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By Aeryn
Jan 16, 2013
Me

I am planning my first big wall experience this spring and it's got me wondering about other folks' experiences.

For anyone who's willing to share, what was your first big wall experience? What did you climb? Who did you partner with? How did you prepare? What advice were you given? What advice did you heed? And what did you (possibly regretfully) ignore? What advice would you give? What worked well? What went wrong? And one that might be too big for words... how did it feel?


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By Scott O
From California
Jan 16, 2013
Batman Pinnacle

My first attempt at a wall was on Zodiac. We got destroyed by our poor understanding of big wall logistics and a small waterfall that was only present at night. I was soaked and didn't sleep a wink that first night, so we bailed.

My first successful wall was SF of Washington Column. There wasn't much preparation other than some aid routes at Looking Glass. I climbed with a guy I met in Camp 4 who ended up being a great partner.

As for advice... don't get frustrated. Anticipate that you'll take a while to work out kinks. Don't underestimate what a bear the approach is with haul bags full of gear and water. You will be very tired before you ever start. Give yourself plenty of time for your first wall.

If the topo says you need doubles or triples of something, heed that advice. "Light and fast" doesn't apply to an aid rack. I got hurt that way.

Have fun and don't psych yourself out.


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By Brian C.
From Longmont, CO
Jan 16, 2013
On Blanca after traversing from LB

My first wall attempt was Moonlight Buttress with my buddy Noah. The river was too high to cross so we had to huff it in the long way and we were hosed just getting there. The rock was over 100 degrees and aid is slow. We ended up getting above the rocker block and decided to fix the ropes to the ground. Our poor jugging technique wiped us out and we ended up throwing in the towel the next day.

We had practiced, but in retrospect it was simply not enough. Don't underestimate how small efficiency improvements will make you go much faster overall. We ended up doing many more shorter aid routes and got our first "wall" (I know, not really a true wall) on the Titan. Aid climbing is really cool, have fun out there.


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By Phil Lauffen
From The Bubble
Jan 16, 2013
RMNP skiing. Photo by Nodin de Saillan

Aid is suffering. Be prepared to take a long time, and have no fun.


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By Andy Laakmann
Site Landlord
From Bend, OR
Jan 16, 2013
Racked and loaded... name that splitter behind me? Hint, its on Supercrack Buttress

My wife and I did Moonlight Buttress as our first wall for our 10th wedding anniversary. It felt like a grand adventure, even though we have been climbing for 20 years. I had my moments contemplating bailing, but we persevered. Be prepared for it to seem like a clusterfuck the first few times. We figured it out on our own intentionally, though finding a good mentor may be more efficient :)

And get Supertopo's new Big Wall instructional book, I'm sure it is spot on.


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By Andrew Gram
Administrator
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 16, 2013
Andrew Gram

I got my ass kicked trying Tangerine Trip on El Cap after having only aided a couple of roofs at the Gunks. I bailed after 3 pitches when it became clear I had no idea what I was doing. I spent a lot of time aid climbing on shorter desert towers, and then started doing walls after I got dialed in.

Best advice I can give is make sure you are really efficient on long trad lines. Aside from the fitness you get from climbing all day long, it'll help with placing gear fast, belay changeovers, etc. After you are solid on that do a lot of one pitch aiding and jugging, and then practice hauling and setting up a bivy on short climbs. That stuff should be pretty second nature before putting it all together on a wall. Do an easy grade V for your first wall before jumping on something like El Cap. The bail rate goes way down if you don't try to skip too many steps.


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By Calvino
From Madison, WI
Jan 16, 2013
getting ready for the final roof series

Big Walls in Zion are just the right size. My first aiding was on Touchstone, beginning with a bolt ladder and none of the aiding is too difficult or requires nailing. Depending on how you're feeling there is potential for good free climbing. I brought a yates easy daisies, TCU's and a GriGri to belay. Free climbed everything above the 3rd pitch loved the exposure, landscape and SUNSHINE. Spring and Fall are great. Go with your partner to do a single pitch of practice aid climbing beforehand. Bring plenty of snacks, a couple layers, and a headlamp.

Have fun!


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jan 16, 2013

If it qualifies, the NW Face of Half Dome. I was 16 and spent about 3 weeks in the Valley, just climbing long routes, getting solid on mid .10 trad, doing multipitch, etc. There's only 3 pitches of solid aid and the rest is mostly lots and lots of pitches of 5.9 with some easier stuff interspersed. It was a lot of work (mostly the approach and hike out) but when you're sitting on a ledge at the head of the Valley and watch all the lights and campfires far below blaze up for the evening, it was pretty magical. It was a grand adventure.


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jan 16, 2013

Aeryn wrote:
For anyone who's willing to share, what was your first big wall experience? What did you climb? Who did you partner with? How did you prepare? What advice were you given? What advice did you heed? And what did you (possibly regretfully) ignore? What advice would you give? What worked well? What went wrong? And one that might be too big for words... how did it feel?


Moonlight Buttress with a regular partner of mine at the time. Massive overpreparation- my partner compiled a 20 page prep book for it- one that ive sent out many times to other folks interested. Got lots of rack advice and jugging advice. Heeded the rack, ignored the jugging (and paid the price).

I'd go with a smallish wall, not a big wall for your first venture. preferably one you can fix and fire (adding a bivy to an already complicated operation may hose you if you havent got anything else dialed). Zion is full of these, which is great. Make sure to tether everything- not doing that nearly cost us the wall (and possibly my life if i had been a little less competent/lucky)- anything that can fall off you on a wall- will.

best of luck- walls can be very rewarding and are definitely worth doing once as a climber. ive done three total in the 9 years since my first one and it never really grabbed me like it does other folks, but i'm still psyched on doing El Cap at some point!


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By Larry S
Jan 16, 2013
The wife and I road-trippin on the Connie.

Things i messed up on on my first/only wall attempt (washington column)They were really all on the Kor Roof pitch. I'd do these 3 things different:

Use the rope! If its bomber (in my case, bolts), you can clip the rope first and Call for tension whenever you want it, esp on overhangs. I struggled aiding the roof, then later watched a guy do it this way in half the time it took me.

And remember you can fifi into your aiders, I put the blinders on an kept struggling to get into my twisted-up-daisy while working out the roof, Adjustable daisy's would have been nice too.

Lastly, get your jugging systems dialed so you're efficient at jugging a free hanging rope.


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By Aeryn
Jan 17, 2013
Me

Such heartfelt thanks to all who responded.

And, Mr. Laakmann... thank you for my favorite response of all!

Andy Laakmann wrote:
My wife and I did Moonlight Buttress as our first wall for our 10th wedding anniversary. It felt like a grand adventure, even though we have been climbing for 20 years.


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By Zack S.
From Prescott, AZ
Jan 17, 2013
Me

Just prior to my first successful multi-day wall I got some great, simple advice from a young but salty wall rat in camp IV. She told us "don't bail because you're tired, don't bail because you're scared, just focus on doing one thing at a time." In many ways, I think the last third of this advice is what got us up the wall. Good luck!


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By camhead
From Vandalia, Appalachia
Jan 17, 2013
You stay away from mah pig!

We got way in over our heads on Mt. Watkins, which, with its very long approach, was a terrible choice for a first big wall. If we had been dialed enough to do it in a day, it would have been pretty casual; none of the climbing was that hard. But the logistics, and most of all the hauling up 1000 feet of 5.4 to approach the route, was all miserable. On top of that, it turned out that my partner, who had billed himself as a mentor, really hated wall climbing. That would have been good to know beforehand. We bailed about halfway up.

Since then, I've enjoyed big free climbs much more than aiding walls. I would love to get back to do an El Cap route sometime, but never with all out aiding and hauling. Free or French Free seems much more appealing.


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jan 17, 2013

Good advise from Zack. Probably the most important thing to know is there are going to be problems, there are going to be set backs, things will often far more work than you possibly imagined, but you just need to roll with it and know you'll work thru it. It's like eating an elephant. If you think about the size of your task too long, it'll seem too big and you'll psych yourself out before you even leave the ground. You just keep chipping away, don't give up and before you know it, you're there.


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By DrApnea
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 17, 2013

My first wall and first trip report
guyettes.blogspot.com/2012/11/moonlight-buttress-trip-report>>>


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By Brian C.
From Longmont, CO
Jan 18, 2013
On Blanca after traversing from LB

Zack S. wrote:
Just prior to my first successful multi-day wall I got some great, simple advice from a young but salty wall rat in camp IV. She told us "don't bail because you're tired, don't bail because you're scared, just focus on doing one thing at a time." In many ways, I think the last third of this advice is what got us up the wall. Good luck!


Really good advice. It is amazing how fear can creep in slowly. My buddies and I almost bailed on Echo Tower when the leader took a 30-footer, bounced off of me (hanging belay) while sailing past the belay and stopped with only a single piece off the belay. It shook us all up enough we almost threw in the towel. We traded out leaders and focusing on each move and placement as a single move, we made it through the pitch and to a much needed ledge (only one on the route).


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By Crossing
From Breinigsville, PA
Jan 18, 2013
old rag summit

Phil Lauffen wrote:
Aid is suffering. Be prepared to take a long time, and have no fun.


This can't get repeated enough - I think I hated every second hauling/cleaning/leading B.S. Then we got to Dinner Ledge and just hanging out totally whipped up there made the whole ordeal kind of worth it.


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Jan 18, 2013
avitar pic <br />

I hope to climb the hallucinogen and el cap this year. I started out solo aiding single pitch routes after years of trad and sport climbing. I worked my way up in difficulty to c2+ around the front range culminating in a multi pitch aid route called china doll. Due to logistics and green partners I ended up bailing 2 times then rapping in to the high point and finishing the crux pitch solo. I met up with a random stranger on here and went to the desert with him after that. We did zenyetta entrada in arches (600' c2+) over a day and a half then made our way to artist tears off of the river road (600' c3/+). I got the cruxes of both routes. Tried the sun devil chimney on the titan on the next trip, took 6 hours to get to the crux of the first pitch so we bailed.because we were planning for doing it in 2 days. I went and did the king fisher a few years ago with a friend from school who I taught to jug the night before. I lead all the pitches and finished rapping as it got dark. Tried the finger of fate with a friend that had minimal aid experience and bailed due to moving too slow, it was his first time in the fishers.
Went back after breaking my back, with my friend that tried the finger.and another friend from school (my apprentices) i was just jugging and.shooting pics of them so they would get more experience. Took 2 days dark till dark on thanksgiving but they didn't give up despite having dropped my #3 from 400'. Went back the following spring for a bid on echo with one of them. Got to the crux pitch after 2 days of effort. It was cold and windy and we were over it, bailed.. went back with the apprentices again and finished it off over 2 days dark til real dark both days. Awesome summit at night. I had minimal hauling.experience.through these endeavors. I've done the diamond in a day car2car also epinephrine in 11hrs car 2car. Have a little experience with pendulum's and tension traverses lots of ascending of verying methods. Just got a bigger haul bag and a double ledge so now I'm working on dialing in those systems and already feel pretty good about them.? Anyway probly a dumb idea but headed back to get the titan off our back this spring with the ledge. Probly do it over 3 days to get the hauling and vertical camping dialed in. Were kinda.slow it seems so probly.lots.of.single pitch aid.practice between now and then. Sorry about the crap punct. And grammar, I'm blaming it on my cell phone not.being the computer I am trying to use it as.


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By Sirius
From Oakland, CA
Jan 18, 2013
Moving through the crux lock - now that's micro beta for you, that is.

My first was a solo go at the South Face of Washington Column. I bailed from the top of the all-time nutting pitch, and was psyched with that.

Learned:

Rope management has got to be airtight, especially in winds. You'll go slower than you think. Crowds have to be factored in when planning for popular walls.

My first time with a partner was on WF Leaning Tower. Fun times, smooth ascent, had it to ourselves.

Learned: Good partners are priceless. Being alone on a wall kicks ass.

First time on El Cap was with the same partner, we had a no-frills, super fun ascent of the Triple Direct. Not another soul on the entire SW face of El Cap. Full moon. Indelible memories.

Learned: Being able to onsite some Valley .10+ while in free-climbing mode equated to only about 5.8 or 5.9 for me + partner while trying to free on the wall (exposure, ton of stuff hanging off of you, head games). I was sure I'd love freeing the Pancake Flake, but didn't even consider freeing it as I stepped away from the anchor. Big walls in August are palatable in terms of heat after you get a ways up.


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By Brian C.
From Longmont, CO
Jan 18, 2013
On Blanca after traversing from LB

Jason Kaplan wrote:
Anyway probly a dumb idea but headed back to get the titan off our back this spring with the ledge.


That is going to suck big time! Hauling on all those traversing pitches and up the OW to the Duck will be horrible! If you want to do 3 days and camp, I'd recommend...
Day 1: Climb first 3 pitches and fix your ropes.
Day 2: Jug and climb 3 more pitches to bivy ledge after the duck and camp.
Day 3: Leave your bivy gear and climb the last 2 pitches.

I hope you get it! The last pitch is incredible.


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By Jason Kaplan
From Glenwood ,Co
Jan 18, 2013
avitar pic <br />

Yea.it.probly will suck but will.probly be invaluable training for bigger more comitting objectives. I hear the first 5 pitches of.hallucinogen suck to haul too. Practicing lower outs and dealing with snagged bags should be great practice right? Probly do a team of 3, 2 on the wall day 1 with the 3rd shuttling loads and camping at the base till day 2. Push to the ledge on day 2 leaving the bivy and hauling there and pushing for the summit the third day. Dunno why I am so set on it, just don't want to add extra jugging and probly won't get it.done in.a.day.


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By Nick Zmyewski
From Newark, Delaware
Jan 18, 2013
the frozen topout during a winter ascent

Don't forget the can opener.


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By prod.
From Boulder, Co
Jan 22, 2013

what was your first big wall experience?
www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/661935/So-youve-never-done->>>


What did you climb?
Zodiac

Who did you partner with?
Dean, met him at a supertopo gathering.

How did you prepare?
Climbed about 20 pitches of aid, read a ton a bugged people on forums for advice.

What advice were you given?
Don't get ovewhelemed. Take it one section, one day, one pitch, one placement at a time. Don't overestimate your ability and think you can do it in 2 days, bring water and food for 1 or 2 days longer than you expect it to take.

What advice did you heed?
Nearly all of it.

And what did you (possibly regretfully) ignore?
None of it. But it does get emotionally draining, I started to want down when looking up after day 2.

What advice would you give?
Pick a date, and a wall, and a partner, plan and go for it. If going for El Cap, give yourself at least 9 days for a shorter route. You will have enough stressors up there, don't make time another one.

What worked well?
Fruit cups, it was August and 100 plus degrees. The sugar and water was always a treat. Cam hooks, offset cams and offset nuts.

What went wrong?
Nothing, and a lot of little things.

And one that might be too big for words... how did it feel?
On day 2 I decided to ask my wife to marry me, which I did later that fall in Red Rocks. When I got to the bottom I looked over my shoulder at El Cap from the Manure Pile Buttress parking lot, and was so overwhelmed at what I had just done that I started to cry.

Cheers,

Prod.


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By Ian Cavanaugh
Jan 22, 2013

Depends. My first big wall free climb was done with a good friend. We didnt know much but what as in a simple guide book. we choose something that was right at out onsighting limit. We got scared, run out, took a few falls but made it up and down without any real problems. it was a great time. if your free climbing, go for something that will test you in all aspects not just height.
as for an aid route. I decide, do to current circumstances, that a solo was my best bet. I taught myself how to aid climb, as i didnt have anyone to teach me. learned how to solo. read a lot, and borrowed a lot of gear. It took three days and was way more work than i expected but one hundred percent worth it! My logic was, when things go wrong, i wont have anyone to blame it on but myself. I wont have anyone to get made at when im tired or scared or sick of it all. and when i got on a wall with someone else, i would have a really good idea of how it should work, help them to make it easier and be dialed with all my techniques. it work perfectly.


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By Mia KCarver
From Butte, MT
Jan 23, 2013

Nick Zmyewski wrote:
Don't forget the can opener.



Can opener = nut tool + rock on a ledge


To the OP: don't let people discourage you; more importantly, don't let you discourage yourself. It's easy to want to give up and listen to internal negative feedback loops. Aiding, hauling and sh*tting on walls will be cumbersome, but it'll all be worth it. With the right partner. Also, people/books don't emphasize enough on how *slow* it can be. Here's a good thread to read: mountainproject.com/v/this-just-in-aid-is-slow/107221765


Get the new Supertopo big wall aid 101 book. I'm sure it will have everything you'll want to know without all the spray. Good luck and post up when you give it a go!


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jan 23, 2013

^^^
I don't think folks are being discouraging. I think they're being honest. Nothing worse than getting sandbagged by a lot of unrealistic 'go for it' kind of hype. Success on walls often involves preparing for the worst. Prepare for problems and hope that none of them arise.

Oh yeah, do lots of ab and back exercises. Aiding and hauling take a huge toll on your core. Strengthening those will pay off in spades.


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