Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 32 of total 32 in this topic

Gym climber
squamish, b.c.
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:38am PT
Im farfrom honed but i started out usong my.first rack of cams and nuts and tricams which i bought used. Then bought a single etrier and borrowed a grigri.

Trad climber
Arroyo Grande
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:39am PT
Wear out your free climbing boots to a debilitating point. Continually get hammered first at night only, but then by mid-morning on the Curry Deck as well. As the personal hygiene deteriorates to a homeostatic point you begin to see "natural lines" up there and start collecting bitchin' water bottles.


Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:42am PT
WARNING: Typical smartass comment coming.

I started at the bottom and climbed toward the top.
The Warbler

the edge of America
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:45am PT
Climbing aid is not a progression, it's a regression.

Stop while yer a head.

Trad climber
Is that light the end of the tunnel or a train?
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:46am PT
Before the Game's a-foot.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 27, 2012 - 11:51am PT
Let's see:
fallopian tube
first communion
losing virginity
first lead with goldline rope and kronhoffers
pilgrimage to yosemite
first grade 4
salathe wall

edit: did the nose the next year....end of big wall climbing and on to alpine

Mountain climber
portland, Maine
Dec 27, 2012 - 12:37pm PT
When I started climbing I didn't think I was only going to climb one pitch, boulder or only free climb. I thought climbing as a way to get to the top of something using any tool needed. So, I learned how to free climb the same time I learned to aid climb.

So, to answer your question. Start small and go big. As you would do anything in your life.

Trad climber
Dec 27, 2012 - 01:40pm PT
Year one
Led sport

Year two
Led trad
3 weeks at Indian Creek

Spent about 10 days in Zion doing these routes all in a day or less
Spaceshot (2 times)
Moonlight Buttress

Then went straight to the valley for 5 weeks
South Face of column -2 days
Accepted that "I'm gonna die"
Salathe -4 days
Half dome -1 day

Then about an el cap route a year for next 10 years
SS to PO
Zodiac -solo
Eagle's Way -2 day push
Shortest Straw


Trad climber
Dec 27, 2012 - 02:04pm PT
Started climbing with Tarbuster in 1989.

Climbed a lot from 1989 to 1995.

Got job in Michigan, got out of climbing until 05ish.

Got interested in aid via this site sometime around.... 2007

Did my first wall in August 2008.

Planned many since then, tried and failed once, way addicted and planning already for another one this spring....

Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Dec 27, 2012 - 02:24pm PT
You can't do walls unless you can be fast and efficient.

Long free climbs
"Aid bouldering" for practice
Long free climbs with a little bit of aid
Grade V with easy aid
Grade VI walls

Climbing aid is not a progression, it's a regression.

I'm calling you outside, pal

People who make fun of aid have never done anything hard.

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Dec 27, 2012 - 02:26pm PT
+1 Warbler

Trad climber
Dec 27, 2012 - 03:32pm PT
The book "Freedom of the Hills" was very useful to me.
Eldorado Canyon
Camp 4.
Michigan to Vail (Ski instruct)
Chick's dig it.
Penis Envy.
Another season in Vail (89 to 96)
Spring skiing at Snowbird
Bouldering little cottonwood canyon
climbing in Moab
Boulder (School)
Great Zot.
Stettners ledges.
Trip West.
Joshua Tree
Another Road Trip West
Mount Baker
Liberty Bell
Worked Kids Camp.
Dunn-west Bay
Moonlight Buttress
Lunar X
Swoomp Gimp
Prodigal son
To yosemite.
only Zodiac
Tangerine Trip and
Wet day Dream
Time to start Alpine Climbing.

1989-brought chalk bag, climbing shoes, roomates say "Chris your going to kill your self".

1990 spring-Brought lead rack of set of stoppers and hexes and 10 hand tied quickdraws and a rope. Roomates say "Chris you REALLY are going to kill yourself". Started setting up top rope anchors and top roping.

1990 summer lead a few 5.9's with my rack near Vail, not telling my belayer "This is my first lead watch me". and a few 5.9's in Eldo. People would give me weird looks when all i had was passive gear hanging from my rack in Eldo. ("your going to kill yourself") Tagger probably wasn't the best choice of leads with this gear. Young and didn't know the consequences of falling, was what kept me alive. the book "Freedom of the Hills" helped me a lot. roomates say ("Chris, You have not KILLED yourself YET!")

1990 later in summer. lied to a random more experience climber that I had been on a multipitch climb in Eldo before. Embarked on my first pitch of gear climbing more then a pitch off the ground. Took 1/2 hour to climb pitch. One hour to set up the belay. Random climber soloed the rest of route with me behind him. He was late for a wedding. Definitely a very good confident climber who i should not have lied to.

1990 winter- road trip to the desert and joshua tree. Figured we needed some active gear to use for the cracks. Brought 5 generic active gear "Things" from some where? We sent everything that we wanted to.

1991 winter- arrived in zion at night woke up and saw the walls. Too scared to climb anything more then a pitch off the ground.

1992 climbed stettner ledge's up near the Diamond in RMNP. We didn't moved fast enough bivied on mountain. Epic it was. I thought I was stettner himself with my wool knicker pants. First time in a alpine environment. A little rock helicoppered down on me at the start of the climb. I dove into a little nook like someone was throwing a hand granade at me. I still feel the energy up there.

1991 to 1995- Worked through the grades up to 5.11.

1996- the Diamond served as my First grade VI. A Constant struggle figuring out the tangles while leading. Luckly, had a very good experienced wall partner with me.

winter 1997- More walls in Zion. Got way faster and it started making sense.

1997-2003- Sport climbed.

2003- Camp 4 and easy trade walls in Yosemite. 05, 06, 07 more walls in yosemite. 09, 10, 11, serious injury. 2012 back to climbing.

next is Ice climbing
next mix Rock and Ice climbing
next AT skiing (Lucky, i am pretty good at this already).
next Alpine climbing putting all together in one push.
-Diamond in the winter
-Liberty Ridge
-Cassin Ridge
 Mount Foraker
 Mount Hunter
 Mooses tooth
 South America
 Himalaya's if i DARE.
Still wondering if i have the motivation for this?
other big walls in Remote places.

I guess a progression is: (some people fly through this progression in 3 years or less!) Some people take 20 years or more. Some people just stay at one type of climbing and love it.
1. Bouldering, shoes and chalk bag. Crash pad or just a piece of carpet to keep bottom of shoes clean.
2. Buy rope, gear when needed and start top roping, setting up natural anchors when needed.
3.Start lead climbing. Sport and Trad single pitch
4.Start multi pitch Sport and Trad.
5.Start aid climbing when you can't send that hard Trad pitch.
6.Clean Aid climbing
7.Aid climbing. Leaning to place Pitons, Heads, Rawl Drives/Spikes (Rivts), Bolts.
8.Wall climbing Aid climbing
9.Wall Climbing Free climbing.
10. Ice climbing
11. Mix climbing
12. Alpine Climbing on Big mountains/Big Walls!!!!

Edit: Burchery, Some people do go buy 3 Grand worth the gear and walk up and climb the nose on EL Capitan with little or no experience. Crazy stuff. Works for some people.

Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
Dec 27, 2012 - 03:38pm PT
I'm with Warbler, as well. I regressed for a while, and then realized that I'd much rather just train harder and free the same terrain. Now I'm back to progressing with my climbing. To me, aid climbing is purely a tool, but certainly not a goal. That said, big wall taught me a lot, and it's amazing to climb such massive features.

My progression was like many others. Trad climb, aid single pitch, practice systems, fail on a wall, succeed on a wall, free my first wall, NIAD, haven't slept on a wall since 2006, but I still climb at least one a year without aid.

Fossil climber

Trad climber
Atlin, B. C.
Dec 27, 2012 - 03:45pm PT
Mission Gorge


Arrow tip w/ Gallwas

Various Yosemite fun stuff

Worst Error w/ Harding

Middle Cathedral w/Powell

Fell under the Rasputin-like influence of Hemming, Harding and Mountain Red,
and completely lost touch with reality.

The Nose

Back to reality.

Hobart, Australia
Dec 27, 2012 - 04:32pm PT
Started climbing.

Looked up in awe of big rock faces.

Read Royal Robbins Basic and Advanced Rockcraft 100 times.

Did as many multi-pitch routes whereever found on the East Coast.

1977--drove to Yosemite with John Ely--climbed East Buttress, S.Face of Washington's Column, then Half Dome. (Stage 1)

Second trip to Yosemite, climbed El Cap Nose with Steve Chardon (ran out of water day 2).

Stage 2--interest in "nailing" routes--this was tougher, as most experienced big wallers wanted to climb with someone with experience. Tried the Shield with Ted Johnson--failed at roof (big earthquake shattered Ted's confidence). Begged a number of climbers to team up for another try--no joy.

Soloed the Prow in two bivies. Started soloing the Zodiac, took a big fall and nearly died with a "yer gonna die" self-designed solo system. Lydia Bradey joins me for successful ascent.

Can't remember what was next, but there were a few false starts, but at least now had some experience to cajole fellow sufferers.

There wasn't much information back then on what to do, how to do it, what kind of gear, etc. Even collecting the requisite water containers--old anti-freeze one gallon containers were the only thing that didn't spontaneously blow up on the first haul (but tasted toxic)--was a challenge.

Back then, there was a lot of social pressure to stick to the clean and fast walls (like Salathe) and eschew the nailing. But I figured there were bigger challenges outside of Yosemite that would still require the nailing techniques...

EDIT: here's some info from my first couple years living in the dirt of Yosemite.

Credit: deuce4

This "Climbing Record" is what was required back then to join the American Alpine Club...

Credit: deuce4


Boulder climber
Dec 27, 2012 - 05:32pm PT
I am far from a wall climber or hardman, but have managed two walls.

Started climbing in 1988
Box canyon NM trad sport and bouldering
Went to Hueco tanks for rope climbing as my first road trip

Devils Tower climbs
Climbed all over the southwest slowly increasing multi pitch exposure

first trip to the valley climbed nutcracker and then a bunch of routes in Tuolumne
continued climbing all over the southwest

Did 30 feet of aid in box canyon NM and drove to the valley to climb the Nose
Went up 5 pitches partner bailed, found new partners and climbed it in five days on the same trip.

1994 to 2012
sport climbed a bit and then fell into the world of bouldering
Bouldered all over the planet but spent most of my time at my favorite crag, Hueco Tanks

decided to do another wall
did the NA after only bouldering for the last 12 years. I certainly slowed my partner down, but we had a good epic and a good time. I cannot wait to do it again soon and have started collecting gear to make the next trip more fun.


Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
Dec 27, 2012 - 06:50pm PT
This is a good topic, I hope to see a lot more posts - so far they have been great.

I am not a wall climber, yet - I am firmly in the realm of "Big Wall Theorist" as some may say. With time, training and some luck, I will get there though. It's been a long process for me so far.

I got my introduction to roped climbing courtesy of the USMC when I was still in ROTC in Bridgeport, CA. Had a great time, but it didn't "take" at that point, so to speak.

Later on, I started to do some dumbass soloing, until I had a hold break and almost peeled off a cliff. Looked down, realized I was a moron, and stopped doing that.

Fast forward to 2002, I move to Vegas and start hanging out in Red Rock a lot. Hiking led to scrambling, scrambling led to me being 80ft up in a chimney and looking down and going "Wait, I said this was stupid. It's time to learn how to climb."

When I decide to get into something, it's usually full bore or not at all. So after a short time in the gym, I went and bought the standard sport stuff - draws, rope, etc. Not too bad, cost wise. Wasn't long after that, I see my first big wall story and start drooling over Yosemite. It would be 9 more years before I actually stepped into the Valley for the first time.

I was avoiding trad climbing like the plague due to my "full bore" mentality for a couple years, but then a friend took me out to Moderate Mecca one day. The first piece of gear that I cleaned, and I was hooked. This was awesome, I could see the placement, knew how long it had been there, and there was so much variety...not like unknown old bolts at all.

Fast forward 2 months after that, I have a pretty much a full double rack, and I am a month behind on my rent. Go figure.

So eventually, I came to a realization. I'm pretty lazy, and I don't have the desire or determination to train enough to climb "hard." I'm the most happy on 5.8 and 5.9, a good day is 5.10. And you aren't going to find a free big wall at that grade. So the thought of aid climbing started slipping into my head again, no matter how much I told myself that I wasn't going to spend money on all that damn aid and wall shite.

*Click* Full Bore Mode activated. Damnit!

Aiders, big wall harness, pins, ledge, sub bags, haul bags, bug the sh#t out of the Fish for gear, more pins, more gear, Chongo's Big Wall Book and How to be Bitchin book, tons of time on ST bugging Hudon, PTPP, poop tubes, jugging and setting the ledge up on the third floor porch, aiding dumb stuff, more aiding dumb stuff, more gear, more gear, bug PTPP and Hudon, etc etc. etc.

I used to laugh when people said their gear room was worth more then their car. They would just give me a sad look. Now I know why.

Anyways. so far I have managed a grand total of part of a pitch of New Dawn, which ended in a helicopter ride out of Yosemite and a break. Back to climbing, back to learning system, have a good climbing partner that's got it all down that's willing to teach me. Plans for Zion in the spring and maybe the Valley too. 10 years and counting, and I'm still not there yet. But I still wannabe ;)

Oakland, CA
Dec 28, 2012 - 12:50am PT
Duece, those scans are neat. Somewhere in there you've got something about an attempted FA of lower Sentinel. Would love to hear about that some time.

Hobart, Australia
Dec 28, 2012 - 12:20pm PT
yes, made an attempt on Lower Sentinel--it was a brilliant ice season--we climbed a new route near Nevada Falls, then tried the Lower Sentinel. First time up my crampons completely failed as I started the first pitch. Went back later and conditions had changed and got gripped at a dripping wet overlap about 90' up--I recall thinking that a whole section could come loose, but that was before I knew much about ice climbing.

Trad climber
Dec 28, 2012 - 12:43pm PT
Awesome Post Deuce,
When I started climbing you were already a big name. Cool to see how you grew into your big shoes even after numerous failed attempts. Kind of epitomizes the drive behind alot of your bigger known exploits.

Your list is a sort of who's who of climbing. I was particularly impressed with your many runs up Astroman. Seems today that people doing bigwalls are often pretty poor free climbers.

Hobart, Australia
Dec 28, 2012 - 01:03pm PT
got more "glory days" scans if you're interested...

Tex, leading every pitch on Astroman was definitely an early goal of my climbing career.
Interesting looking at my own notes--back then, I only called myself a "5.11b" climber, because I could solidly lead all kinds of 5.11b (flash onsight, in other words), including offwidth. I think the hardest offwidth I could flash was 5.11b, hence the 5.11b overall self-rating. But I had also flashed a bunch of 5.11d's and a couple 5.12a/b's back in the day... (but sometimes I didn't flash routes of those grades, not to mention that I couldn't dream of doing any offwidths harder than "Bad Ass Momma" at 5.11d, so I never called myself a "5.12 climber").

Is "flash" even used anymore? It meant: first try, no hangs, etc. Back then, it really seemed the only definition of true "free climbing". Like Jim Erikson had wrote in his Boulder guide, any time you hung, you used aid and one could never consider that particular route as climbed free (I paraphrase).

Another interesting memory from looking at these old notes is the new route on Conness I did with Grant (and someone else I vaguely recall--maybe Walt?). There doesn't seem to be any record in that in the current guides. I had almost completely forgotten about that route, climbed during one of my tenures on the Tuolumne Rescue team.

Oakland, CA
Dec 28, 2012 - 02:08pm PT
Post 'em if you got 'em, Deuce --

Trad climber
Dec 28, 2012 - 02:10pm PT
That's cool Duece.

In 1990, 1991. Just learning to climb in boulder area, I was on a Jim Erickson Trip. Every morning before heading out to climb, I would look in the guide book for his name find one of his climbs and go at it. There was no other option for me but to Flash or Onsight the route. Many years later I started soloing some of his routes after coming back from the Valley. Kind of slowed down on that.

Trad climber
Las Vegas, NV.
Dec 28, 2012 - 02:14pm PT
Hey Duece -

I, for one, would love to see all this information in a thread of it's own. I would hate to see all this great history buried in this thread when there is obviously a lot of your experiences that I would get a huge kick out of reading. Love what's been put up so far!

Dec 28, 2012 - 02:20pm PT
Hey Deuce (John Middledorf?)

You were president of the Dartmouth Outing Club, if I read correctly)? Do you have stories of what the club was like in the early 80s? I am a more recent dartmouth grad

Hobart, Australia
Dec 28, 2012 - 04:19pm PT
Hi Matt-

I was briefly the president of DMC for a summer session. All the upper classmen had left for the summer. We had weekly toprope meetings on the tower--is that still a toprope arena? We had some hard variations on it, I recall. (btw, it's "Middendorf" ;).

Here's some more spray on Yosemite climbs:

Credit: deuce4

Can't seem to find any notes of all the climbs I did in the desert from '86 on, but I recall making a list at one point...

Some stuff from 1993:
Credit: deuce4

ps: thanks for the good words Vegas, but I can't really bring myself to post a me-thread. Seems like this fits in with the climber's progression theme...

Oakland, CA
Dec 30, 2012 - 12:52am PT
Deuce, what year did you guys climb the Grand Voyage on Trango?

(Side note: I'm typing in the tiny town of Boulder, UT right now, where your photographer for that Pakistan trip, Ace, calls home these days. Really nice guy.)

Hobart, Australia
Dec 30, 2012 - 01:48am PT
Gotta love Ace, the most mellow guy to accompany an expedition you can imagine. He was a great addition to our team.

We climbed the Grand Voyage summer of 1992.


Hobart, Australia
Dec 30, 2012 - 05:05pm PT
Good post Riley-

I was often amused, back in the day, when peers would disdain wall climbing, saying something like, "I'll big wall climb when I'm too old to free climb." Because the type of wall climbing we were doing--faster, cleaner, more efficient, less gear--required being bold and willing to cut loose with free climbing to save time, in the realm of training for the big mountains...

I was especially amused by the second ascent of Kali Yuga upper pitches--on one pitch I had led on the first ascent, Walt had really pushed me on a "5.9, A3" ptich--the pitch involved hooking laterally right from the belay (looking at a bit of a nasty fall back into a corner below the belay). At the end of the traverse, I prepared to put in a bolt, which even though I could place in a few minutes, Walt got agitated, and told me, "mantle up, mantle up" as if I were a loser if I didn't. He probably didn't realise the wall slightly bulged there making the mantle more daunting, as I had considered it, but decided to drill and had pulled out the bolt bag. Anyway, Walt was having none of it--if any of you have climbed with Walt, you will know he could be pretty intense on climbs--and cajoled me into going for the free move instead of drilling. It was a fairly desperate mantle, and (we never wore helmets in those days) with a pretty nasty fall potential. I rated that pitch 5.9 A3 I believe, but it was probably a 5.10 mantle or harder, especially with full aid rack on the shoulders.

Anyway, on the second ascent, a well known "5.13 climber", whom I won't name here, drilled off the hook move instead of going for it free. That kind of summed it up for me at the time--doing mixed aid and 5.9 and 5.10 in a mountain setting, fast and efficient as possible, required special skills that no amount of 5.13 sport climbing could really benefit.

On Great Trango, time was critical, and we climbed a lot of 5.10 sections interspersed with the aid--if we hadn't, it would have taken days more, and who knows if we would have made it--logistically it was quite a challenging climb. The kind of 5.10 I'm talking about is generally way more committing and challenging than 5.11 with a t-shirt and a light rack.

Though I must say, I've been really impressed with Mark Hudon's revival into big wall climbing--of course he borders on super human--but the way he's taken up big wall climbing and climbing them in great style is quite awesome. He was a free-climbing star back in the day, and someone who, if he said as a youth, "I'll take up aid big wall climbing when I'm old(er)", it would have been an understatement.

Ah, the word, "style" popped up--that word has caused quite a stir on other threads, but it really roots the essence of what we were doing in the 80's in contrast to the previous generation of big wallers. Big wall climbing was evolving... (and it's evolved quite a bit since then--guys like Aamon took it up a notch or two).

Dec 30, 2012 - 05:38pm PT
I don't see walls as a regression unless you're in a rut in the Ditch or the like. Doing walls was all about preparing for the mountains (along with solid free climbing of course). To do long alpine rock routes, you need these techniques and where better to climb gorgeous clean and airy walls?

Plus, Yosemite is a hella fun place when you're in that zone with good partners.

Social climber
granada hills
Jan 1, 2013 - 03:58pm PT
My progression to Big Walling.

You ever tell someone that you climb? Here is what happens when I say "I am a climber." They say “like on El Cap?” Or they say “you mean you sleep on the wall?” After I say no, I try to explain that what I do is harder, cooler, or that aid climbing was old school. Then they give me the skeptical stare. They think how could climbing those huge rock walls not be cool? But they are not climbers, so what do they know? Then in a very condescending tone I again explain that I am using my finger strength to ascend the small overhanging rock outcrops and pebbles around my house. Then they eventually lose interest in my stupid explanations and just nod that they understand. Even though I can see that they don’t understand I give up too. Deep down I don’t believe it either.

After many years of this I started to ask myself why I hadn’t learned to aid climb. Why hadn’t I visited Yosemite more? I mean I live in CA so why not? Why not climb a Big Wall? Why not sleep on a portaledge? Why not poop in a bag?

After doing some reading and some research, I made up my mind about really wanting to have the Big Wall experience. I set some goals. By sticking to these numerous small goals I learned how to aid climb. Step by step I learned enough to get me up the Captain last year. This was a huge achievement for me. We actually topped out on my birthday after four days of climbing. I had been climbing for thirty years and finally I could answer “Yes, I climbed El Cap in Yosemite. Yes we slept right on the side of that sheer cliff.” But this led to a trickier question “How do you go to the bathroom?” 


PS As I get older I am more willing to learn the other types of ascent. Life is too short. Why deny yourself these cool things?

Trad climber
lost, far away from Poland
Jan 1, 2013 - 04:21pm PT
As I get older I am more willing to learn the other types of ascent. Life is too short. Why deny yourself these cool things?

Because aid climbing is cheating ;)

Sometimes I wish I have tried aid climbing. Reading Hudon's TR's and seeing those cool pictures, I am thinking "wow, it must be an incredible experience". I am too old and sick now to do it...
Messages 1 - 32 of total 32 in this topic
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews