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Your First Big Wall
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By Mia KCarver
From Butte, MT
Jan 24, 2013

Fat Dad wrote:
^^^ 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.


I wasn't referring to the context of this thread (which yes, in hindsight, was stupid silly). I meant from a more expanded view (e.g. reading other posts or talking to those lamenting about how hard it is and questioning whether the effort and struggle is worth the satisfaction).

You won't be discouraged by someone saying, 'no way, you can't do it'. I trying to refer to *you* as your own worst enemy. It's easy to get caught up in the worry, doubt, bail stories and sufferfesting anecdotes-- remember, part truth and usually part hyperbole.

Big wall aid climbing is vertical engineering. Competence, problem solving and a heavy dose of mental and physical stamina will get you to the top. Read, practice, try, fail, try some more, but don't get caught up in the beta or spray. There's more than one way to skin a cat. Some are fortunate to have had a mentor. I didn't and there was satisfaction is figuring it all out with a partner that was equally as clueless. As long as failure doesn't result in death, failure will be as important as success. You will encounter failure, and that's not a bad thing. Because it will only amplify the satisfaction of overcoming.

Choose your own adventure. And report back!


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By Jon Rhoderick
Jan 24, 2013

A buddy and I are currently working on our first aid project, a chossy and challenging clean wall at smith. You most likely really won't know what your getting into the first time and the learning curve is steep (first pitch took 3 hrs the first time and 1:40 the next). My biggest challenge was actually organizing two 70M ropes and forming a nice belay. We are jumping straight into C2+/3 and it's terrifying at times but I feel like if/when we go to a more famous locale like Zion or the Valley it will be a cakewalk compared to the loose guano cracks we are getting used to!

Learn the basics: both of us are using one or no daisies and it certainly helps a lot with the cluster, also get your fifi and QuickDraw right for top stepping etc.
Haul something small before you try a huge haulbag, you will wan to know what your getting into.
Pick something you can retreat and attempt repeatedly, we had a fall rip out 3 cams and wanted out but by the time we walked to the lot we were scheming about the next attempt!


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By Aeryn
Jan 25, 2013
Me

Another round of thanks to everyone that contributed. I've so enjoyed reading your stories. Your thoughts are sincerely appreciated, and your advice taken to heart. I'm not at all discouraged! My enthusiasm is as great as ever, though it is certainly coupled with a healthy dose of pragmatism. Planning to take on a wall in April, and the next three months will be spent working towards that end. Thus far, that's involved dropping a fixed line off my two story house and jugging/rapping, up and down, up and down, for about an hour every night and then loading my pig up with weights and hauling it up and down, up and down. Itís not a long way, but Iím getting the set up wired and my muscles used to the movements. And, Fat Dad, Iím definitely working on my abs!


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By prod.
From Boulder, Co
Jan 25, 2013

What wall are you planning on doing in April?

Also. slap a knot in that line and practice passing the knot going up as well as going down. You may not need to do this on the wall, but it is a good skill to have. Same goes for hauling.

Prod.


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By Aeryn
Jan 26, 2013
Me

Prod,

Zodiac with Lunar Ecstasy as a bad weather alternative. (Wow! It makes me so happy just to type that!!)


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Jan 29, 2013

April is too early to reliably climb Zodiac, which is also a pretty involved wall for your first one. The weather is iffy that time of year and, unless you get a window of warm weather, those belays and bivies will be cold and seem endless, especially if your partner is new to aid and futzing his or her way up. Also, Zodiac has kind of become like The Nose, where the lower half of the route can be clogged with folks who don't know what they're doing and eventually bail. You'll either be wading (or waiting) through that or be one of the clogs.

Stick with a overnighter and if that goes well then you can aim bigger. Zodiac was my first route on the Captain (way back in '83!), but I had done both the NW Face of Half Dome and the Prow (not to mention of ton of longer Grade IIIs and IVs and alot of practice aid pitches), so I had the chance to sort out my stuff before a three and a half day wall.

I'd say stick with Zion if you're looking at April, either Space Shot or Moonlight Buttress. Fun, straightforward aid with decent weather and your bags won't weigh a ton.


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By john strand
From southern colo
Jan 29, 2013

Aeryn- i assume you are focused on an aid wall rather than a longer, mostly free climb ??
Leaning Tower will get youset, it's pretty easy and way steep.It's also short.
Half Dome was it for me.... I couldn't aid at all (still can't) and it's really better as a 5.10 A1 route

Agree with Watkins ... bad choice for #1 !! A great climb though and better suited for speed ascents.


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By Wally
From Denver
Jan 29, 2013

I agree with Fat Dad's comments on El Cap in April. My first time on the Captain was mid May. Weather was nice - but there was still a lot of snow on top - which means the Captain was quite wet. One of the many reasons why we didn't top out on my first big wall.

Wally


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By brianjames
From Appleton, WI
Jan 29, 2013
Working on a boulder problem in yosemite, can't remember the name of the problem

I have done some big moderate trad climbs and thought about getting into aid climbing, but from the sounds of a lot of comments about aid climbing maybe it is good idea to just stick to trad and sport. Does aid climbing suck that much?


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By S Denny
From Carbondale, CO
Jan 29, 2013

Some female wall climbing inspiration


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By Nick Zmyewski
From Newark, Delaware
Jan 29, 2013
the frozen topout during a winter ascent

Mia KCarver wrote:
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!


Genius! We didn't even think of using the nut tool. We just used a kinda pointy rock and another rock to hit it with. The 2nd bigwall, we brought one of the military style can openers. They work great and weigh nothing.


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By Larry S
Jan 29, 2013
The wife and I road-trippin on the Connie.

brianjames wrote:
I have done some big moderate trad climbs and thought about getting into aid climbing, but from the sounds of a lot of comments about aid climbing maybe it is good idea to just stick to trad and sport. Does aid climbing suck that much?


That depends on you. I haven't done much aid, but I had a blast the whole time i was trying. Even when i was struggling, it was awesome.


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By prod.
From Boulder, Co
Jan 30, 2013

I'd say stick to your plan. ElCap for your first wall is pretty sweet, and Zodiac is doable if you understand gear. Practice anchors (all bolted with at least 3 bomber) and hauling. My only concern would be snow pack at the top.

Cheers

Prod


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By Aeryn
Jan 31, 2013
Me

Wally, Watkins, and John - your thoughts are so appreciated and have inspired another round of discussion on the route choice(s). Moonlight was in the running for a backup, so we'll give it another look, and look at Space Shot as well. Inside Yosemite, we'll give Leaning Tower a look. With respect to the weather, we are lucky to have someone who lives in the Valley reporting on conditions, specifically the snow pack, so we'll be able to make an informed decision on that front before we leave the house. I think that helps. If you've invested travel time, it might be harder to make a smart choice. Also, my partner's done a number of walls in Yosemite and in Zion. My goal is to work through my futzing stage as fast as possible...

Prod - thanks for the encouraging words and the advice. Anchors and hauling, hauling, hauling... got it!

You guys are awesome; I can't wait to report back and let you know how we fared.

Cheers, and happy climbing!


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By Andrew Gram
Administrator
From Salt Lake City, UT
Jan 31, 2013
Andrew Gram

Aid climbing doesn't suck if you actually spend the time learning how to do it. It is awful if you just hop on a wall kinda sorta knowing what you are doing, but it goes relatively efficiently and painlessly if you put in the practice. CMac's new book really is wonderful for drilling you in ways that work well in the real world and being realistic about the time it takes to really master those skills. For some reason people expect to just start aid climbing and have it happen easily and naturally, which is just not the way it works.

If you haven't done a wall before, an attempt on Zodiac will fail most of the time. Not to say it can't be done - it definitely gets done, and if you are the sort that is really good at sticking with a miserable scary situation for days on end there is no reason you can't - but walls are something that are really easy to think big about on the ground, and are just way different when you start up.

In retrospect, I have no idea how I ever expected to do a grade VI for my first wall and have it be anything other than it was - 3 pitches and bailing. When I learned to trad climb, I did a bunch of easy 1 pitch routes, than a bunch of 2-3 pitch routes, and worked my way into doing longer and harder routes. Why do people think walls are different? The skills you learn building into things serve you well if somethings bad happens. If you are already pretty strung out and your partner falls, hits a ledge, and gets hurt on pitch 13 what do you do? No shame at all in building your skills in steps.


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By Wally
From Denver
Feb 1, 2013

Aeryn - you are welcome. I look forward to hearing about your first big wall adventure.

Andrew brings up a good and valid point. It amazes me that some folks try to climb Everest, having never climbed anything higher than a 14er. The experience I first brought to the big wall table was not much. I practiced aid on crags near Denver. That was it. First attempt on the Nose failed. We were too slow, systems weren't dialed, too scared, it was really wet (beautiful and sunny, but a lot of snow melt from above). We bailed a bit before Dolt Tower. Next year came back hungrier and a bit wiser - and we got it!

I did bring to the table a lot of free climbing experience. Many Diamond in a day routes, lots of long alpine routes, and a strong mountaineering background, which teaches you nothing about aid, but perhaps a bit about really long days and how to suffer.

Climb on. Wally


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By Greg G
From SLC, UT
Feb 4, 2013
The route in it's entirety.

As with anything it's all about psyche. I had 1 pitch of aid experience before climbing my first wall in Zion. We had the whole kit - ledge, bags, poop tube. Mainly we wanted to live the experience of the wall climber, and experience all there was to wall life. It was a totally rad time, and I wouldn't trade that climb for the world as I learned so much from it. We had to bivy a 2nd night after making 2 pitches of progress on day 2 due to me bonking hard, but it was worth it. What better place to spend the night than in your comfy sleeping bag 900ft in the air!

Stay psyched learn all you can while on the ground, and still plan on bonking!


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By erik kapec
From prescott, az
Feb 4, 2013
enjoying the static, grappel and a smoke on Dana...

Successful wall was leaning tower, good intro to give me the bug. Did it was zack s. and what he said we focused on one thing at a time. It was fun. Bailed off of moonlight due to what we though was going to be rain...psyched us out, but we had a fun rest afterward! suffer and enjoy it!....Lesson was you cant get weather reports on moonlight.


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By Mike Rowley
From Boise, Idaho
Feb 4, 2013

Looks like you have some great info to work with here!! Have a blast on your first wall! I have a good friend that did her first wall in Yosemite last year, and has posted some AWESOME blogs about it... I would say it makes a REALLY interesting read... especially for a female looking for perspective from another female. Its classic. Go read all 3 parts of her bigwall blog.

skinpoetryphotography.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/two-dudes-a-b>>>


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