Dr. Piton's Ultimate Russian Aider Thread


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'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 4, 2007 - 05:24pm PT
Like, how’s it goin’, eh?

There has been a lot of talk about Russian Aiders over the years, and something of a cloak of mystery enveloping the things because Trango no longer manufactures them, and they are difficult to come by.

Are Russian Aiders truly the Better Way? Or are they just Big Wall Theory? Will Kate’s new Russkies allow her to reach Steve Gerberding’s rivets, or will she go flying off the slab when she changes from aid to free climbing? Will Kate ever switch to free climbing again? Will Wee-Wee the Big Wall Crab ever make it back home? Are Russian Aiders anything more than communist propaganda?

In this post, the Diabolical Dr. Piton will pontificate on the benefits and drawbacks of Russian Aiders, and attempt to debunk a few of the myths surrounding them. He will work hard to avoid writing in the third person and refrain from using bold text. [Oops, like sorry, eh?] It’s my hope that someday soon an intrepid entrepreneur or two will begin making the things, and we will see a Bolshevik Revolution taking place on the big walls as traditional aider use is phased out and the commies take over.

Russian Aiders in action on Wyoming Sheep Ranch - note duct-taped hook for pro!
Photo by Kate Robertson = Batgirl

CAVEAT: Dr. Piton does not purport to teach the Best Way or the Only Way, merely the Better Way, and the Better Way is whatever works best for you.

So grab yourself a coffee or a beer, depending on whether it is before or after Changeover Time, and have a read. What do yous guys and gals think of the things? Have you tried ‘em? Where did you get ‘em, and how do you like ‘em?

Most importantly, who will step up to the plate and start making Russian Aiders? I believe there is potentially a huge market for them – virtually everyone who aid climbs. How many aid ladders were sold last year do you suppose? Think about it….

Right, let’s talk about Russian Aiders. I look forward to all your feedback! I would especially like to see some good photos of Russian Aiders in action, including close-ups so people “get” what I’m talkin’ about.

Floyd Collins - a Kentucky native - checks out his new set of Russkies
With Russian Aiders, you will be able to climb faster than Floyd!

 BENEFIT: You can stand taller in the saddle more easily, especially on steep ground

Think of downhill skiing. Imagine that you are standing on the grass, or on a level area of snow, wearing your downhill ski boots connected to downhill skis by their bindings, which unlike cross-country ski bindings or telemark bindings are fixed in the heel. Your ski boot is rigid and goes high up above your ankle and rests against the back of your calf, completely encircling your leg. In fact, imagine a really tall and stiff ski boot that comes up to a couple inches below your knee.

First sit down on the back of your skis. Then lean back a bit so your ass rests right on the grass or snow, on top of the tails of your skis. Now from this sitting-down leaning-back position, stand up again without using your hands to press down on the ground. Stand up using only your legs and abdominal muscles, taking advantage of the leverage you get with the ski boots going right up to just below your knee, along with the bindings and the backs of the skis pressing against the ground. In other words, take advantage of the camming action between your knee and your foot to stand up. It's easy, isn't it? Anyone who downhill skis knows this.

Now, let's extend the example. Standing on grass this time so your skis don't slide on snow, point the tips of your skis uphill, and then sit down on the grass and the tails of your skis. Even though you are in an "overhanging" stance, you can still stand up without using your hands, only by using your legs.

If your legs were not clamped into the skis, it would be virtually impossible to stand up from this sitting-down leaning-back position, because you would have no leverage. Similarly if the ski boots were only ankle high like say running shoes, instead of knee high like these imaginary stiff downhill ski boots you're wearing, you wouldn't be able to stand up very easily, would you?

Now, if you were not leaning back, you wouldn't really need your downhill ski boots to help you stand up. You could stand straight up. The only benefit of the ski boots to standing up is because you are doing so from a backward leaning position. Get it?

This is the analogy to the leverage benefit you get from the stirrup assembly of Russian Aiders. Your point of attachment to your gear is not your daisy chain, nor is it the bottom of your foot which is standing in a regular aid ladder. Rather it is the hook which is held by the stirrup on the inside of your shin, just below your knee. The stirrup gives you the very same leverage benefit as I just described above with the ski boot. You get the benefit of the knee-foot camming action to help you stand.

Top-stepping from Russian Aiders - note gear on which Buddy is standing is approximately at his knees!

The photo above I scarfed from an old Trango advert, sent to me by John Raaf = raffie [Cheers, mate!] Unfortunately the photo does not show the Russian Aider cuffs Buddy is wearing, but you can see from the position of his body how high he is standing - and effectively top-stepping - above his piece of aid gear, which is the bolt on the climbing wall just a shade above his knees.

This "high standing" benefit is really only achieved when the rock is steep. If the rock is vertical, or slightly less than vertical, then you don't get a huge benefit from the Russians, because standing in aid ladders is easy. But when the rock starts to lean back towards you - which is the norm in aid climbing - Russian aiders really shine. This is because you can use the knee-foot camming action of the stirrups to generate leverage in your favour, and more easily stand on steep ground.

When you first try it on steep ground, you will be amazed! Sure, you still need to fine tune your top-stepping with your adjustable fifi and all, but it's incredibly easy to "stand tall in the saddle". Especially when combined with the 2:1 mechanical advantage you get with your adjustable daisy or adjustable fifi [precise mechanical advantage being 2:1 less the friction of the daisy through its buckle] you will be able to easily "pull yourself up" the steps of the Aid Tree, and then most importantly stand in comfort from a much higher stance than you could using regular aid ladders, because of the leverage you get in your legs from the knee-foot camming action of the stirrup.

Standing easily on steep ground on The Shortest Straw - you'll feel like you're climbing naked!

Not only will your stomach muscles thank you, but so will your kidneys, because you will no longer need to generate such huge downward forces on the waist belt of your seat harness with your adjustable fifi when top-stepping. You can “spread the weight out” more over your legs - and less over your waist - thanks to the Russkies.

So the primary benefit of Russian Aiders is your ability to stand around easily on steep ground while fiddle-farting with your next aid placement. Your stomach muscles will not ache as much, you will be less tired, aid climbing on steep ground becomes less strenuous [or not strenuous at all], and most importantly - you will have more fun when aid climbing, a LOT more fun!

 TRICK: When you have just stepped into your Russians from down low, if you are using a Yates-style adjustable daisy which has a steel ring on the free end, you can put the hook from your free leg into the ring on the adjustable daisy, and stand up on the ring, pulling yourself up with a 2:1 mechanical advantage using your foot. You can only do it for about a step or two, but it's a very cool and virtually effortless way of standing.

The technical term for this type of upward movement is "Karl Baba-ing."

 MYTH: You can stand taller in Russian Aiders than in regular aid ladders

Actually, you can't. In fact, the opposite it true - if you are highly skilled at top-stepping, or you are on low-angle ground, you can stand taller in regular aid ladders because you can get right up in your hero loops. There is no way to do this with Russian Aiders, as your top stepping ability is limited to the distance between your knee hook and the base of your foot.

Hook placed inside of Aid Tree ring - this looks to be a very bitchin' home-made stirrup assembly. Colourized photo by Richard Heinrich = spike

 DRAWBACK: On less than steep ground, where you are doing extreme top-stepping [example: low-angle rivet ladder beneath Timbuktu Towers on Never Never Land = Aquarian Wall] you will have to clip a regular small sling into the rivet, and put your foot directly into the sling to do an extreme top-step without using your Russian Aider at all, in order to reach the next rivet without using a cheat stick. If you are climbing a lot of moves this way, regular aid ladders would probably be better.

 MYTH: Standing in the top ring gives you the same reach as standing in the top step of your aid ladder

 TRUTH: Standing in the top ring is more or less equivalent to standing in the second steps of your aiders, but is dead easy, even on steep ground. You can hang around in comfort for a long time, and aid climbing becomes much less strenuous.

 TRICK: To extend your reach farther, you can put the hook on your shin directly into the piece, and not into the top ring of the Aid Tree clipped to the piece. Sometimes this will require you adding a carabiner to the piece, lowering your reach one carabiner length, but giving you the extra degree of freedom you need to put the hook directly into the gear. You will be amazed at how well this works when you are doing that most scary of aid move, top-stepping on hooks.

Close-up front view of the hooks, located on the shin just below the knees. The hooks have shifted position about 3" to the outside of my knees because they are not weighted - when you hook them into the Aid Tree rings and stand up, the hooks will rotate back into position on the inside of your knee

 BENEFIT: So what you can do with the Russkies is stand the equivalent of one step higher than regular aiders, but with the same amount of effort. It is “usual” to work mostly from the third step of your aid ladders, because this is the position which gives you the greatest reach-comfort benefit. You only get into your second steps when you feel you have to, because it is much more strenuous. With Russkies, you will hop right up into your top ring most every time, quickly and easily, and you will hang out there in comfort, even on [formerly] strenuous steep ground. You will get used to seeing your adjustable fifi cord pointing downwards from you to the hook.

Not only that, but you have the ability to make each aid move one foot higher with little further effort. Think about it – how much will an extra foot of reach on every placement improve your wall experience? You will reach the summit faster, in fewer moves and with less effort.

Close-up Front View of Trango Hook

You will also be able to more comfortably and competently climb harder aid, because you will be able to position your body better in strenuous placements for a longer time, in order to suss the best placement. This is only a real benefit on harder aid – on easy C1 cracks like you find on the Nose or Salathe Wall, it doesn’t really help you much.

 MYTH: With Russian Aiders, 5’4” Kate [Batgirl] will be able to clip Steve Gerberding’s rivets on Reticent Wall, which Steve [who is very tall] drilled from his top-steps.

 TRUTH: No she won’t. Batgirl would have a better chance of clipping Steve’s rivets from the hero loops of her aid ladders, but is probably too short to have done that. Since Kate is shorter than me, she had to extend her reach with her nut tool to get up some sections of Gerberding’s rivet ladders, because that is the only way she physically could make the moves. How do I know? Because I’m 5’9” or a bit less, and I had to cheat my way up a few of Steve’s rivets on Reticent Wall. I probably girth hitched a couple of wired stoppers together, or maybe duct taped a rivet hanger on the top of my hammer. I try not to do that very often, but I had to do it on Reticent because I'm too short.

I wonder if I could make the reach now with Russkies? I wonder how badly I'd do trying to repeat one of Dave Turner's routes?!

 TRICK: Try adjusting the length of your stirrup, to shorten the distance from your hook to your foot. The lower your hook, the less mechanical camming advantage you get, but the higher you can stand on each placement. Figure out which distance works best for you.

Side View of Trango Stirrups and Hook
Note that I am wearing no shoe, so consequently
the hook sits too high - with shoes it will sit lower

 BENEFIT: You get a lot less clusterfriggage* with Russian Aiders than you do with regular aiders. There is simply less stuff to get in your way. Instead of having two, three or four full-length aid ladders flailing around all over the place, you have two or four Aid Trees – nothing more than a dangling piece of webbing with some rings on it. Everything is attached, and there is no risk of dropping an aider [or Aid Tree].

There is also a huge benefit when you have to untwist your system because you misclipped, and crossed something over something else the wrong way. Instead of having to pull your daisy plus one or two pairs of aiders through everything to straighten it out, you only have to pull your daisy plus Aid Tree, which is hugely less klunky. For the same reason, switching feet is also a lot easier, for instance when you are switching direction of climbing from moving leftwards and up to moving rightwards and up, and you want to move the lead rope from across your right hip to running across your left hip – you only have to step over a daisy and Aid Tree.

In addition, your arms get less tired when climbing, because lifting the weight of an Aid Tree or two is rather easier than lifting a much heavier pair of aiders each move. This is particularly important to wiener-armed part-time climber-weaklings like me, who only get on the rock during their holidays. This way you can avoid the nuisance of training altogether.

Undoubtedly, Russian Aiders decrease your Wank Factor* when climbing.

Russian Aiders in action on Lunar Eclipse - photo by Richard Heinrich = spike

 DRAWBACK: Russian Aiders do not work as well on low-angle terrain – especially low-angle cracks – than regular aid ladders. This is because the damn rings on the Aid Trees keep getting jammed in the crack like an inverted chockstone pulled upwards! It can really drive you batty on certain pitches, if you have to keep downclimbing to free stuck rings. It is extremely difficult to prevent this from happening, and even more annoying to fix each time.

This situation is the one place you will find your Co-Efficient of Wank* increasing with Russian Aiders vs. regular aiders.

 MYTH: Russian Aiders are not so good, because bitchin’ climbers like Ammon McNeely don’t use them, and wankers* like Dr. Piton do. Perhaps this is because so few people can get their hands on the things to actually give ‘em a try. Well, if you are as bitchin’ a climber as Ammon, you can climb any damn way you like. And as for that other aforementioned wanker – ”Buuuuuuuurp!”

 DRAWBACK: Russian Aiders can be a pain when transitioning from aid climbing to free climbing. This is because you have a nylon strap underneath your instep, and more junk around your lower leg. It’s not like you can reach down and remove the things – you put them on in the morning, they stay on all day long, and then you take them off at night. If you switch from aid to free and are trying to friction up a slab, you will not like that slippery hunk of nylon between your rubber and the rock. If your “aid” climb requires a lot of transitioning back and forth from free to aid, you might want to consider using regular aiders.

 BENEFIT: In alpine climbing, where Russian Aiders made their debut, proponents like them because they can easily use the things while wearing crampons. It is difficult to use regular aiders when wearing crampons, for obvious reasons.

 MYTH: Russian aiders are no good for Yosemite jugging systems, bounce-testing or aggressive hauling because your hook keeps popping out of the ring when you lift your leg.

Trango Clip-In Loop for Jugging

 TRUTH: If you are a Russian Aider n00b, like I was the first time I used the things, you will not realize that there is a small clip-in loop directly above the hook that allows you to clip your stirrup directly to your Aid Tree with a crab when performing such activities – sheesh.

Russkies rigged for jugging - note clip-in point above hook on cuff

You can see above how Buddy has attached his Aid Trees to his cuffs with the dedicated clip-in loop that is nearly invisible directly above the hook. I can't comment on his ascending system, but if you know what you're doing, you can make a standard Yosemite Jugging System, or like me - a Frog system.

I climb big walls using the Frog system [because I am first, and always, a caver] and this uses a dedicated sling assembly. When I first tried Russkies on Excalibur, my upper jug and dedicated sling "disappeared" one night - funny how that happens, eh? So I switched my froggy over to the Russians, jugging while trying to keep my hooks in place! Sheesh.

If you use the clip-in point shown above, you can jug at will, or do crazy-ass upside-down hauling, without worrying about your hooks slipping out.

 DRAWBACK: It is sometimes difficult to get both hooks of your stirrups into the rings, especially the top rings, because there is not much degree of freedom when the Aid Tree is weighted. Please see the suggested product improvements below, which the Pro Model Russian Aiders will solve.

Russian Aider cuff hooks placed in top rings of Aid Trees - this is hard to do!

 RECOMMENDATION: When Big Wall Camping in your portaledge, be certain that everything you need for a night of comfort is with reach of you while you are standing in your ledge. Once you remove your Russian Aider stirrups, you are effectively “grounded” in your ledge. If there is anything that is too high to reach, you may well be buggered* since you have no way of climbing up to grab it.


Note that these product improvements are vis a vis the Trango models. Various prototypes have been developed, none of which is commercially available, that address some of these issues.

Pro Model Aid Trees – It’s awkward climbing with only two Aid Trees, each with pairs of hooks near the top. The tolerances are tight, especially with the other clusterfriggage going on in your system, and it is often difficult to get the hook on your second shin into the second ring when your other leg is already weighting the Aid Tree.

Aw, shoot - the Horse Chute!
Above the Truck Stop - SW Face El Cap
Photo by Holly Beck

The Pro Model will consist of four Aid Trees, one being a full length of five rings, and the other being a half length of three rings. I currently climb this way, using four Aid Trees - one new Fish Aid Tree and a second old Trango Aid Tree, one pair on each adjustable daisy. It is enormously faster and easier.

The Pro Model will also have a very tight loop at the top of the Aid Tree [see photo below] for attaching it to the Lead Carabiner, which is the dedicated keylock [non-toothed] crab you clip into each aid placement. My lead carabiner is pictured below - the purple Petzl Spirit straight gate. You want to minimize the height loss beneath the piece you’re standing on, but you also don’t want to risk losing your Aid Tree. While a larger hole permits the addition of a locking crab, it will lower you a carabiner length beneath your piece, or reduce the length of pull you get on your adjustable daisy by the same length, or both.

Trango Aid Trees - note Dr. Piton modification of tightened attachment loop at top

A tight loop on top of the Aid Tree – so tight that a carabiner will only barely fit – will give the Aid Tree enough “bite” on the lead carabiner that you don’t have to worry about the Aid Tree somehow falling off. As you can see in the photo of my blue Trango Aid Tree directly above, I took it to the shoe repairman, along with the lead carabiner I use, and asked him to bar tack the hole in the Aid Tree tighter so that the crab could just barely slide in and out. The yellow Trango Aid Tree pictured below has this bartack on it, although you cannot see it because it is hiding behind the Fish Aid Tree, which has not yet had this modification made, but is temporarily frigged with duct tape. This modification has worked well for me, and I have yet to drop anything [from my Russian Aider system] – sheesh. A disadvantage of this setup is that you lose a half a degree of freedom of the Aid Trees sliding easily along the bottom of the lead carabiner, so be careful to avoid gate loading. However this seems to me like the lesser of two evils - as you can see the system is compact and [reasonably] wankproof.

Pro Model Rigging showing direct attachment of all components - yellow Yates Adjustable Daisy, Fish [black] and Trango [yellow] Aid Trees - to the purple [right] Lead Carabiner. In my left hand is my left Lead Carabiner on red adjustable daisy, with attached Fish [yellow] and Trango [blue] Aid Trees. Note the shortened rigging of the right Lead Carabiner [above] - the "holes" in the Aid Trees and daisy are held tightly shut with duct tape to prevent accidental loss

Currently Yates Adjustable Daisies have too large a hole in their end, and you risk losing the whole lead carabiner plus Aid Trees assembly if you don’t incorporate a locker. Accordingly I put the daisy connection on the spine of the carabiner, and “block” it on the bottom with the tight-fitting aid tree.

Better “Chicken Loop” – this is the Velcro-secured elastic strap that goes round your foot and holds the stirrup in place. The strap needs to be beefier, and the patch of Velcro much larger in order to stick.

Side View of Trango Hook
Note tied-off strap due to lame-ass buckle

There needs to be more padding on the calf, and there needs to be a better buckle system for both the calf and the foot which doesn’t slip like the Trango models.

Evan Freeman's homemade Russian Aider cuffs - nice and comfy and wide. I used these on several walls until the hook system failed irrepairably. Note Big Wall Crab for scale - I will pay a $200 US cash reward for the return of my crab, or you can join me on my next ascent of El Cap

The strap beneath your foot also needs to be burlier – currently I have put a piece of 1” tubular webbing around the skinny webbing, and this prevents abrasion of the Trango unit. However this strap should be bigger, and why not? It’s not like you’re it around or anything. Why not make it as wide as seat belt webbing for extreme comfort?

The damn things need to be colour-coded! Make the right stirrup "red for right", and the left stirrup another colour completely, so you know which one to put on which foot each morning. With the Trango models, this is rather trickier than you might at first think.

Hooking on the Ranch - photo by Kate Robertson = Batgirl


Dr. Piton believes that not only are Russian Aiders the Better Way, but they are emphatically The Sh|t. While they are not a panacea, they are pretty darn nice most of the time.

I will also stand behind my previous proclamation that Russian Aiders will one day become the norm in aid climbing, if not entirely superseding standard aid ladders, at least becoming substantially more popular. I believe that this will happen sooner than later, as soon as a cost-effective and reliable model becomes commercially available.

Is there a market for these things? Holy Moses, yeah! Now somebody go out and make the damn things, will ya?

Cheers and beers,
The Diabolical Dr. Piton aka “Pass the Pitons” Pete Zabrok

Floyd looks happy with his Russian Aiders!
And maybe so will you

* Wank Factor = Co-Efficient of Wank – That unitless number, which when multiplied by the total amount of time spent performing a task, equals the amount of time lost to unproductive activity [i.e. wanking about]

*Wanker – one prone to operating under a high Wank Factor

* Clusterfrig – what you get when your Wank Factor spirals out of control

*Buggered – finding yourself in a bad situation – usually self-inflicted – ranging from slight discomfort to extreme risk of death. Not necessarily baaaaaaaaad when referring to inflatable Big Wall Sheep [e.g. Eva]


mars...it's near nevada...
Dec 4, 2007 - 05:50pm PT
nice write-up pete...very detailed, very interesting read...now i really want to test a set, for sure, eh...

Dec 4, 2007 - 06:00pm PT
Hey Pete, that's a mammoth compile you made above.

Where's the photos of how this thing works. Pictures to me speak volumes with this sort of thing.

Now I've seen everything except the hooks and how they attach.

Are they faster than using regular aiders?

If not, than slowness kills me .......
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Dec 4, 2007 - 06:34pm PT
I need some help.

I'm stuck in my backyard wearing my ski boots which are too well attached to my skis which I am laying on and can't seem to rise up from.

Damn you Pete!

Social climber
Charlevoix, MI
Dec 4, 2007 - 06:46pm PT
I think in your leverage example that a Tele set up would actually achieve the same effect as the leverage is coming from the toe (which is fixed) and the top of the stiff boot.

But this is a nice write up, thanks.


A friends backyard with the neighbors wifi
Dec 4, 2007 - 06:47pm PT
I agree with Mr. Braun, a picture speaks a thousand words...Id love to see a few photos of these things in action, I really have no idea how these things work and am having a hard time picturing it..

great info though.
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Dec 4, 2007 - 06:48pm PT
Thanks for the great write up. Pictures would be most appreciated!

Big Wall climber
Reno NV
Dec 4, 2007 - 07:37pm PT
Thanks Pete, but how am I supposed to copy them without pics?

Trad climber
Dec 4, 2007 - 07:40pm PT
i would sure like to try these things out someday.


Ice climber
canyon country,CA
Dec 4, 2007 - 08:34pm PT
A picture is worth a thousand words. You owe us like about 4 or 5 pictures.

Trad climber
Brooklyn, NY
Dec 4, 2007 - 10:39pm PT

So, your knee has a hook on the inside that goes into a ring, while the bottom of your foot is free against the rock but pushing against a stirrup? So essentially your flagging your foot using your knee as a fulcrum? (Using your legs and core to stand tall?)

Thanks, Kim

Edited to add: Can you sit down in a squat and rest?

It looks like (from the B & W photo) that you could put a hook in two opposing rings and stand in balance with your feet in a "V".
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 4, 2007 - 11:18pm PT
Hey guys,

Thanks for all your positive feedback! I'm about eight hours into this post now, but I have finally finished editing, uploading and hotlinking the photos. I have also made substantial revisions to the text with reference to your questions and to the photos, so you might want to have a re-read.

If you like and value this stuff, please reply to let me know. I can produce tons of stuff like this pretty easily, really. I can write pretty fast, it's just the photo phutzing that takes me so long. In fact, I can produce stuff like this on most any topic you need - just "ask Dr. Piton".

Werner, I think you'll like Richard's excellent photo of the hooks. I can't say if Russkies are any faster or not, but I don't think they're much slower either, especially when you upgrade to the Pro Model which is much easier to operate. You might be faster in regular aiders if you can slam your foot in without grabbing the aider - you usually have to grab the Aid Tree in order to get the hook into the ring.

Ron, you old fart - you might be in worse shape than me! Drink another beer and call your Wall Doctor in the morning.

Prod - yeah, you could step up in telemark bindings, but you will be camming your foot hard, straining the tendons on top. You will get hugely more mechanical advantage with a high-topped stiff downhill ski boot, I should think, and I know you will with a Russky stirrup.

Kim, your weight is more or less divided between the strap encircling your calf just below your knee, upon which the hook is weighted, and the strap running beneath your foot. If you are merely standing up on vertical or less-than-vertical rock, there is no camming action required, you just stand.

But when the rock overhangs, your knee is forced outwards and your toe moves inwards. Your toe is actually pressing against the rock - your heel is pretty much unrestrained. It is from this position - like what you see in the Shortest Straw photo - that you get the camming action between knee hook and foot.

I've never squatted and rested, it doesn't really feel practicable to me - you can rest quite comfortably in the lower "steps" = rings, while also hanging from your adjustable daisy. Yes, you can definitely make a "V" with your feet for stability, by pressing your heels together [usually] or your toes together [sometimes], pretty much the same way you can do with regular aiders.

And finally to rwedgee - I've put in ten pictures, so by my arithmetic you owe me five or six beers. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!!!

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
Dec 5, 2007 - 12:26am PT
For all the typing that Pete can do...the thing that speaks the most about how great these things are (or seem to be) is that after watching Pete climb with them, I'm willing to pay $300 for them...used!

Thank you for the article, Pete!

I'll report back on how my trial of them goes, looking forward to giving them a go.


Mighty Hiker

Social climber
Vancouver, B.C.
Dec 5, 2007 - 01:07am PT
So, Pete, how 'bout them Leafs, eh?

Big Wall climber
Yosemite area
Dec 5, 2007 - 01:25am PT
Hey Pete - Maybe you should put your heading article over here, too. People would probably really appreciate it, its a great article, the best stuff I've seen on the topic, anyway.


Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Dec 5, 2007 - 03:17am PT
Hey, Nefarious Randy: what about some photos of the RAiders that PTPP has stored at your place?

The Hook seems to be the main issue regarding good vs. bad designs, so a good set of views of that would seem to be in order. Post a photo of the hook you found, too.

I think Randy and Dingus both have the right idea: find an existing hook, and either modify it, or use it right out of the box. As I recall, the Chouinard/BD Cliffhanger has about the same dimensions as the titanium hook seen on "real" Russian Aiders. Cold-forming the base of that hook should not be a problem. After all, anybody ever seen a deformed angle pin, which is made from the same material? You could grind the sharpness off the tip, so it was more user friendly, as during a fall.

The weak velcro thing is easily solved: use real Velcro™, not the cheaper knockoff stuff. I worked on developing a product once that used velcro, and the Bean Counters wanted us to use the off-brand junk. Ten or twenty cycles, and the stuff was shot. Only Velcro™ held up for long-term use. The difference in price? Only Bean Counters, with an A-retentive complex, would have noticed.

As far as the fancy rings go, I know I've seen alloy steel washers, about 1.5" OD x 1.25" ID by about 1/8" thick. Unfortunately, I think they were part of the suspension of a Porsche I used to own, and thus, would be even more expensive than any titanium ring could ever possibly be.

So far, my short search for washers of that type, at the proper Grade 8 spec, has not been successful. But, I would guess they're out there, somewhere, for pennies apiece. The extra weight of the steel, compared to titanium, would be ludicrous to discuss. Alloy steel rings would rust at the surface, but not become cancerously weak. You should compare to cro-moly pins, like the ancient fixed ones you blindly clip every fifth/seventh route you do in the Valley.

Cro-moly tubing, in whatever size and wall thickness you want, is available from places like Aircraft Spruce. Cutting thin slices from that would probably provide good rings. You'd have to tumble them forever to radius edges that wouldn't cut the webbing. But, the tubing would come heat-treated and ready for business. Wider slices could be used to ensure no bending, even under bounce-testing.

Those Russian Aider titanium rings used to bend and deform, anyway.

Finding a way to incorporate RAider stirrups to a pair of high-top shoes (5.10 Altia), so there is no webbing strap across the bottom of the foot would be a great way to go. If the leg stirrups could be rapidly removed from the shoes, so much the better. Then again, cranking on the high-top uppers during bounce-testing of bad pieces might blow the soles of the shoes right out. Experimentation would be required, preferably up there, for the first time ever, on the Wall.

After all, there is little point in reducing the difficulty by using the newfangled RAiders, without first getting in one last, good Russian Roulette trip up the Stone.


Dec 5, 2007 - 05:24pm PT
Another pair on ebay:

Seattle, Wa
Dec 6, 2007 - 01:58pm PT
Here is a post from RC.com that shows a re-worked Uralsport Russian Aider. I put some decent pictures of the hooks in there.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Oakville, Ontario, Canada, eh?
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2007 - 02:19pm PT
Holy frig, Fender - that's a fabulous post you have over at that other place!! Since this is supposed to be the "ultimate" Russian Aider thread, how would you feel about copying and pasting your post over here at McTopo, along with those superb hotlinked photos? Once you do, I have a number of pro and con comments regarding your design that I will add here.

The other post at RC.com about Russian Aiders - which Tom started and which doesn't contain all that much info, to be quite honest - has 18,000 hits on it. So there is obviously a hunger - and a market - for Russian Aiders. What do you think about trying to keep everything in one place [here] to minimize the clusterfriggage, so there is a single definitive place to go to find the information you need? Accordingly, could you please put your excellent Russian Aiders stuff right here in this thread, Fender?

Anders, it is fortunate I am not a hockey fan, living in such close proximity to Toronto. Smartass. Do you know when Ottawa choked in the finals last year, and some bird-brained wankers from Anaheim won the coveted Stanley Cup, it was front-page news up here in the Great White North, and yet virtually nobody in California was even aware there were hockey games being played, let alone their significance? I hear even bowling is more popular than hockey in California.

Tom, your ideas as always are superb. Unfortunately, you will have to actually DO something to make them work. Mark and I could definitely use your help on WOEML next spring, and you know precisely what you need to DO to make this happen. For what is life without El Cap?

Kate - good idea, thanks for your kind comments. I'll put a copy of the heading article over here, too.

Hmmm, Tom's point about photos of the Trango hooks is valid. I actually brought my Russkies home to use for aid climbing in Roppel Cave, so I will take a few photos myself, and splice them into my article above.

Seattle, Wa
Dec 6, 2007 - 02:48pm PT
Per the Doctor's request:

These were made 2 years ago. I have since changed some of the design. The strap around the knee is now a steel specialty cinch buckle. No slippage. The loop to hold the foot in is now elastic and has a plastic ladder-lock instead of the 1" tubular and double-back buckle.

Still no padding. I haven't needed it yet.

Leg hook side

One wide strap goes around the calf just below the knee. The hook is positioned on the inside of the knee to facilitate hooking the rigs of the aid-tree.

The wide black webbing around the knee is 2" wide seatbelt webbing, about 24" long. The buckle at the end is a nickel plated steel double-back buckle.

The narrow yellow webbing is 1" wide tubular. The buckles are nickel plated steel as well. The main piece of webbing running from the hook around the bottom of the foot is about 50" long.

The black webbing on the footbed is 2" wide tubular webbing. It's about 9" long.

The short strap across the top of the foot is 1" wide tubular. It is about 18" long and has the same nickel plated buckle as the main webbing.

Leg outside


Here's a close-up of the footbed. The buckles are on the outside of the leg to reduce wear.

Assembled aider

Disassembled aider

The aider is actually two pieces. The long yellow strap goes through the bottom loop of the hook with a half twist and buckles back on itself.

Buckled footbed close-up

The inner (smaller) strap goes around your foot so that it doesn't slip out of the aider. It is sewn continuously along the footbed. I tried using the aiders without this strap and it was a real pain.

The original aiders had a strap that went around your ankle to perform this function. It tended to get in the way, so I copied the straps used on the Metolius Easy Aiders instead. I've used them heavily and they worked well.

Unbuckled footbed close up

Footbed close-up showing pooch

I added some extra material when I sewed in the footbed. This was mentioned in the Kung-Fu aider How to and it seemed like a good idea. The reason you leave the extra material is so that your weight is carried by the wider 2" webbing instead of the main 1" strap. I wanted one continuous strap from the hook all the way around the foot so that I wasn't entirely screwed if the stitching for the footbed failed.

Front side of hook

The hook plate is a piece of Ti bar stock 1" wide x 2 1/2" long x 1/8" thick. The hook has been welded to the base plate. The loops are made from thin wall Ti tubing that has been smashed a bit to elongate the radius.

Side of hook

The hook itself is 1/4" dia Ti bar stock. The hook is about 1 3/8" from the front side of the plate to the tip of the hook as shown in this photo.

Back of hook

You can clearly see that the hook is held on with 3 countersunk screws. The base plate of the hook has three tapped holes to accept the screws. I used a soldering iron to make neat holes in the knee strap. I also used a small piece of webbing as a "pad" for the metal to webbing interface. I think that the metal will wear on these small pieces of webbing instead of the main strap.

Plate Dims: 1" wide x 2" long x 1/8" thick

Notes on Construction:

I bought all the webbing and hardware (except hooks) from Seattle Outdoor Fabrics: [url]http://www.seattlefabrics.com/[/url]. The hooks could be easily manufactured by anyone with a welder.

I left about 2" of material to sew buckles on. I used a 10# test nylon upholstery thread. I did not have a bartacker, so I used a straight stitch.
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