Aid Climbing

When a route is too difficult to free climb and is unavoidable, if the correct equipment is available you might aid climb the route. Aid climbing consists of placing protection and putting full body weight on the piece. This allows you to hang solely on the protection you place, giving you the ability to ascend more difficult routes than you can free climb. Clean aid consists of using SLCDs and chocks, and is the simplest form of aid climbing.

a. Equipment. Aid climbing can be accomplished with various types of protection. Regardless of the type of protection used, the method of aid climbing is the same. In addition to the equipment for free climbing, other specialized equipment will be needed.

(1) Pitons. Pitons are used the same as for free climbing. Most piton placements will require the use of both hands. Piton usage will usually leave a scar in the rock just by virtue of the hardness of the piton and the force required to set it with a hammer. Swinging a hammer to place pitons will lead to climber fatigue sooner than clean aid. Since pitons are multidirectional, the strength of a well-placed piton is more secure than most clean aid protection. Consider other forms of protection when noise could be hazardous to tactics.

(2) Bolts. Bolts are used when no other protection will work. They are a more permanent form of protection and more time is needed to place them. Placing bolts creates more noise whether drilled by hand or by motorized drill. Bolts used in climbing are a multi-part expanding system pounded into predrilled holes and then tightened to the desired torque with a wrench or other tool. Bolts are used in many ways in climbing today. The most common use is with a hanger attached and placed for anchors in face climbing. However, bolts can be used for aid climbing, with or without the hanger.

(a) Placing bolts for aid climbing takes much more time than using pitons or clean aid. Bolting for aid climbing consists of consecutive bolts about 2 feet apart. Drilling a deep enough hole takes approximately thirty minutes with a hand drill and up to two minutes with a powered hammer drill. A lot of time and work is expended in a short distance no matter how the hole is drilled. (The weight of a powered hammer drill becomes an issue in itself.) Noise will also be a factor in both applications. A constant pounding with a hammer on the hand drill or the motorized pounding of the powered drill may alert the enemy to the position. The typical climbing bolt/hanger combination normally is left in the hole where it was placed.

(b) Other items that can be used instead of the bolt/hanger combination are the removable and reusable "spring-loaded removable bolts" such as rivets (hex head threaded bolts sized to fit tightly into the hole and pounded in with a hammer), split-shaft rivets, and some piton sizes that can be pounded into the holes. When using rivets or bolts without a hanger, place a loop of cable over the head and onto the shaft of the rivet or bolt and attach a carabiner to the other end of the loop (a stopper with the chock slid back will suffice). Rivet hangers are available that slide onto the rivet or bolt after it is placed and are easily removed for reuse. Easy removal means a slight loss of security while in use.

(3) SLCDs. SLCDs are used the same as for free climbing, although in aid climbing, full body weight is applied to the SLCD as soon as it is placed.

(4) Chocks. Chocks are used the same as for free climbing, although in aid climbing, weight is applied to the chock as soon as it is placed.

(5) Daisy Chains. Daisy chains are tied or presewn loops of webbing with small tied or presewn loops approximately every two inches. The small loops are just large enough for two or three carabiners. Two daisy chains should be girth-hitched to the tie-in point in the harness.

(6) Etriers (or Aiders). Etriers (aiders) are tied or presewn webbing loops with four to six tied or presewn internal loops, or steps, approximately every 12 inches. The internal loops are large enough to easily place one booted foot into. At least two etriers (aiders) should be connected by carabiner to the free ends of the daisy chains.

(7) Fifi Hook. A fifi hook is a small, smooth-surfaced hook strong enough for body weight. The fifi hook should be girth-hitched to the tie-in point in the harness and is used in the small loops of the daisy chain. A carabiner can be used in place of the fifi hook, although the fifi hook is simpler and adequate.

(8) Ascenders. Ascenders are mechanical devices that will move easily in one direction on the rope, but will lock in place if pushed or pulled the other direction. (Prusiks can be used but are more difficult than ascenders.)

b. Technique. The belay will be the same as in normal lead climbing and the rope will be routed through the protection the same way also. The big difference is the movement up the rock. With the daisy chains, aiders, and fifi hook attached to the rope tie-in point of the harness as stated above, and secured temporarily to a gear loop or gear sling, the climb continues as follows:

(1) The leader places the first piece of protection as high as can safely be reached and attaches the appropriate sling/carabiner

(2) Attach one daisy chain/aider group to the newly placed protection

(3) Clip the rope into the protection, (the same as for normal lead climbing)

(4) Insure the protection is sound by weighting it gradually; place both feet, one at a time, into the steps in the aider, secure your balance by grasping the top of the aider with your hands.

(5) When both feet are in the aider, move up the steps until your waist is no higher than the top of the aider.

(6) Place the fifi hook (or substituted carabiner) into the loop of the daisy chain closest to the daisy chain/aider carabiner, this effectively shortens the daisy chain;

maintain tension on the daisy chain as the hook can fall out of the daisy chain loop if it is unweighted.

Note: Moving the waist higher than the top of the aider is possible, but this creates a potential for a fall to occur even though you are on the aider and "hooked" close to the protection with the daisy chain. As the daisy chain tie-in point on the harness moves above the top of the aider, you are no longer supported from above by the daisy chain, you are now standing above your support. From this height, the fifi hook can easily fall out of the daisy chain loop if it is unweighted. If this happens, you could fall the full length of the daisy chain resulting in a static fall on the last piece of protection placed.

(7) Release one hand from the aider and place the next piece of protection, again, as high as you can comfortably reach; if using pitons or bolts you may need both hands free-"lean" backwards slowly, and rest your upper body on the daisy chain that you have "shortened" with the fifi hook

(8) Clip the rope into the protection

(9) Attach the other daisy chain/aider group to the next piece of protection

(10) Repeat entire process until climb is finished c. Seconding. When the pitch is completed, the belayer will need to ascend the route. To ascend the route, use ascenders instead of Prusiks, ascenders are much faster and safer than Prusiks. Attach each ascender to a daisy chain/aider group with carabiners. To adjust the maximum reach/height of the ascenders on the rope, adjust the effective length of the daisy chains with a carabiner the same as with the fifi hook; the typical height will be enough to hold the attached ascender in the hand at nose level. When adjusted to the correct height, the arms need not support much body weight. If the ascender is too high, you will have difficulty reaching and maintaining a grip on the handle.

(1) Unlike lead climbing, there will be a continuous load on the rope during the cleaning of the route, this would normally increase the difficulty of removing protection. To make this easier, as you approach the protection on the ascenders, move the ascenders, one at a time, above the piece. When your weight is on the rope above the piece, you can easily unclip and remove the protection.

Continue reading here: CAUTION

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  • pekka
    How to use a fifi hook aid climbing with a daisy chain?
    7 years ago
  • cirilla piazza
    How do you attach daisy chain to aider?
    10 years ago
  • medhanit
    How to drill climbing bolt?
    10 years ago
  • pauline
    Why use a fifi hook instead of a carabiner?
    11 years ago