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Basic Leading on Vertical and Overhanging Terrain
Aid climbing on vertical and overhanging terrain is much harder than on low angle terrain for two reasons:
1) It is hard to keep the weight on your feet, which means your arms do more work, you can't balance as easily, and reaching high is more of an ordeal.
2) The fifi hook and daisy chain, while sometimes necessary, create tangles, inefficient movement, and more dealing.
It is with this in mind that I made sure the first lesson in Leading 1: Low-angle Terrain did not involve daisy chains or a Fifi Hook. If you have not dialed in the skills in Leading 1: Low-angle Terrain, please stop and go back. Daisy chains are like prescription drugs: in certain key situations they can help you out. But when misused they leave you in a confused mess. The truly great old school climbers, like Tom Frost, still climb today without them.
In the first chapter on leading I didn’t mention daisy chains because it is important to first learn how to climb without them. Daisy chains have their pros and cons.
Useful for bounce testing.
Come in handy in awkward corners and overhanging terrain.
Help keep from dropping Aiders.
They get twisted easily and cause more clutter.
They encourage the bad habit of resting before you walk as high as possible in the Aider.
They generally slow everything down.
On a route like The Nose the cons outweight the pros; I lead with only one daisy chain or no daisy chains. On a more aid-intensive route like Zodiac, the pros outweigh the cons and I use two daisy chains.
Skills to Learn
• Aid like you free climb.
• Float up the Aiders with as few movements as possible.
• Try not to use a fifi hook. But if you do, only rest on a biner (don’t rest on a daisy).
• Always move until your waist is at the piece and efficiently maximize your reach.
• Aider management.
Essential Gear you Need to Start
2 daisy chains
2 Aiders (ladder Aiders are best to learn on)
3 locking biners
gear for anchor
quickdraws (1 per bolt or placement)
Optional gear: fingerless gloves, fixed-rope self belay device, knee pads
Where to Practice
A vertical or overhanging wall at the climbing gym works. Alternately, a 30 to 50-foot steep cliff works well. I learned on a 20-foot-long horizontal tree branch in my back yard that worked okay.
The Basic Aid Climbing Sequence—With Fifi Hooks and Daisy Chains
Do the same sequence as you did in Leading 1: Low-angle Terrain except that now introduce the fifi hook and daisy chain.
The first step is to get the right length for the Fifi Hook, which after girth hitching to your harness (not the belay loop) is about four inches. You want to be able to barely hook the fifi on the biner connected to your Aider when standing in the third step of a standard etrier or the fourth step of the standard aid ladder. When you move up a step, your waist should be a little above the piece and the fifi short enough that it comes tight and helps pull you into the wall. You want to adjust it so you get this fit.
Video: Get the Right Length of Fifi Hook
Attaching the Daisy Chains
Girth hitch the daisy chains to the harness on either side of the belay loop and fifi hook. It is helpful to have two different colors of daisies.
You then clip the end of the daisy chain directly to a biner to the Aider.
Aid Like You Free Climb
Free climbing is much faster than aid climbing. When on a wall, you should free climb when you can. When you do need to aid climb, you should free climb as much as possible in the Aiders.
Imagine the Aiders as big footholds. Use the top of the Aider, faceholds and the crack with your hands to get as high as possible for the next placement. Use the fifi hook only when absolutely necessary for balance. Later, you’ll see more examples of this in action. Wearing tight-fitting approach shoes or loose-fitting climbing shoes makes it easy to have one foot on an Aider and one foot on a foothold to reach higher. In Leading 1: Low-angle Terrain we focused on aid climbing while using Aiders for balance when moving up. Now, feel free to use the faceholds or the crack for balance with your hands and feet.
Simplicity: As Few Movements as Possible
When you free climb simple movement comes easily. You don’t use every single foothold or handhold to make upward progress, you only use the ones that help you. Aid climbing is a little different. There are so many things to clip, ways to move up the Aider, and sequences to deal with gear. The daisy chain and fifi hook are a big part of this extra clutter and are therefore items of last resort. So before we start to use them, I want to drive home how important it is to try and not use them. Its always important to keep things as simple as possible. Here is an example of two ways to move up a piece:
Lots of movements—You step down into the bottom step of the next Aider, then fifi into the daisy chain. You organize some gear. You walk up a couple steps and fifi into the daisy. You look around at the crack and try to decide if there is a good placement within your reach. You decide to walk a little higher in the Aider and fifi in. Now you realize the placement is a little out of your reach. So you take one step higher and finally reach up and get the next piece.
As few movements as possible—From the piece you are on, step up as high as comfortable on the next Aider. Without using the fifi and without looking at the crack, you walk as high as you comfortably can in the Aider. You then reach high, sink a cam, and keep on going…
At first you may be in the “lots of movement” category. But if you make an effort and want to move efficiently, you will eventually fly up the Aiders using as few movements as possible.
The Basic Aid Climbing Sequence with Fifi and Daisy Chains
1. Clip Aider directly to piece.
2. Without stopping, walk all the way until your waist is at the piece (or higher if you can).
3. If you need to do it for balance, fifi directly into the biner attached to your Aider.
4. If possible, step a step higher. The fifi should be tensioned and below your waist, which pulls you into the wall.
5. Place the next piece and attach the Aider in such a way that the daisy does not get too twisted.
6. Step into the next Aider and, if you can without using the fifi, reach over and unclip the Aider for the last piece. Clip that Aider to the side of your harness in the same place you always do (probably your belay loop).
7. Clip the rope to the last piece (unless using a fixed rope self-belay).
8. Walk up the Aider until your waist is at the next piece.
Read the rest of this chapter in the How to Big Wall Climb SuperTopo book