10 Tips To Make Big Wall Climbing More Fun
This year marks the 20th year that I've been climbing big walls. In my more advanced age, there are 10 tips to making the climbing experience more comfortable and fun. All this info is in the How To Big Wall Climb book. But I thought I would distill it down. If an intermediate big wall climber stopped me in El Cap Meadow, looking for advice, this is what I would pass on.
Always carry the best small climbing cams available. Allocate as much of your big wall budget here as possible. Favorite cams right now are the micro Black Diamond Camalot X4 's. And still love Aliens.
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Wear tight-fitting approach shoes as much as possible instead of free climbing shoes. If I do wear free climbing shoes, I go a ½ size to a full size too big. I’ve climbed The Nose a few times in approach shoes leading every pitch. You have to aid more, but its so comfy. Currently I am wearing the La Sportiva Ganda a full size below my street shoe.
Only climb with the biners that weigh less than 30 grams (about an ounce). Your rack weight evaporates. Current favorites are the CAMP Photon Wire Straight and CAMP Nano 22.
Don’t climb in a team of three. Hauling sucks and it just always takes more time and effort. The exception is if the team three includes your two best friends in the world. Then it’s ok.
Climb El Cap in a day if you can. It’s so so so much more fun than all the logistics involved with climbing it in 2 -7 days.
When not leading, wear full fingered gloves with high dexterity. No need to subject your hands to abuse with cleaning. Current favorite is the Black Diamond Transition Glove.
Use climbing tape for your hands when leading. I resisted for 18 years. My hands are so much happier now. Or, I use crack gloves. I used to think these were wimpy. Maybe they are, but they sure make climbing more comfortable and fun.
If you are at a belay for more than 30 minutes. Set up the portaledge. This only works if you have a light portaledge that can be quickly set up by one person like the Runout Customs Double Portaledge. With enough practice, set up is under five minutes. Instead of being annoyed with the leader for taking so long, you’ll wish the lead would never end.
If you need a 3 to 1, you have too much stuff.
Large beaks like the Black Diamond Pecker and Moses Tomahawk get you through 90% of pin placements (that a micro cam, cam hook or offset climbing nut can’t get you through. Often they can be hand placed. Leave the big rack of arrows, knifeblades and angles behind.
Above all else: simplify, simplify, simplify. Lead when possible with no daisies or just one. Leave the hammer and heavy iron at the belay and see how high you can get without it.
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