The Reluctant Aid Climber

Looking scared, lots of gear and not sure what to do.

Looking scared, lots of gear and not sure what to do.

Yosemite. September. 3 weeks. A rock climbers dream!! So I thought I'd best get training. We've been hitting up the Peak and Cornwall practising crack climbing and I'm slowly getting the hang of it. My crack gloves have been the best investment ever! I'm dreaming of big 20 pitch trad routes and endless high quality climbing. I'm not all that keen on the idea of a big wall so I don't need to learn to aid right? Wrong!! Andy informed me that many routes are 19 pitches of VS climbing with a sneaky E6 thrown in the middle. Unless I significantly improved my grade I would have to learn to aid. Noooo!!

To me it looks like cheating, and very faffy. I'm not one of these people who loves gear, I just use it. Whilst Andy drools at the idea of buying new cams! 

We were up in the Peak on a wet Saturday with our Yosemite climbing crew (also aiding and Yosemite virgins) so decided an aiding tutorial was a good idea. Andy was in his element. He got out all the rack and laid it out with ascenders, ladders, gri gris, daisy chains and fifi hooks. Firstly, what on earth is a fifi hook?! Its a hook you use to move up your daisy chain. 

Sarah giving this aid climbing a go.

Sarah giving this aid climbing a go.

To begin with I was terrified. I've only ever fallen on gear once, it held but I'm not always convinced. In aiding you need to rely on every single placement. This was scary. Each move I thoroughly tested and weighted my gear, tentatively moved up and frantically clipped my rope. I found the amount of gear quite confusing and was scared I'd clip the wrong thing. But actually, as you start moving you get in a rhythm and it becomes much easier.

Slowly I became confident in my gear placements and rope work and slowly I made my way up the wall. Meanwhile a guy cruised up an E3 next to me in the time I moved up 2 moves, but practice makes perfect!

In the end, I felt confident aiding, had increased my confidence in my gear which should also help with trad and actually had some fun! Maybe a big nail up one day.....

Paul loves the aid climbing.

Paul loves the aid climbing.

Tips for a newbe aid climber:

  • Get used to the gear!
  • Rack up in a logical way and try to consistently rack the same.
  • Try different systems and see what works best for you.
  • Don't worry about speed, speed will come. At this stage, safety is key! 
  • Although it can be scary, try to move as high up your ladder as you can. The further up you go each time, the less gear placements you will need.
  • Concentrate! Don't get your ropes, ladders and/or daisy chains twisted.
  • Breath!! And try to enjoy! 
At the top after my first aid lead.

At the top after my first aid lead.