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Brass Offset Sizes for Introductory Yosemite Big Walls

Original Post
Daniel James · · Chicago / it's complicated · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 1,219

Hey all!  

Aspiring big wall gumby here. I know that people love the DMM brass offsets for aid climbing, particularly in Yosemite. I was wondering if people found it truly essential to have the full range of sizes for the classic "i'm going to go climb a big wall!" itinerary of one of the routes on Washington Column and then the Nose, or if one can get away with spending less and getting just sizes 2-4.

I have a full set of peenuts already, and in single/light multipitch am pretty happy at mid/low 5.11s so anticipate being happy with freeing reasonable sections of mid 5.10 (and shorter sequences of harder) climbing to speed things up/skip annoying aid placements.

(As for other aid specific gear, I already happen to have a one each of the BD hooks and a couple peckers of each size for hand placing, and am looking to acquire a pair of narrow cam hooks if I find them for cheap)

Any advice is appreciated, cheers!

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 611

You'll be fine with the peanuts and the brass offsets you have.

If you are comfortable freeing mid/low 5.11 you'll be fine with 5.10 free on Washington Column but expect to only be able to free 5.9/5.10a once you're in the upper sections of The Nose

For those two routes your hook selection will be fine (can get away with just the grappling hook, but the cliffhanger is nice to have, the talon will not be used on the Nose or (what I assume will be) South Face of QC)

I consider narrow cam hooks to be essential clean aid gear. Period.

Don't bother bringing #1 beaks for handplacing.

Make sure that you and your second understand how to lower out as well as pass pieces on a traverse. It's not the kind of thing you learn on the wall unless you have a couple hours to waste trying to figure it out.

Give yourself an extra day for your itinerary for both routes. South Face always has a traffic jam at Kor Roof and The Nose always has a traffic jam up to the King Swing. Do not consider bailing (that's why you factored in the extra day) and enjoy your spot in line. 80% of those ahead of you in line on The Nose will bail giving you the ability to go much more smoothly in the upper pitches.

While you're at it, take the number of pitches you plan on climbing each day and chop a third off that number. We're usually pretty good about freeclimbing assumptions of speed but Bigwalls are nothing but clusterfucks and things going wrong. The best way to think of it from a freeclimber's perspective is to
think of it like we think of rapping: yeah these raps will take X amount of time IF everything goes right but we should budget a bit more time because what if the rope get stuck or we miss a rap station etc etc. Bigwalling is like this for each rap and each pitch as well. Think in  terms of where you will stop to bivy at your expected speed (if nothing goes wrong, fingers crossed) but also plan for where you will stop if you only make ⅔ or ½ or ⅓ of the expected pitches

Treat your ladders like they're features on the rock face, don't think of them as items to be used to rest on. Get up to your top step, use the face holds to help you get up there, place the gear, test it hard once, then get on it and keep moving. You will want to evaluate the piece after testing it, looking at it, considering resetting it, bounce testing again, gathering the courage, then moving. Trust your first hard bounce test and go. Over the course of a pitch, doing this can save upwards of an hour (though it won't feel like  it's taken an extra hour, but your belayer can attest to the fact that it was probably two hours.)

Go through the topo with your partner ahead of time. Don't focus on what the leader will do, that part's easy, focus on how the second will clean every pitch and how the haul will go. If you've not aid climbed much, consider going to the gym or the local wall and setup the pieces similarly to what you see on the topo, fix the line and clean it. Often times on Bigwalls what we think will work doesn't actually work because of how the tensioned/weighted rope prevents actions that work great on freeclimbs

Daniel James · · Chicago / it's complicated · Joined Aug 2016 · Points: 1,219
kevin deweese wrote: 

Thank you so much all the advice!  I'm definitely aiming to be super conservative about my expectations of speed and efficiency, and that's definitely fair with expecting only pretty low grades for the top of the Nose. 

For Washington Column, South Face would be the default, but alternatively was thinking about the Prow or Skull Queen if South Face is too busy.

My partner and I definitely plan on doing a good bit of practicing lowering out and all that other fun stuff on the ground (/short routes) first.

Thanks again! I'm quite looking forward to branching into this whole new side of climbing.
kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 611
Daniel James wrote: For Washington Column, South Face would be the default, but alternatively was thinking about the Prow or Skull Queen if South Face is too busy
Be aware that you won't really know how busy south face is until you're already 3 pitches up and around to corner for dinner ledge. Skull queen is a great route but most parties don't really have any issues after traversing from the alcove after Kor Roof so the time savings can be minimal by that point. If you want more time in your ladders, skull queen, if you want more time in your free shoes, South face. 

For the Prow, if you see a line of people on the first two pitches (pitch 2 can't be seen from the base but can be seen from the approach) then the prow works but I'd be pretty unhappy bivying anywhere without a portaledge. Actually, same thing with skull queen, you can bivy unhappily at 5 or 6 (Sloan topo) but nowhere else without a portaledge. And the clean aid on the Prow feels much harder than the clean aid on either skull queen or south face
Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 420

Awesome post, Kevin.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Big Wall and Aid Climbing
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