'CORE' WORKSHOP AID CLIMBING - A2 AND BEYOND
RATINGS - Aid pitches ratings are always the subject of debate. It's the fuel for discussion at the bivy or around the fire back at camp. A single fixed copper head, rivet or rurp that is "missing" can change a rating by a full grade or more - in some cases it can even terminate the climb. For a team seeking a higher accomplishment by practicing "clean aid" - the use of non-destructive equipment and techniques - more creativity, specialized gear and patience replaces the hammer and rock scarring gear. In general the C2 (clean) or A2 (fixed, original hammered placements) is solid if not finicky and generally near bombproof and relatively safe). You might place a hook or two and rely on only two lobes of a camming unit to support you and then click back into a bomber "truck stop" A1 piece. An important distinction in aid ratings is the age of the route and rating - anything that is referred to as "new wave" (using all the modern tricks) is a full grade harder than traditional (first ascent) ratings. A3 becomes trickier and gear holds body weight barely - you wouldn't want to build an anchor of A3 placements although many have! A3 is the realm of micro wedges and blade pitons, stacked and or equalized pieces, copper heads and expanding flakes. There is serious fall potential given that several pieces will probably blow if you "go". Remember keep the forces down and make each placement as solid as it can be. A4 and beyond is more of the same with an increased penalty for getting it wrong - a very serious fall potential exists and injuries are expected - a competent party will know first aid and have the proper kit aboard. A5 is for the winged and with prayer - it can be lethal - a series of A4 placements, longer falls with obstacles, rope cutting edges and other horrors waiting - no one jumps on A5 without miles of experience on easier grades.
EQUIPMENT - This will be the most extensive test of your gear collection to date - fear not for your partners will help you put together a 'big wall' aid rack... and look forward to when you can reciprocate. Plenty of ammunition is the order of the day! Aid climbing eats gear - placements every 3 feet (many with 2 biners) and the necessity of having the right type and size of device to "plug in" and step up. Having the right amount of gear also contributes to the speed of the team and increases your chances of making the bivy before dark. Wasting time scrounging for biners or quick draws gets old in a hurry.
CLOTHING - Although the pace of aid climbing would suggest that it was rather sedentary - all the hanging in harnesses and resting in slings - you will build up lots of heat and sweat. All the tugging and pushing and other isometric exercises needed to advance up the rock will keep you warm (if not baking and parched) until you reach the belay - then you will cool in a hurry due to the sudden stop of activity. That is of course unless you are hauling. Dress in layers - with plenty of venting options and durable pants that you can push up into knickers. Leave the cotton on the ground - comfortable for cragging but damp and slow drying on a wall.
WHAT ELSE? - Bring plenty of water - minimum 2-4 liters/day/person, foods that are easy to eat/no preparation - lots of "snacks" and lots of it (pudding cups are killer), electrolyte-type drink supplements, small candies to keep up blood sugars, a special 'treat' for bivy sites and the summit surprise! Make sure to pack a first aid kit, repair kit (leatherman tool, swiss knife, spare parts) headlamp w/ spare battery, hand tape, extra clothes..... and 3 copies of the topo!
OTHER SKILLS - First aid training (WFR), self rescue, jumarring, endurance sports, night climbing (if you haven't much experience yet)
Yosemite - mega classic "easy" and relatively short wall routes and some short aid cracks can be climbed in an afternoon, day or weekend. Here are a few to get you going:
PRACTICE AREAS- Check out the cracks at the Main Rock @ Crab Town - down the coast. These can be top rope belayed while you practice placements and test them by standing in aiders. Please don't hammer on existing bouldering and top rope routes - which could change or destroy their character.