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This just in: Aid is slow!
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Jul 22, 2011
ok so my buddy and I have aspirations for the nose (or something similar) next late spring/early summer. We have assembled pretty much all the kit and just need practice to get our systems down. Last night was the first time we did a multipitch climb bringing the haul system into the mix to get the 'full' experience (- the ledge). So we jetted out to Country Club Crack, and left the ground at 6:45. It quickly got dark, but we had headlamps and were ready for it. I'm sure it slowed things down a bit, but honestly I think it focused me a little bit having your world be just your headlamp... I wasn't checking the time throughout the climb, but when we finally got down it was 11:30! We had no stuck ropes/bags, no falls, no major clusters at belays, we were only 'hauling' the bag with odds and ends in it (maybe 25 lbs?). Are we retardedly slow or is this about normal for a fairly rookie team putting things together for the first time? 2 ~ 30m pitches (easy c1 with a lot of pitons), 2 hauls, 1 double rope rap: ~ 5 hours?

The one thing I can see helping to reduce any chance for CFs is some rope bags/hooks. Anyone have any experince using the fish double rope bag? it looks pretty slick... on the haul system, is it common practice to have a separate clip in point for the haulsystem? we were more or less clipping everything to the masterpoint and when the thing was fully weighted it really made adding/removing any biners from the master point a major PITA, I can only imagine if the pig was fully loaded. We were trying to pretend that the pig would be unmoveable without the haul system in play. Would it make sense to clip the haul system as high as possible, and then extend a bit below a secondary masterpoint for everything else?

Also, how do people generally haul the haulsystem itself? We figure tie it to the end of the tagline and haul it up first, along with the haul line itself, but there are alot of dangly bits that seem like they could get stuck on things (we are using the 2:1, trax, 2 pulleys and an inverted ascender system). Maybe throw it in the rope bag and haul it up? Or do people generally just have the leader have that stuff on their person?


Phill T
Joined May 5, 2008
30 points
Jul 22, 2011
Phill, my partner and I were in a similar position as you are right now several months ago. It sounds like you're slow but take that with a grain of salt since I don't know the route you did. We recently attempted the Nose and I can tell you the pitches up to sickle are very tedious to aid, our goal now is to get better at free climbing to avoid as much aid as possible.

As per your question on the rope bag I'd personally avoid bringing anything with you that doesn't serve multiple purposes. I usually stack the rope on a sling, PAS or a daisy since you already have it on you.

I'm sure there are some wall rats on MP that'll have more experience than I do that can offer advice but as someone that just went through figuring out aiding, hauling and the other big wall procedures on my own I'd be happy to talk to you about what' we discovered and what to avoid. PM me if you want to talk and I'll shoot you my number.

Don't get discouraged. Aiding is hard and time consuming. hauling sucks no matter how good your system is. There's a reason Big Wallers are a very small sub-section of climbers, it's frigging hard.
Matt Marino
From Georgetown, MA
Joined Jan 4, 2010
0 points
Jul 22, 2011
Don't be discouraged. The first time I aided P1 of CCC it took me around 2 hours. Aiding is just slow. Luckily I found that it's not that hard to get fast at. There were a few tips that really helped me move faster in my aiders. #1 Wear climbing shoes. You are still climbing after all. Get something that is comfortable to wear a sock with and has a stiffer midsole. Cheaper the better. #2 French Free or yard when ever possible. This will still be faster than standing in your aid ladders. #3 top-step/high step. Bring chalk with you and use it. You'll be amazed at what you're able to hold onto with a foot in an aider. As far as daisies go, I have found that I really like to have a full sized locker on them. This gives you something to grab onto whether climbing or at the belay. I'll try not to use my daisies when I'm on C1 terrain. Try using the features to hold yourself instead and if I need a rest I'll clip a quick draw into a piece for a second.

I used to think that rope bags and rope hooks would really help to organize things. I've been convinced that you don't need them. Using a trad draw around the coil of rope works just as well and serves other purposes too.

When it comes to belays, typically there are three bolts. I throw a locker on each bolt and equalize the left bolt with the middle and the right bolt with the middle bolt with two separate slings. This creates two separate master points. HINT: Don't tie limiter knots unless your absolutely have to. They are a pain to get out. Don't clip multiple lockers to the bolts, it's safer to only have one locker per bolt and clip things to that locker. Dock the pig to a bolt and back it up where ever you feel appropriate. This lets you tear down half of your anchor while belaying.

For hauling on The Nose, 1:1 space hauling is the way to go. Of course everybody has their own system and it is inevitably what works best for you. Feel free to PM me if you have more questions or something doesn't make sense.
Greg Howland
Joined Jan 10, 2009
60 points
Jul 22, 2011
Good on you and your buddy for practicing with the haul bag. A great checklist here and a good intro here.

Also consider *actually* doing some of those climbs in the Road to the Nose Guide.

Buy or borrow this book.

Tons of lower outs and pendulums on The Nose. See how to manage in the video here:

No need to haul any other way but 1:1. I weigh a buck and change and never felt like I needed to put together a 3:1. You will not be hauling a week's worth of goods on the Nose. Place the hauling point as high as you can and body haul that pig.

I am not an expert at this stuff, so I will withhold the traditional elitist monkey spray, but here's some other advice that stuck with me.

  • It's mostly C1. No need to bounce test. Just plug, chug, back clean, leap frog and go. If you end up staring at the crack and fiddling with your pieces, you're going to suffer from some serious lack of time management.
  • You're working. A double shift. There are rare times when there is nothing to do. During those times, you eat, drink, pee and serenade your partner. Always be thinking of what you can be doing to make forward progress. Are you manning the rope properly? Is the gear for the next pitch organized and ready to tie to the tag line? Are your aiders and jumars ready to go as soon as the line is fixed? Ten minutes before the leader arrives to the anchor, he or she should yell (if within earshot) 10 MINUTES! This gives you a chance to put your pants on, get the haul bag closed and ready to lower out. You can start breaking down the anchor to the point where the minute you either hear FIXED! or see the haul line go up, you should be ready to jug. Find yourself taking 15 minutes at the belay after your buddy is at the anchor? No need to wonder where all your time is going. Move, move, move and the aid climbing will actually go really fast.
  • Think like Bobby Fischer. Three moves ahead. How is your anchor setup? Will the current setup cause future problems during the take down? Where are the ropes going? Do you need to tie in short so that you can lower out? Do you need to tie the haul line short? Lots of questions and answers you'll need to figure out on your own because if it's just the two of you, guaranteed you'll see very little of each other on the wall (except at night) if you're doing it right.
  • Free climb as much as you can. It's not A3 or C4 up there. It's the Nose. Free the easy pitches, french free the living crap out of the sections you can't free and then if necessary, throw on the aiders and high step your way up. You can get through most of the Nose just merely pulling on gear. Don't get comfortable in those aiders and mess around with a tangle of daisies. Keep it simple.
  • Rope bags are great. Especially when the wind decides to blow around like crazy (usually after 11am).

Have fun and don't kill yourself, your partner or anyone within a quarter mile radius. Oh, and don't be too discouraged if you end up bailing. Everyone has at one point or another. Remember, it's better to fail miserably with a rad partner than to summit with a grade A asshole. The time you spend up there is magical. Yeah, it's a boat load of work, but you will never forget your days and nights on the captain. The work will be worth it if you get to share it with cool people that know how to laugh, problem solve and keep their emotions in check.

From San Francisco, CA
Joined Jul 9, 2009
225 points
Jul 22, 2011
This is some great advice above. Well done.

Yes 5 hours is slow, but keep hitting it and dont be too amazed if you cut an hour or two on your next try. CCC can be aided in a short time, my latest go had the first pitch in just under 25 minutes, yes I have done it multiple times and I am sure that it can be done in a much quicker time frame as well. But thats the point, practice.

Good Luck
cheifitj Cheifitz
From Boulder, Colorado
Joined Jun 24, 2008
35 points
Jul 22, 2011
/;-))) yup, it's slow. You gotta love the physical activity of the placements and movement since that is what your climb is all about. No hurry, just take in the view and the mechanical workings of aid. Enjoy. Woodchuck ATC
Joined Nov 29, 2007
505 points
Jul 22, 2011
good thoughts, but since no one mentioned it....

C1 does not equal using pitons. That would be A1. C stands for 'Clean' as in, no pins.

And, I hope and pray that you were not pounding pins on an established free route.
John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Joined Feb 1, 2004
1,495 points
Jul 23, 2011
John Wilder wrote:
good thoughts, but since no one mentioned it.... C1 does not equal using pitons. That would be A1. C stands for 'Clean' as in, no pins. And, I hope and pray that you were not pounding pins on an established free route.

I assumed he meant fixed pins. In which case I guess they're calling it C1F now.
Joined Jan 16, 2011
0 points
Jul 23, 2011
You might want to read Chris Mac's how to big wall on SuperTopo:

On thing I highly recommend starting out is finding a bolt ladder and aiding it over and over again before you worry about placing gear on aid. Get to the point were you're doing everything the same way each time. Saving 30 seconds at each placement adds up to a lot of time on an aid route, much more so than a free route. Plus you don't need the added stress of worrying about where to stash a your aiders when you should be stressing about a marginal placement :)

That goes for Belays as well, an extra 15 minutes at each belay on the Nose adds up to almost 8 hours over the course of a climb, that's extra day and extra weight in the haul bag.

The video guide to aid climbing by Don Reid ( is a little old school but useful because you actually get to see someone go through he motions instead of just reading the sequence.

And this is a good walkthru of the king swing (

Edit: Looks like alpinista83 beat me to the big wall guide so just turn my recommendation into a +1, good call man
Matt Marino
From Georgetown, MA
Joined Jan 4, 2010
0 points
Jul 23, 2011
this is great advice

+1 "it's better to fail miserably with a rad partner than to summit with a grade A asshole"
Joined Nov 30, 2009
0 points
Jul 23, 2011
alpinista83 wrote:
Don't get comfortable in those aiders and mess around with a tangle of daisies. Keep it simple.

Good advise. Daisies slow you down big time, they're not necessary on the Nose when the aid is so moderate. I wouldn't try the Nose for my first wall. I'd suggest doing 10 to 20 pitches of aid before you start up a wall.
Joined Aug 21, 2006
1,750 points
Jul 23, 2011
thanks for all the replies guys.

Yes, I meant fixed pitons. The second pitch has about 7. I didnt realize that it was so common to bust as many free moves as possible on a pitch. My buddy can free ~5.10 in the valley (we went a month or so ago to tick off some classics), I can do about 5.9. But then again that was without a huge flipping rack and aiders and crap hanging off you. I've noticed that the few times I have thrown in a free move or two in an aid pitch it really takes a while to psych myself into it. I'm so chill and relaxed sitting in aiders, its really quite the mental shift to get into 'climbing' mode again. I guess I was picturing more of 'ok this is a full on aid pitch' or 'ok leave the aiders at the belay and bust this pitch out free' rather so much hybrid as I'm seeing it recommended here.

Also to clarify, I'm not discouraged, it was hella fun, I just really thought it was at least an hour or so earlier than it actually was when we got down. I guess it comes down to this was probly my partners 5th? aid line, it was probly my 20th or so. We are planning to head out to zion to do a 2 day line there later this year (yes we could do it without the ledge, but we want to sleep on it damnit!), so it won't be our first wall.

as for the rope buckets, do people really not use them much? if there is a good ledge, yeah they aren't needed, but at any kind of hanging belay, dealing with two ropes seems like such a PITA and potential cluster, dunno maybe I'm missing something.

Phill T
Joined May 5, 2008
30 points
Jul 23, 2011

These worked well for us instead of rope buckets.
I also made a little one out of 2" PVC for the 6mm tag line.
Rock Climbing Photo: DIY rope hook:  bandsaw or hacksaw a 1" slice...
DIY rope hook:
bandsaw or hacksaw a 1" slice off a 4" PVC pipe. Cut at 12:00 and 2:00. Drill a 1/2" hole for the biner at 11:00. This one is ~60 grams and holds 50 lbs without breaking, so it could be lightened up significantly by drilling more holes.
Gregger Man
Joined Aug 15, 2004
496 points
Jul 24, 2011
Sounds like you guys were making it way harder than it needs to be. You don't need a monster rack if you can climb 5.10 in the Valley, a double rack and some extra draws will suffice. The Nose is not really an aid climb per se, so instead look at it like using as little aid as possible to get up El Cap. You should plan to break out the aiders for 4 pitches on the route(great roof, glowering spot, changing corners, and summit bolt ladder). Have two real aiders and a couple pocket aiders that you can use whenever else you need some help. Wear your climbing shoes and take the advice given above in the thread.

While it is good to practice C1 aiding what is going to really determine your speed is your ability to deal with the CF that wall climbing entails. For C1 it is good to learn crack jumaring, basically back cleaning almost everything while on bomber cams and leapfrogging cams on each of your aiders.

If you are using 3 ropes, then send up the hauling gear in a rope bucket. Have the leader restack the haul line in the bucket as he is hauling then stack the tag line on top of that so it is ready for the next pitch. For the Nose I probably would not go to this trouble unless you guys were going to seige the route in 5 days or something. Instead use only 2 ropes and have the leader bring the protrax and a ropeman for the hauling assembly.

For the anchors, all on the Nose are bolted so a couple slings will suffice. Only place a few lockers in the master point. You should be Ok with clipping yourself in to one bolt. Organize gear on one of the legs of your master point or on a sling so you are ready to take it and start up the next pitch.

For practice, maybe continue doing CCC and see if you can get it down to an hour or less. Also jump on some mixed gear/bolt 5.12 slabby routes and practice FF skills. Getting to Sickle is some of the hardest climbing on the route. Keep practicing and I am sure you guys will get a system dialed, with a bit of perseverance you will be able to send.
Kevin Stricker
From Evergreen, CO
Joined Oct 20, 2002
325 points

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