What style etrier do you like to use?


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Eric McAuliffe

Trad climber
Alpine County, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 31, 2009 - 12:14am PT
So im getting into wall climbing and i'm using the BD traditonal style etrier and i am not to sure how stoked about them i am as apposed to the Yates "ladder" style. any help with some pros and cons for each?

Trad climber
Can't get here from there
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:31am PT
I used the old style Metolius's for a while and for a few years now the Yates ladders. Mostly only use 2 at a time but I like the Yates ladders with the spreader bar much more than I liked my old ones. When I use a floater I'll use one of my Mets with the two ladders. A lot easier IMO to get your foot in and out of the step, up or down with the Yates ladders. YMMV

Mar 31, 2009 - 12:52am PT
You're on it, Eric (& jb). The trim ladders available today are pretty popular, and easier to run with two than offsets.

The Fish ladders are insanely light. The Yates speed ladder looks a little more burly (never owned). The regular Yates ladder is too much, IMO. I've been using the Fish ladders with matched Fish offset-style when I want four. My fave aider setup so far. Because they're so thin you can easily use your "russian" aid cuffs with them. Nice.

PS: Two "russian" aid trees need good home.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:03am PT
My aid rack is joining the century, so I'll be interested in the answers as well. At this point, though, I have yet to see anything that makes me want to ditch my traditional, hand-tied ones.

Todd Gordon

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:10am PT
I like long aiders that are 2 different colors so as not to get confused.........I use FISH aiders;....they are awesome.....simple, sturdy, functional, and not fancy;.....and I use them all the time on new routes;.....don't leave home without them......

[Click to View Linked Image]

Tacoma, Toyota
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:27am PT
I've been digging the Yates speed ladders since I got em. they don't tangle like the BD ones always would, and they have a SWEET stretchy strap to hold your foot in place while jugging. My buddy had a pair of Misty Mountains that had the same feature too...
T Moses

Trad climber
Paso Robles
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:57am PT

[Click to View Linked Image]
Erik Sloan

Mar 31, 2009 - 01:59am PT
Aiders are like cars: everyone has different things they view as super important and they swear by their brands and styles though we all admit that in the end they get us to the same goal.

The BD offset aiders and the Yates and other brands ladder style rigs have much shorter steps than the Metoilus and the Yates 4 & 5+2 offset styles. I want to say the Metolius and Yates offset aiders use a 9 inch step while the ladder style is more like 6 inches. So I usually recommend the BD offsets or ladder-style for folks under 5'9" who don't feel as comfortable taking the bigger steps. If you're tall enough for them to be comfortable these larger steps are golden because you cover more ground efficiently.

I use the offset aiders. Usually Metolius 3/4" 4-steps though if I"m doing a hard nailing route I'd bring the 1" 5-steps. The bummer with the Metolius aiders is that the top bartacks tend to blow out. Chris Mac brought this to Met's attention in the late 90s and they added an extra piece of webbing at the top step's bartacks on his aiders with additional stitching but I haven't been able to get them to do this since. I love the lightness of the 3/4" aiders and with the 4-steps I find that they don't seem to twist as bad as the longer, more step-ed kind. (with longer, many-steped aiders you seem to spend lots of time untwisting them--which is what led everyone to embrace the ladder style. The 4-steps are shorter but for easy aid they are fine and don't twist too much).

Last week I climbed El Cap and my Metolius 4-step blew out on the 3rd pitch(I break two per year but I climb El Cap usually 5 times plus some other smaller stuff) and I climbed the rest of the route with one 4-step aider and my partners floater Yates bigwall aider. Admittedly the bigwall aider is bigger than the speed ladder but in my head to head comparison on C1 cracks I would say the offset aiders are still superior if you plan to just use one aider on each daisy for walking up. On steep faces like the Southeast face the wall ladder style would shine more but if you're doing an easy aid route where you're climbing lots of 5.10-5.12 cracks the ladder style rigs tend to stay in the crack and are more difficult to get your foot in compared with the offset aiders which naturally drape on either side of the crack.

Apples and Oranges for sure. If you pick a style and practice any aider will do you just fine.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Mar 31, 2009 - 11:34am PT
This is still a work in progress for my new big walls book... so check back and it will probably be updated

you can see other articles on the big walls book here


There are three common types of aiders:

My favorite type of aider for more aid-intensive walls like Zodiac, The Prow, or The Shield for three reasons:
1) they are much less prone to twists and "going inside out" than standard aiders.
2) you don’t have to orient the aider step to the correct side when you are stepping into it
3) because the steps are closer together at the top, you can often rest two feet in the aider at the same time. Make sure there is a plastic spreader bar at the top of aider. The downside the aid ladders is that they are a little heavier than standard aiders and generally have more material which means they are more likely to get stuck in the crack – which really sucks when moving from aid to free

 Yates Big Wall Ladder - I have used these a lot after Ammon McNeely showed them to me – then gave me a pair (thanks Ammon!) I really like them and when teaching people to aid climb they seem the easiest to use. I have only used the 6 step length but really tall people or people doing really hard aid might consider the 7-step length.
 Metolius Aid Ladder – I have not used these and need to before I can recommend them. Their lack of plastic spreader bar may or may not be an issue
 Fish Ladder Aider Have not used them but they look great. The webbing is thinner on the steps (i think 1" instead of 2" like the Yates. So they are proabably a little less comfortable but also a less likely to get stuck in cracks).

The most common type of aider.I prefer these on walls with lots of free climbing (The Nose, Lurking Fear) over aid ladders because they are lighter weight and less bulky for when you clip them to you’re the side of your harness and free climb. The downside is they get twisted, the steps get turned inside out, and you always have to orient them properly (left foot into a step oriented left of center). That means more dealing and declustering time which adds up over the course of a wall and disrupts the “aid climbing flow.” Make sure there is a grab loop at the top. I prefer models where the top and second step have sub steps. The webbing should be at least one inch wide and have some type of reinforcement on the bottom of each step.

  Petzl WallStep 7-Step Etrier - This is currently my favorite aider for a route like The Nose because it is lightweight but has reinforced steps that are relatively comfortable. I cut off the bottom step, but you might keep it if your either really tall or planning to do some hard aid. Downside is there is no top sub step.

 Fish Smart Aiders - I used these for my first dozen or so walls. Great solid aider and much cheaper than the others.

  Metolius 5-Step Aider I used these for a lot of big wall ascents. The vinyl reinforced steps definitely make them more comfortable and keep the steps open and easy to slide your foot into. The sub-steps on the second and top step are awesome for top-stepping. As Nanook mentioned, the steps do eventually blow out as the stitching gets worn away. not an issue if you do a wall or two a year. But if you aid climb a lot, you should consider finding someone to reinforce those points.

Best for mostly free routes where you occasionally need to use aiders. Very light weight but uncomfortable if you’re standing for more than a few minutes. If I’m doing The Nose in a day, I’ll usually bring one of these and one mid weight aider like the Petzl WallStep . Bad choice for learning to aid climb.

 Petzl Gradistep 5-step Etrier in Bag – These are great super light weight aiders because the fold up in their own bag. Great for mostly free routes with just a few sections of aid, like Northwest face of half dome. I have used them on one day Nose ascents, but would probably use something a little beefier on my next one days ascent. Great on alpine climbs where there might be just a little aid.

For easier aid or free climbing, I prefer aiders that come up to chest height. For harder aid, I prefer aiders that come up to eye height.

Shorter aiders are less bulky when you clip them to the side of your harness for free climbing. Longer aiders are good for harder aid because you have more options of where you body is when bounce testing.

 Russian Aiders – tried them, but never really got the hang of them. A few people swear by them but I have never met anyone who climbs real quickly that uses them.
 Adjustable aiders – tried them once. Not great for leading. Good for following until you have to clean a horizontal traverse. If you bring them for following, it means you will probably end up managing multiple sets of aiders. that goes against what i believe is the key to having fun and succeeding at walls: keep the systems as simple as possible
Ain't no flatlander

Mar 31, 2009 - 12:40pm PT
FWIW, Misty makes a pretty nice ladder-style aider too.

Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:44pm PT
Chris writes: Fish Smart Aiders - I used these for my first dozen or so falls.

So, what you are saying is you used the FISH Aiders until you stopped falling? Then what did you use? ;)

Edit: here is an aider review and other good info about the styles:


dangling off a wind turbine in a town near you
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:53pm PT
Ladder style seems easier to get in and out of, less tangle-prone.

My 2 cents

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:53pm PT
I have a pair of A5 4 step aiders and a pair of wild country 5 step aiders. I put one 4 and one 5 step on each daisy chain. Climb up into the 2nd steps, hook your placement with your fifi, stretch as far as you can for the next placement, then clip the other set of aiders and repeat.

I haven't tried any other style aiders, maybe this year. Having two pairs of aiders seems to save time over working with a single pair and thus having only one foot in an aider while you move up the other aider. Whatever system you choose, you'll have to practice with it to get down a smooth and efficient rythm.
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:55pm PT
If it's easy aid, mixed free/aid I like 2 offset aiders. I clip one aider to a piece, then climb up that one aider with both feet. I finally figured out that's why they alternate the steps on either side.

If it's hard aid then I like 3-4 ladder or 4 non-offset aiders. A pair clipped to a piece. Then you can kick one foot behind you when it's overhanging. One foot stays with each aider. So it's better when all the foot loops are on one side of the aider or better yet a ladder style that's good for either foot with a nice comfortable handle at the top.
Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
Mar 31, 2009 - 12:56pm PT
oops... i meant dozen walls not falls. luckily have not taken a dozen falls yet
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:01pm PT
Yates Speed Stirrups are WAY better for jugging than aiders. Your foot doesn't fall out, and you can dial the length in exactly and change the length on the fly. So the leader has aiders and the second has stirrups. Stirrups can be used for aiders if the leader drops an aider.

The ones with the big buckle don't slip like the ones with the small buckle.

Mar 31, 2009 - 01:11pm PT
Glad to see some current banter on this. Great dissections, you guys.

Some fine points on the Fish ladders...they're all 3/4" webbing. For that reason, the ladder (with a grab loop) is only grams heavier than it's regular (non-ladder) Smart Aider match (without grab loop). With that slender webbing, the ladder is actually more compact than the reg aider. You can literally stuff one in a pocket. The nice price, too, as mentioned. You will want to tape up the shoulder, outside of the spreader bar. The webbing overall on mine has gotten a little stiffer with use/age, which has made them more useful.

And since they're XX inches long, they work for both hard and easy aid ; }

The "Smart" concept is just that. Tighter grouping of progressively higher steps. The top steps are great for fifi-ing and ruskie-ing, so much so that I had Moof/Garbonzo make me a new pair of cuffs.

It's a well-thought-out design. If I was to change it at all, I would make the ladder 1/2-3/4" more narrow and add some protection outside the spreader bar. Pipe dreams aside, they're Aider Nirvana for my coin.

Rock on...

PS: 100% with the Fet on following set-ups. Adjustables with foot straps are far superior to leading set-ups. These Pika ones are the coolest ones I've used:

[Click to View Linked Image]

One handed foot and waist adjustment, cool. They don't make them normally, but Josh would probably sew you up a pair if you asked him. Peck Aiders is what he calls 'em.

vvv Jay, never had that problem with any of the buckles on either pair of Pika Peck Aiders I've owned. I would consult the mfr.
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Fairfax, CA
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:16pm PT
I have some Yates speed stirrups that slip, 'though the webbing isn't very worn, and I can't see any wear on the buckles.

What's the fix? I tried turning the webbing around, no better.

Seems like there could be a better, lighter buckle....


Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:29pm PT
Thanks for your always helpful posts!!!

A long way from where I started
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
It's been a long time since I did much aiding, but I do spend a fair amount of time jugging and hanging on ropes cleaning dirt/roots/moss/etc out of cracks up here in the northwet, and agree with the posters above that adjustables are far superior for jugging/cleaning. I've been using Metolius Easy Aiders for the last few years, and like them a lot. Never used any other brands, so can't compare them to other adjustables, but they sure are better than standard aiders or ladders when you're on jugs.
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