We can roughly categorize aid climbing based on the extent of its use on a particular climb.
Mountaineering alpine aid climbing uses a minimal amount of aid techniques and equipment to overcome short, blank (or extremely difficult) sections of a route that otherwise goes free. This type of climbing requires little or no specialized aid equipment. Usually you'll just use the free-climb-ing gear you have along.
General aid climbing often uses aid for extended distances, although artificial and free-climbing techniques may be interspersed. Long one-day climbs may involve "fixing" the initial pitches—putting up ropes and leaving them in place so they can be climbed quickly with mechanical ascenders the following morning to reach the previous high point.
Big-wall aid climbing involves ascents that take longer than one day to complete, even if the initial pitches are fixed. These climbs include either a hanging bivouac or ledge bivouac and require sack-hauling techniques.
Take a look at Appendix 2, Rating Systems, for a discussion of the various grades of difficulty in aid climbing.
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