How To Big Wall Climb 2nd Edition - Post Suggestions


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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 5, 2014 - 12:00am PT
How To Big Wall Climb 2nd Edition probably won't be out till 2015+

This thread has links to articles to be editied and distilled into the 2nd edition text. I also need your ideas and suggestions. Post up!

 Clean Climbing and Fixed Gear - Tips for Keeping El Capitan Garbage Free
Howie Felderbush

Mountain climber
the homeless camp
Jan 5, 2014 - 12:03am PT
or just go here if you are free climber

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo, CA
Jan 5, 2014 - 01:19pm PT
I loved the first edition but think there are improvements...

I think that you should put in more then one way to do things like how you did for the docking the pig... theres the ajustable daisy method and the munter hitch method but what about the hudon method or the others that some people love. I thought when you haul it said to use a quick draw as a back up and that might work but would be gnarly as hell If the traxion broke... after my first few walls I tought myself the tecniqe of using an ascender on the master point with your water bottle or hammer on it as a back up, which is just one of the many ways to back it up... when you fix a fowlloers rope it didn't mention the butterfly and figure eight method that some people like (I like Cmac method).

I also think the 2nd edition should have more intricate hauling systems and systems in general... on my first wall on the SFWC I had to set a 3:1 going to dinner which I learned from a differnt source and have had to use it sense in many ocassions... my favorite way to haul is to use a gri gri to my belay loop because i can get slack through it and when the pig arrives I can dock it with the munter and undo the traction and lower the pig onto the munter...

all in all I think that book was great and really would teach someone that dosent know how to aid,haul,or jug to climb el cap in good style... great and usefull book

I will try to think about more ways to make it better!!!!
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 1, 2014 - 10:59am PT
Great suggestions. I will put more advanced stuff in the next edition. The 3 to 1 is a tough one. I have never used a 3 to 1 on a wall. Why? I just dont bring that much stuff. Which is kinda the whole point of my book: carry less crap, climb more and haul less, have more fun, enjoy more time watching Peregrines hunt and less time verical baggage handling.

But... maybe ill throw in some more tips for the folks that just love moving pounds vertically...


A little drawing I made on the psyched level over time on a wall climb

Credit: Chris McNamara

Sorta stole this image from Steal Like and Artist by Austin Kleon

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Feb 3, 2014 - 02:37pm PT
I've only skimmed through the first edition, so my apologies if my recollection is off:

I don't recall seeing info on using a munter+mule to anchor and lower out a bag. I'm guessing a lot of beginners find themselves lifting the haulbag everytime to undo a carabiner, rather than just untying the mule and lowering the bag out on the munter.

Also, a discussion on block climbing (including short fixing and self belay) is missing from most bigwall guidebooks. It speeds things up soo much and reduces the clutter at the belays a ton.

It's also my personal opinion that peeing in a bottle and either hauling it or dumping it off route should be encouraged in the guide book.

Another little tip: I was once fixing the 1st 3 pitches of Lurking Fear. I tied both ropes together, coiled the ropes, and hucked the whole bundle.... as the bottom rope came under tension it sawed over itself, resulting in a core shot. Yeah, don't do that.

Oakland, CA
Feb 3, 2014 - 04:48pm PT
Include pictures of Camp VI, EC's summit, Big Sandy and the Alcove in the zig-zags, Dinner, Ahwahnee, etc. at their worst, full of trash and human waste, being cleaned out by good people in hazmat suits. There are plenty such pics here on your site.

A collage of all the nastiest, most disrespected ledges and climber-frequented areas throughout the Valley.

Along with those pics, summon the most menacing language you have within you (get your dad to help you write it, he looks like a tough bastard) to clarify that that bullshit isn't ok.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 5, 2014 - 12:15pm PT
great suggestions... pleaes keep em coming!

here is one of Thanksgiving Ledge

Trash and a portaledge frame on Thanksgiving Ledge, El Capitan, Yosemi...
Trash and a portaledge frame on Thanksgiving Ledge, El Capitan, Yosemite.
Credit: Chris McNamara
Jason A Graves

Trad climber
Carlsbad, CA
Feb 5, 2014 - 05:41pm PT
Hey Chris,

From a noob's perspective, I thought you did a great job of keeping it simple and clear. I appreciated the fact that you purposely excluded more advanced techniques to show the importance of mastering the basics. (If everything is important, nothing is important.) I've only done SFWC and NWFHD - both with hauling - and felt adequately equipped by reading your books/watching vids online as well as completing some "Road to the Nose" routes.

Having said that, here are a couple of possible suggestions...

1) Maybe include a brief segment on "What to do in an emergency?" I know this isn't a self-rescue, or first responder book, maybe an "In case of a fall/injury" segment or maybe a "Top 5 Emergency Do's and Dont's" list?

2) One or two paragraphs on french freeing. Are there any tips you've learned to improve speed or efficiency, or is it just simply yanking on gear?

Anyways, thanks for helping a full-time employed, married with 4 kids, only-been-climbing-five-years, weekend warrior gain the tools necessary to fulfill my dream of climbing Half Dome for my 40th birthday. (Safely) Sorry for hijacking the og purpose of this thread, but I thought this would be a place you would certainly read each post, and I wanted to thank you for helping me take part (even if only in a small way) the glory of climbing a big wall in Yosemite.

Waking up at pitch 11.
Waking up at pitch 11.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Already making eyes at the Captain.
Already making eyes at the Captain.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Aiding up the Zig Zags - making sure to walk right up to the top step.
Aiding up the Zig Zags - making sure to walk right up to the top step.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Finally meeting TGL in person.
Finally meeting TGL in person.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Walking the plank... after groveling on my knees.
Walking the plank... after groveling on my knees.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Thanks Chris.
Thanks Chris.
Credit: Jason A Graves

Credit: Jason A Graves

Here's a short video of our climb:

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 6, 2014 - 12:43am PT
Don't forget to have someone edit the second edition. The first edition had so many obvious errors it was as if it was an unedited draft copy.

Big Wall climber
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Feb 6, 2014 - 02:56pm PT
Hey Chris! How r ya! improvements for the next BW guide..? white meat is on it..advanced hauling and docking techniques would be good. I'd include shots from different angles and a link to a demo site too for each technique..I do appreciate your comment on not taking anymore than U have too but for us old buzzards still walling. Well, it is always nice to find new Innovations for dealing with hauling for those longer Thin nail ups. If there is a better more efficient way I am all ears..By the way I want U know ST is an awesome site..appreciate what U have created here..Keep up the good work!

Trad climber
Feb 7, 2014 - 02:44pm PT
I must admit I have not read the first edition. But that being said, noticed someone above mentioned a bit on self rescue. I think that, at the very least, and since self rescue is not necessarily a "big wall" skill but rather a general climbing and mountaineering skill, it should address the importance of self sufficiency when undertaking a climb of large magnitude. Although YOSAR is there to aid in emergency's, allot of full blown "rescues" can probably be avoided if climbers approached walls with the idea that they are on their own and feel responsible to deal with any situations which may arise. That's part of why climbing's so enticing in the first place!

Also, that is not to say there is no reason to call for help, in fact there are a great many reasons, especially if it is life or limb. But if you don't know how to rap with a haul bag, maybe you should hone your skills a little bit more. The internet things seem easier than they are!

Erik Sloan

Feb 11, 2014 - 07:28am PT
My friend lent me this book and I have enjoyed reading it. Chris and I started working on this together, so it is awesome to see how it all came out. Good work Chris and crew!

I didn't see this at the beginning of this thread, but maybe you posted it somewhere else: is there a link to the corrections to the book somewhere? It looks like number 9 in the lower-out sequence is just the number 5 text repeated, instead of something like 'Once you cannot lower yourself over any further, unclip the loop of rope that you've clipped to your harness and pull it through the lower out sling using the free strand of the rope'.

Another minor point, because what you presented here works but is not ideal for beginners: At step 3 in the lower out sequence, it is much, much easier/faster to unclip your lower jug from the rope and clip directly into the top biner of the quickdraw that is clipped to the lowerout piece. (this is why you don't tighten your bottom daisy, just your top, so the bottom remains full length for clipping into pieces or the anchor). Then you can stand on this piece to unweight the rope, making steps 3-5 as Chris shows them much faster/smoother. This is especially important if your partner has left a long sling on the lowerout piece, as you will be so far away from the piece, especially if free-hanging, that 'winching yourself tight' as described in step 5 will be difficult.

As always, David Safanda's layout and design looks great. And Steve McNamara's editing reads like a dreamy travel diary.

How do folks like the 6'x9' size of the book? A little small for some of those glory El Cap shots, but it works.



Trad climber
Feb 11, 2014 - 01:55pm PT
How about a chapter on Yosemite big wall local ethics - food, water and other supplies stashing, what one should clean, what one can clean, and what one should never clean, how to pass slow parties, when and how allow a fast party to pass you, etc?
Jane Gallwey

Big Wall climber
Feb 12, 2014 - 05:50am PT
This might seem kind of obvious/dumb but one suggestion:

I told a friend of mine to buy the book to learn how to big wall climb before I meet her in Yosemite this spring. She dutifully got the book and followed the instructions to the letter, taking a nice groundfall in the process.

In the bit about leading it mentions not clipping your rope til you are fully on the next piece, which is obviously the right thing to do on easy aid on a big wall. But since most people reading the book are noobs and are practicing on single pitch crags maybe there should be a note about clipping in after bounce testing the next piece but before transferring onto it if you're near the ground?


Big Wall climber
Feb 12, 2014 - 12:51pm PT
What Jane said above.

On solid C1 terrain it is faster to use Cmac's sequence, but if you are facing a bad fall (previous back cleaning, ledge, ground, etc) the slight cluster reduction of unclipping your daisy/aiders before clipping the rope in is dangerous.

I think the general message of "just climb faster and take less junk" is great, but for us mere mortals who are soft from years of fabric box life, it is not terribly useful. Techniques to avoid getting trashed should get more mention, again for us soft folks.

The 2:1 hauler really should get a good mention along these lines, less for the freight aspect, and more for not trashing yourself. Hauling fatigue (bad technique, too much weight, etc) is one of the bigger contributors to bail'age in my opinion. Hudon's setup is not very heavy, nor hard to setup.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 26, 2014 - 11:08am PT
Awesome stuff everyone. Next edition will definitely have a lot more... and ill be releasing the draft of the stuff here on SuperTopo first.

>> Passing Parties

Something like this will be in the next edition

>> How to Make Big Wall Climbing More Fun


Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Feb 26, 2014 - 12:46pm PT
I don't recall seeing anything about placing heads or cleaning pins

some rules of thumb as to how much weight would be "reasonable" on standard climbs so that noobs can have at least a banchmark as they assemble pigs in garages, basements, etc.

what caffeine and alcohol delivery systems are best (the former is particularly tricky; the latter, not so much)

a discussion of pros/cons of various rope systems (e.g. two dynamics versus one dynamic/one static, diameters, lengths, etc.)

for those who aren't "Valley locals", info on how to get a climber and his pigs to Yosemite Valley (dealing with jets, public transportation, etc)

discussion of "alpine big wall climbing" -- maybe ask Dave Turner to write a vignette for big wall climbing in Patagonia. stories of climbs like East Face of Mooses Tooth or Kichatna Spire or even hard aid on The Diamond would make the text helpful beyond the Valley

analyze/discuss just how paranoid one should be about jugging ropes that run over rock -- I recall seeing a photo in 1st ed. that spooked me out but apparently didn't alarm others


Oakland, CA
Feb 26, 2014 - 01:58pm PT
Here's a vote to keep anything other than basic hauling systems out of the book. The book will be mostly for the inexperienced trying to glean the basics - if anyone wants to learn the 3/1, let 'em find it on-line.

I think the best tip I've ever received for a wall was super specific and had to do with the physical training leading up to it. As climbers we focus on arms and upper torso stuff so much. The tip I got was: start doing airsquats, burpees, anything like that. I only did bodyweight stuff. For me it was the perfect way to get ready for hauling. What a difference that made.
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Mar 6, 2014 - 10:45am PT
I think adding more logistical information would be good. Examples ...

 Stage your gear at a base of a route
 Store your food
 Park a car
 Get in line at the base

Basically, all the little things that "locals" never think about but visiting climbers have no idea ...

Trad climber
Northern Italy
Jul 30, 2014 - 07:21am PT
I didn't read the whole thread, so sorry if it has been asked before. If so, just add my request to the list.

Please make this available as an ebook!

I see no reason to pay more to have a tree cut and then inked and then shipped overseas on a plane to Italy. Moreover, also paying for customs and waiting for a long time.

When I can get it NOW, hassle free, cheaper, and environmentally friendlier in "electrons".

Thanks for caring!
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