'CORE' WORKSHOP AID CLIMBING - A1 BASICS
BACKGROUND - Aid climbing was used on the first ascent of Shiprock in the form of the first bolt ever drilled in America and also extensively on the first ascent of the Nose and other early Yosemite big walls. Yosemite was the birth place of modern aid climbing technique and still proudly represents the state of the art. When gear was primitive and pitons widely used, it was easy (necessary?) to resort to the drill when the climbing got thin. Now of course difficult aid has a whole tool chest of tricks and 16 year olds have climbed El Cap in a day.... and some harder routes in a weekend. Of course the average time up The Nose is 4-5 days with plenty routes of 7-10 day duration and longer waiting patiently for you to notice them.
Difficulty is rated A1 (bombproof), A2 (not so bombproof, but relatively safe), A3 (trickier, body weight placements, serious fall potential), A4 (very serious fall potential, injuries expected) A5 (lethal fall potential). Oversimplified maybe but for our purposes and the moment we will explore the realm of A1 - leading bolt ladders, following placement by placement (as well as on ascenders) and simple pendulums and tension traverses. This stuff is FUN and doesn't have to be scary. Let's concentrate on the transition from free to aid (and back again) and the sequence of the moves - rote mechanics for sure. Get into a rhythm - if you're a good technician - you're about to be in your element, if you haven't lead a pitch before this - have fun - everything is a hand hold or foot hold and the clip is never far below... and many times above (a virtual top rope).
EQUIPMENT- For A1 on "mostly" free climbs a "normal" free climbing rack will suffice with few additions. Aid does eat 'biners so plan ahead and make sure you have enough to complete the pitch and anchor safely. You can save a biner on many placements by looping (stronger) or hitching (weaker) a runner thru the sling on a cam or the eye of a piton or bolt. Likewise aid slings & daisies can be improvised from runners and quick draws or your Web-o-lette - again make sure you have enough to get the job done. At most, a pair of lightweight aiders (etriers) & daisy chains for both partners and maybe a pair of ascenders to follow on is all that's needed. So you see, you already mostly have what it takes.
PERSONAL GEAR- A comfortable harness becomes important if you're hanging in it every move. Knee pads & gloves offer some protection and comfort if any quantity of aid is to be done - special units are available or you can shop at KMart and modify. Easy aid can be climbed in almost any approach shoe, but remember when you step out of your slings onto free holds (slightly unnerving) you will want sticky rubber and a snug fit. Comfortably fitted crack shoes work well and any all around model will suffice. For more than occasional aid, my favorites include Boulders (easy climbs, cracks and smearing), Guide Almightys (long approach, easy free), Trangos (stiff for standing in slings, good for edging and wide cracks). Don't forget your helmet - pretty much the standard head gear for big wallys - keeps the sun off and avoids most headaches.
OTHER SKILLS First aid training (WFR), self rescue, jumarring, endurance sports, night climbing (if you haven't much experience yet)
Yosemite - classic routes abound - some with a short section of
PRACTICE AREAS- Check out the cracks at the Main Rock @ Crab Town - these can be top rope belayed while you practice placements and test them by standing in aiders.