 months ago got into climbing seriously.  Leading in the gunks, ice on top rope,  bouldering - doing as much as I can.  Went to J-tree for a day, Red Rock for a couple days. Did some 7 pitch climbs - loved it.  Reading Steve Roper and Glenn Denny's books and watching Fred Padula's movie   among other stuff has just grabbed me.  Until about 14 months ago I didn't realize that "mortals" can climb El Cap - it is possible for sure.

I feel like what you are describing has happened to me.  I recently read the Anderson's training book and the section on long term and intermediate goals struck me.  I immediately started making a mental list of things like - become solid 5.9 trad leader, learn to aid, learn to haul, more efficient with rope systems, work on endurance, lead 10-13 pitch trad climb. Intermediate goal - climb Epinephrine in Red Rock (an awesome goal for me in its own right).  Do multiple 15 plus pitch days in gunks at close to limit.  Aid climbs in NH like Mordor wall. etc etc.  Climb with more experienced folks.

I have to think this story isn't unique - El Capitan is so captivating.  The king swing, stove legs, Texas Flake, Boot Flake - I read stuff and watch videos and recall my time seeing it in 2000 and I can hardly wait to acquire the skills and experience needed to do it.  Climbing under the Great Roof seeing up close what Lynn Hill free climbed.  I just want to experience it very badly.  I figure it's a 3-5 year goal.  I don't really know.

King Tut · · Citrus Heights · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 420
neils wrote:

thank you.  I think Kevin's advice was very good as well.  I first rock climbed in the Gunks in '94 or '95 and did so a little here and there on and off over the years.  I went to Yosemite as a non-climber in 2000 and it was my first exposure seeing El Cap as well as climbers in porta ledges, multi day wall ascents etc.  Gawking at the folks high on the wall from the meadow.  I was really blown away.  A few years ago I watched the Huber's movie and was really drawn in.  

Past 7 years I have gotten into lots of hiking and mountaineering and about 14 months ago got into climbing seriously.  Leading in the gunks, ice on top rope,  bouldering - doing as much as I can.  Went to J-tree for a day, Red Rock for a couple days. Did some 7 pitch climbs - loved it.  Reading Steve Roper and Glenn Denny's books and watching Fred Padula's movie   among other stuff has just grabbed me.  Until about 14 months ago I didn't realize that "mortals" can climb El Cap - it is possible for sure.

I feel like what you are describing has happened to me.  I recently read the Anderson's training book and the section on long term and intermediate goals struck me.  I immediately started making a mental list of things like - become solid 5.9 trad leader, learn to aid, learn to haul, more efficient with rope systems, work on endurance, lead 10-13 pitch trad climb. Intermediate goal - climb Epinephrine in Red Rock (an awesome goal for me in its own right).  Do multiple 15 plus pitch days in gunks at close to limit.  Aid climbs in NH like Mordor wall. etc etc.  Climb with more experienced folks.

I have to think this story isn't unique - El Capitan is so captivating.  The king swing, stove legs, Texas Flake, Boot Flake - I read stuff and watch videos and recall my time seeing it in 2000 and I can hardly wait to acquire the skills and experience needed to do it.  Climbing under the Great Roof seeing up close what Lynn Hill free climbed.  I just want to experience it very badly.  I figure it's a 3-5 year goal.  I don't really know.

If you want to do the Nose in good style then it can take quite awhile to acquire the necessary crack climbing skills, especially from the East.

What you really need to do is commit to coming out here and putting in the time. Mileage in Yosemite has no other "efficient" substitute.

Do not under-estimate old-school Valley 5.9...some are light as a feather, some are "5.9" for solid 5.11 climbers (NE Butt Higher).

With some long Yose free routes under your belt you just got to hump loads to the base of Zodiac and blast off. You'll figure it out if you don't attempt it during a heat wave or snow storm.

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20
King Tut wrote:

If you want to do the Nose in good style then it can take quite awhile to acquire the necessary crack climbing skills, especially from the East.

What you really need to do is commit to coming out here and putting in the time. Mileage in Yosemite has no other "efficient" substitute.

Do not under-estimate Valley 5.9...some are light as a feather, some are "5.9" for solid 5.11 climbers (NE Butt Higher).

With some long Yose free routes under your belt you just got to hump loads to the base of Zodiac and blast off. You'll figure it out if you don't attempt it during a heat wave or snow storm.

thanks - Ill check back in in a couple of years :)  I'd love to get some climbing done in Yosemite.  For now I am heading to NH tomorrow to climb on Cannon and Cathedral - so that's cool :)  Thanks a lot for your input.  Much appreciated.

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 350

It's relevant to say that red rocks climbing in NOTHING like Yosemite climbing and their grades (in general) are very soft compared to Yosemite climbs

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20
kevin deweese wrote:

It's relevant to say that red rocks climbing in NOTHING like Yosemite climbing and their grades (in general) are very soft compared to Yosemite climbs

oh i am sure - even when i went there as compared to the gunks i felt it was easier in terms of grading - i loved the the climbing but do agree by the numbers it was easier - and i know yosemite is hard as well and its own style.

Kevin DeWeese 1 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2014 · Points: 0

But of course, a 5.5 in the Gunk is a 5.12 anywhere else ;P

neils · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2016 · Points: 20
Kevin DeWeese 1 wrote:

But of course, a 5.5 in the Gunk is a 5.12 anywhere else ;P

ha ha :)  i dunno about all that...

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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