Article

Clean Aid and Hammerless Climbing - Top 11 Tricks

Monday June 24, 2013 11:43am
A big goal of SuperTopo is to inspire more clean ascents. There are eleven tricks that Chris McNamara has found to do that. Please add in your own clean aid tips below the article.

Carry lots of small cams
It's impossible to carry too many small cams (sizes .33-1"), just try. They weigh nothing and are the most-used pieces on any aid climb. If you have too few, you have to backclean, which means you are more likely to get scared and reach for the hammer.
From top to bottom, Black Diamond Camalot C3, Metolius Master Cam, Wil...
From top to bottom, Black Diamond Camalot C3, Metolius Master Cam, Wild Country Zero, CCH Alien.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Offset cams
In the last book, offset cams were "recommended" in the racks. Now we list most racks as requiring 1-2 sets. Yes, you can get up most walls without them; but offset cams are usually the most bomber clean placement in a pin scar. The difference between a tipped out regular cam or a bomber offset cam, is often the difference between C1 and C2 or C3.
Show the Metolius Offset Master Cam in a Yosemite pin scar. (side ...
Show the Metolius Offset Master Cam in a Yosemite pin scar. (side note, the next steps to clipping this piece are to remove the carabiner, the re-clip it so that the nose of the carabiner is down and points out.)
Credit: Chris McNamara

Offset micro nuts
These little guys get in pin scars where nothing else can. Non offset micro nuts often won't stick at all or are more likely to get fixed.
A set of DMM Brass offset nuts
A set of DMM Brass offset nuts
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Cam hooks
Cam hooks not only save time, they are often the only clean placement that works in a thin crack. They are scary at first, but if you "aid boulder practice" enough with them, you will cruise C2 as fast as you free climb.
Moses Cam Hooks
Moses Cam Hooks
Credit: mountaingear.com

Top step
Increasing your reach is usually the best way to find an elusive clean placement. Getting into that top step gives you another foot or more. There are top-stepping tips and other tips at the online How To Big Wall Page here:
http://www.supertopo.com/gear/how-to-big-wall

The easiest way to top step is to use a hand hold to help you balance. Another option is to place an intermediate marginal piece that you just use as a hand hold to get high. A shallow cam hook or shakey cam usually work best. This can be especially useful on traversing terrain where a sketchy intermediate cam hook can help you make a super reach to a distance bomber cam.

Free climb
Many low-angle A2 sections can be easily free climbed. Sometimes a move or two of 5.8 or 5.9 saves ten minutes of trying to get a shallow pin scar placement to hold. Even pasting one foot on an edge and one foot in your top step can help you reach a bomber clean placement. Wearing comfortable free shoes on a low-angle aid pitch is a good idea.

Leave the hammer in the bag
On a route that you might be able to do clean, leave the hammer in the haul bag. Just by having to tag it up, you are more likely to push your clean climbing as far as possible.

Intertwine stoppers
You can make a two-foot mini cheat stick by intertwining three stoppers to snag distant rivets.

Intertwining three stoppers to reach a distant placement on pitch 8.
Intertwining three stoppers to reach a distant placement on pitch 8.
Credit: Chris McNamara

You can also use this contraption to snag distant nut placement. It's time consuming but can save you from reaching for the hammer.

Hooks and beak hooking
Often you can hook a crack or fixed head either with a regular hook or with a beak. Medium and large sized Black Diamond Peckers work especially well. A BAT hook can also sometimes get in the eye of a RURP with a broken cable. If you are going to nail, it is much better to use a beak, Pecker or Tomahawk as they are much less destructive than Lost Arrows, knifeblades and angles.
The Tomahawk works as a regular hook in some applications thanks to th...
The Tomahawk works as a regular hook in some applications thanks to the curved shaft that wraps around edges for stability.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Hand place pitons
Many pin scars take a hand-placed piton. For extra security, give it a few pounds with your palm (leather gloves recommended). Sawed-off pitons often work the best if a hand-placed beak or Pecker won't work.
Chris McNamara on The Shield, El Capitan.
Chris McNamara on The Shield, El Capitan.
Credit: Corey Rich

Cheat sticks
I don't use em. But if it keeps you from reaching for the hammer, go for it.

The How To Big Wall Climb Book has many suggestions for what is the latest and greatest aid gear and here is what is currently on Chris Mac's Aid Rack

  Article Views: 15,056
Chris McNamara
About the Author
Climbing Magazine once computed that three percent of Chris McNamara’s life on earth has been spent on the face of El Capitan—an accomplishment that has left friends and family pondering Chris’ sanity. He’s climbed El Capitan over 70 times and holds nine big wall speed climbing records. In 1998 Chris did the first Girdle Traverse of El Capitan, an epic 75-pitch route that begs the question, “Why?”

Outside Magazine has called Chris one of “the world’s finest aid climbers.” He’s the winner of the 1999 Bates Award from the American Alpine Club and founder of the American Safe Climbing Association, a nonprofit group that has replaced over 5000 dangerous anchor bolts. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and serves on the board of the ASCA, and Rowell Legacy Committee. He has a rarely updated Chris McNamara.com, and also runs a Lake Tahoe home rental business http://rentsouthlake.com

Comments
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Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Mar 13, 2011 - 08:25pm PT
Never got the T-ing off technique from Jello's Clean Walls video Chris?
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Author's Reply  Mar 13, 2011 - 08:27pm PT
Nope, never found a way to buy it... would love to see it.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Mar 13, 2011 - 08:28pm PT
Darn, he has a whole box of them but just went to Switzerland.
bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Mar 13, 2011 - 08:32pm PT
The difference between a tipped our regular cam or a bomber offset cam, is often the difference between C1 and C2 or C3.

Check your fire...

Good tips though!
Prod

Trad climber
  Mar 13, 2011 - 08:37pm PT
I'll loan you mine if you want to see it. Send me your address.

guyrkenny@gmail.com

Prod.
Mittens

climber
  Mar 13, 2011 - 10:18pm PT
Bring some epoxy and glue your hand placed pins into the crack.
WallMan

Trad climber
Denver, CO
  Mar 16, 2011 - 02:55pm PT
Thanks Chris!
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 16, 2011 - 03:36pm PT
'Tis the season to get my aid climbing speed and technique back up to snuff. I think for me the best way to get past an aid placement hammerless is to make that hammer hard to get to (such as in the haulsack or better, back in camp). Thanks for the inspiration.

John
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Mar 16, 2011 - 03:55pm PT
Using the hammer on a pitch you want to/should climb clean is like bailing.

You'll get to the anchor and the feeling of "it wasn't that bad, I should have sucked it up" will hit you and then you'll never be back there again for the rest of you life, to do it the way you originally wanted to (I'm as guilty as the next guy, believe me). It's better to just man up in the first place. (talk is cheap sitting here in front of my computer, BTW)

John and I have been working out together this winter and we're all jazzed to try to climb ZM clean. We keep telling each other that everyone is brave in El Cap Meadow. ;-)
Chairman Meow

Trad climber
SLC, UT
  Mar 25, 2011 - 04:03pm PT
Yeah, that T-ing off trick is pretty badass. Totally stable in a top step.
Mungeclimber

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Jun 25, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
Haven't had to use t-ing off too much (like once establishing a new route), but it really does make a high aider step more stable so you can reach high effectively. Definitely worth making a vid and adding it to this section.
youri

climber
  Jun 25, 2013 - 08:47pm PT
Has anyone experienced with the 2 different offset cams configurations of the same size? Having the "outside lobe left" or "outside lobe right" is very important in some pin scars! Also how much to saw angles is not often explained. In my little experience, at least 50% of the blade length should be sawed and up to 65%...
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
  Jul 8, 2013 - 10:40pm PT
Referring to the photo in paragraph number 2, in the 1970s we believed that a good carabineer was down and out. Did you forget? The spine is against the rock, the gate is out and the clips are easy.

What is happening here?
trad_guy

Mountain climber
Bend, Oregon, USA
  Jul 10, 2013 - 10:02pm PT
Chris, thanks for making the traditional correction to illustration number 2 above.

"Show the Metolius Offset Master Cam in a Yosemite pin scar. (side note, the next steps to clipping this piece are to remove the carabiner, then re-clip it so that the nose of the carabiner is down and points out.)"

"Down and out" is traditional mountaineering from the 1960s.

Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
  Jul 15, 2013 - 02:23am PT
Anybody got some pics or video of this T-ing off thing?
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