Reasons To Learn Basic Aid Climbing

Hello All,


Although most people are now free-climbing everything, I would encourge all lead climbers to learn basic aid climbing for the following reasons:

 1)  If you are learning trad climbing, aid climbing will really teach you how to make proper placements of protection.  You will know right away whether it will hold or not instead of waiting until an unplanned fall to find out whether or not it will hold.  If you properly test each protection piece, you will not fall at all or the fall will be extremely short.

2)  Aid climbing will allow you to improvise to get through a hard spot when you really have to, i.e, in alpine climbing when getting to the top is more important than style, a storm is approaching, an emergency situation, etc.

3)  In an emergency situation where the leader has fallen on a climb that is above your free-leading capabilities or you need to ascend to a leader who is having problems - everyone should know the prussik knot and how to make an ascending system.

Aid climbing is really about improvising - the etriers (sling ladders) can be made by girth hitching several 24" sewn slings together and putting a knot halfway in between.  Or if you happen to have 12" sewn slings, just girth hitch a few of them together.  What if you do not have anything but webbing, but need to make emergency etriers?  If you study the "Basic Rockcraft" book by Royal Robbins (although dated, everyone should read this book), it shows you how to make etriers out of webbing.

In certain circumstances knoted webbing or slings can become protection nuts.  You can also use carabiners as protection nuts in some situations.

Aid climbing is not just used on big walls.  It is used in sport climbs, trad climbs, ice climbing, etc.  It is a valuable set of skills to know even if your intention is to free climb regardless of the type of climbing.

Mark Fletcher

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