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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 8, 2008 - 02:25pm PT

I am working on a How to Big Walls book with David Safanda Design Solutions. I am seeking inspiration, constructive criticism and suggestions.

Below is a list of all the topics i have posted. Thanks for you feedback!

1. Introduction
2. My Personal Road to The Nose
3. Master Checklist

Aid Climbing Skills
1. Reading and Movie List
2. Acquire basic aid climbing gear
3. Basic leading on low-angle terrain
4. Basic following on low-angle terrain
5. Basic leading on vertical and overhanging terrain
6. Basic following on vertical and overhanging terrain
7. Leading placing gear and following cleaning gear
8. Building anchors
9. Basic aid course: lead, build anchor, clean
10. Traversing terrain
11. Acquire more gear: haulbags and hauling gear
12. Hauling and belay management
13. Advanced air course: lead traversing terrain on bigger cliff, haul and clean
14. Multi pitch aid climb
15. The bivy, food and water
16. Retreat and bailing
17. Advanced stuff you may or may not need to know

Aid Practice Routes in Yosemite

Here are some threads that are not chapters in the book
First post asking for suggestions on how to get feedback
suggest your other favorite how-to guidebooks
What is the best aider to use?
using brand names of devices vs. generic terms
forum discussion on how to make a poop tube
Big Wall Passing Etiquette

Here is a list of all the youtube instructional videos i have made:

The Leading Sequence
Leading: Moving up the piece
Fifi Lenght and Top stepping
Back up Knots
Using Two aiders Not Four
Racking Gear when cleaning
Bounce Testing
Basic ascender set up
Jumaring Technique
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 13, 2008 - 03:10pm PT
just added how to build poop tube thread to list

Trad climber
Oct 13, 2008 - 05:45pm PT
Good clean diagrams that relate to the task. this really separates good how to guides from cryptic bibles.

photos don't work as well as good line drawings.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Oct 13, 2008 - 06:12pm PT
I think it's great you are making a new "how to" bigwall book. The other ones out there just aren't that good, and I know yours will be an improvement.

Couple things:
I would suggest putting in a section on advanced techniques that help people climb faster, like short-fixing, etc.

In your ethics section try to add something about Copperheads being a last resort form of pro. It seems there is an increasing trend to smash a head in a good pin scar that could take a pin or even clean pro. Also add that drilling bathook hole to bypass a tricky section is unacceptable. Even worse filling that hole with a head! Lot of that going on up there it seems.

I think you should show all the different types of equipment being used like Kong Block-Roll vs Pro Trax, Gri-Gri vs Silent Partner, etc.

Social climber
down south
Oct 13, 2008 - 07:52pm PT

Hobart, Australia
Oct 13, 2008 - 08:08pm PT
Some topic suggestions:

Tricks of the ultra-fast: how the heck do ya climb the Nose in 2:37?

Tricks of climbing "regular" fast on more aided climbs:, (egZodiac in a day), two person vs. three person, ropes, anchors, etc.

Application of Yosemite techniques to the remote mountains--fast, light, and lots of free.

Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 14, 2008 - 02:41pm PT
thanks guys... all the ideas and motivation are helping me chip away at this book. can't wait to get er done!

Oct 14, 2008 - 03:07pm PT
A chapter on "Visualizing".

It's an extremely important subject matter that never gets mentioned. A lot of times these "how to books" turn people into instant robots.

Visualizing anchor layouts for efficiency in all it's varied dynamics. Visualizing scenarios that can create, efficiency, robustness, speed, along with eliminating potential dangerous problems that can cause reorganizing the anchor later.

In a nutshell, visualize a clean efficient layout, before making the huge clusterfuks I've seen parties make time and time again.

Social climber
The internet
Oct 14, 2008 - 04:29pm PT
"Visualizing anchor layouts for efficiency in all it's varied dynamics."

I think this takes awhile to learn.

Along those lines, the important piece is to lay out the principles - ie, what kinds of loads are present, how hauling and such fits into the anchor, etc.

The only way anyone is going to be able to visualize anything is if they have a library of working pieces and requirments. I think the "robot" comment comes from trying to apply just a few ways of doing things to every situation, perhaps not understanding the fundamentals well enough to be able to invent on the fly, which is the goal.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Oct 14, 2008 - 04:41pm PT
Thread Drift- n00bs need to spend more time visualizing the Send and not the Bail.

Gym climber
berkeley, ca
Oct 14, 2008 - 04:55pm PT

What type of book are you aiming to write? Long/Middendorf style basics to get started or something more Chongoesque in its breadth?

If you go the Chongo route w/ more advanced topics (and I hope you do), you might have some sort of icon/bullet system that differentiates between the most n00b-friendly way of doing things vs. slick tricks that work best on overhanging rock in the hands of experts.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 15, 2008 - 10:53am PT
at first i just wanted to make a shorter book that was geared toward 90% of big walls ascents (which are C1 and C2 routes). but now its probably going to cover it all and have info on harder aid, soloing, etc.

the main focus of the book is going to be getting the essentials dialed and having streamlined, efficient systems.

hopefully i can keep it under 3 inches thick.
Jim E

Oct 15, 2008 - 11:44am PT

Mountain climber
Oct 15, 2008 - 12:16pm PT
A few other topics that should be included:

Rope management for both lead and haul ropes. A simple rope bag like what you can get from Fish is really nice for organization. It is also helpfull to visualize the lead rope as always next to the wall and the haul line as a seperate system that is away from the wall.

Tagging gear - simple topic, but it does not occur to some new climbers that they can use the haul line to send up gear from the belay until they are 100' out (assuming a 200' haul line).

Don't forget the obvious like:
 Ensolite pads lining the haul bag
 Pre-arranged rope signals for when you cannot verbally communicate
 Haul bags to one side to minimize the cluster at the belay
 Don't let the haul bags ever be in a position where they can knock rocks on your partner
 How to tie in for sleeping
 How much water to bring
 How to free a stuck haul bag
 Re-enforcing the toe of your aid shoes

I agree with the comment about line drawing being better than pictures.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 15, 2008 - 01:42pm PT
this is great. the bullet point lists of things to cover are especially helpful

Big Wall climber
A cube at my soul sucking job in Oregon
Oct 15, 2008 - 02:39pm PT
Topics I see as being weak in the existing books:

1. Aid shoe strategies (boots vs approach shoes vs climbing shoes). I've wasted too much money on shoes that suck too badly on the approach, 5.easy freeing, and/or smashing toes/feet in aiders.

2. Soloing.

3. Good pictures and diagrams of mechanical advantage rigs for hauling. Bad hauling destroys morale faster than scary aid pitches.

4. Staying comfy on multi-hour belays.

5. Multi-bag rigging for hauling. I'm suprised by the arguments I get into at the base on this seemingly simple task.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Oct 15, 2008 - 02:58pm PT
expando techniques

Social climber
Oct 15, 2008 - 03:08pm PT
I like Werner's post on "Visualization". For me actually getting on the wall is always the problem. Before launching off the ground the butterflies of doubt and fear creep in. Once on the wall, I always relax knowing that going up is usually easier than backing off. Once we start climbing the "fun" begins and the "focus" on the goal is razor sharp. It is the mental commitment that gets me up the wall.

I would also discuss how to "improvise". It seems you can never bring enough gear and water on a wall. At some point I am always taking gear or water out of the haul bag so we can actually reasonably manage to haul the bag.

Comfort and Preventative Hand Care:

My partner wears contacts and always brings "baby wipes". Two wipes at the end of a long day are great to remove the crud from your face and hands. It almost feels like a shower.

Cleaning your hands and applying a little moisture cream under your nails and in your cuticles avoids those painful cuticle splits and nail separation. There were times my finger tips were so sore from nail separations that I could not bear to touch anything. Cleaning and moisturizing my nails each day avoided this problem.

Ice climber
Ashland, Or
Oct 15, 2008 - 04:37pm PT
photos of all the potentail types of Cam Hook placements that can work.

I think a lot of people need to 'see it to believe' what can be done with those things.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 18, 2008 - 04:48pm PT
I just added the preface to the list above. or you can click on it here
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