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......


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

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:

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.
the Fet

Knackered climber
A bivy sack in the secret campground
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
"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?"

Put a knot on the other side of the buckle. Sucks cause you lose the easy adjustability, but better than slipping.

If you have the small buckles I'd check with Yates if they'll swap them out, or give you a discount on a new pair.

Yeah seems like there should be a better buckle than a motorcylcle tie-down buckle. I haven't used the Metolius Easy Aiders but their buckle seems like it may be better for this application.

I like the Yates buckle better for an easy daisy because it's much easier to lenghten when weighted vs. the Metolius.

On another note if you want to go cheap you can make foot loops (like speed stirrups) out of 1" webbing. Put a clove hith on the biner at the top for adjustability. I guess you could do the same to the Yates speed stirrups for a fix, keep the nice foot loop on the bottom and use a clove hitch instead of a buckle.
Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Mar 31, 2009 - 01:41pm PT
mike writes: 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.

There is now a protection pad of webbing on the outsides of where the handle rubs on the wall on the FISH Ladders. That area takes tons of wear and I'd probably PlastiDip the wear point as well.

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Mar 31, 2009 - 03:27pm PT

Is there any problem with the solvents in the plasti dip weakening webbing?
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 31, 2009 - 03:27pm PT
Hey, go old skool:


Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Mar 31, 2009 - 03:48pm PT
My fist set were old school over handed 1" tubular webbing.

What I found was, the loops don't want to stay open, so getting your foot in the aider can be a challenge. The knots jabbing into your ankles don't feel good. I don't recall how much the A5 aiders were, maybe $35 for the pair? Anyhow, money very well spent!
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Mar 31, 2009 - 03:51pm PT
I use a Yates speed stirrup on one leg (only because the other leg is toast). I had to replace one when it began to slip a bit after lots of pitches, but you will eventually have to replace anything if you use it long enough. I love the thing, and can't imagine climbing without it.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Mar 31, 2009 - 04:20pm PT
To keep my old school etriers open, I cut hollow one-inch webbing into about five-inch lengths, and slipped those over the loop to form steps.

My next set, though, I just used solid, and thereby stiff, webbing.

Russ Walling

Social climber
Upper Fupa, North Dakota
Mar 31, 2009 - 05:07pm PT

Paul: not that I've ever seen. Of course since this is the internet, and I have no source, so you'll just have to take my word for it (yer gonna die)

But over the last 25yrs or so I've used it on just about everything, including a core shot in the middle of a big fat static line..... I would not advise coating your belay loop with the stuff though.

I'll dig through my aid bin and if I can find something with plastidip on it (I recall a daisy chain??) I'll pull test it along side a fresh and similar unit and report back.

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montanagonia
Mar 31, 2009 - 05:11pm PT
I am the black sheep here for sure. I started out with my home tied 1" webbing, and soon had to have something that would stay open and allow my foot in easier. So along came the pair of BD etriers, 5 and 6 step. Did a few pitches in them and they were better but following was a pain to stay in the right rung jugging and what not.
Bought a pair of Met easy aiders and daisies and have not looked back. Wore em out and got another pair. Bought a backup pair to take on solo trips and don't even take the BD's off the shelf anymore. I do not understand why they aren't used more by others, as they sped me up, solo or partnered, leading or following.
John Mac

Trad climber
Littleton, CO
Mar 31, 2009 - 07:50pm PT
Fish Smart Aiders. I really like them and don't understand why more people don't use them.
Nudge Nudge

Trad climber
WI, now CA
Apr 1, 2009 - 02:47pm PT

Mountain climber
Apr 1, 2009 - 04:28pm PT
I vote for Misty Mountain, and of course the home made aiders...

East Coast US
Apr 1, 2009 - 04:56pm PT
Mine are really fuzzed and I probably got them in 1989. I don't do as many walls as you guys, but these have gotten up a couple of grade Vs and VIs in the valley and bailed off many more.

I think mine are actually A5. Would they be considered collectors items now?

Big Wall climber
The Immaculate Conception
Apr 1, 2009 - 04:59pm PT
Damn, Ed beat me to it.

Frost Knot.....no pain, no gain! ;)

ssshhhh.......I use Yates Speed Aiders. Don't tell the old skoolers.

Trad climber
The High And Lonely
Apr 1, 2009 - 05:33pm PT
i have a pair of A5 aiders from '95 that i absolutely love. they are fuzzy, dirty and have tape on the steps, but they are my go to aiders for jugging. people tend to give them skeptical glances when they come out of the pack. any chance you will ever replicate them again deuce?

Trad climber
Apr 1, 2009 - 07:16pm PT
Anybody ever make aiders like this?

Kind of like two but with only one biner.

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Apr 1, 2009 - 07:29pm PT
The problem with that design is there are times where you want to put one foot back to push your hips into the wall, and one foot against the rock to keep from spinning.

And you can put two aiders on one biner, so no savings there.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Apr 1, 2009 - 09:09pm PT
Before buying aiders , take off your shoes and "climb" up them starting with the lowest rung. Ideally the step spacing matches your comfortable climbing motion while standing in balance on either foot.

Make sure that you have enough length to be able to reach at full extension and still be able to step into the bottom loop. If you are top stepping you need to be able to transfer laterally without stepping down.

I use a single side-to-side 5 step in each hand with a third bundled. Keep it simple.

Trad climber
Apr 8, 2009 - 10:06pm PT
I learned to big wall climb with the Yates speed wall ladders and loved them. Before buying these I borrowed and tried a few different kinds of the traditional etrier styles. I much preferred the ladders since I didn't have to fish around to get my foot in the loop - the spreader bar and ladder design make it very easy to get your foot in place quickly and accurately. Also, the elastic strap to keep your foot in place when jugging is great.

I also tried out the regular Yates Big Wall ladders (with the fat 2" steps), but found them too bulky and heavy. The speed wall's 1" steps worked just fine for me with hiking boots or climbing shoes.

Trad climber
Novato, CA
Apr 10, 2012 - 01:18am PT
I led my first aid pitch this weekend, so I figure I'm the newest aider expert around here. I had practiced aiding up my homemade bolt ladder for the past few weeks in my partner's scetchy, old, misshapen, twisty, inside-out-half-the-time, etrier-style aiders and was looking forward to getting some aid practice in Yosemite this past weekend. I went to the mountain shop and tried out both the Metolius etrier-style and the Yates Big Wall Ladder. The Yates ladder put me off a bit with its over $50 price tag, but it seemed really bomber. I asked both the guys behind the counter which they prefer and they both seemed to think the ladder style was a weird trendy fad that never really made sense to them. The $37 etriers seemed really appealing. They let me hang them from a rope in the shop and my partner and I both thought the Yates ladder was superior. I dropped my credit card on the counter and got a pair, feeling like I never regret paying for the best, and often kick myself for saving money on second-best. After half a day of practice in them, my seasoned big wall partner went back to the shop and dropped over $100 of his own on a pair of Yates Big Wall Ladders. To a beginner, they seem superior in every way to etrier style aiders. I can climb them without looking at my feet, as opposed to spending seconds or minutes trying to get my toe into just the right spot. If I'm going to spend the better part of a couple days in them this summer, these are the only aiders I can imagine using.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Apr 10, 2012 - 01:44am PT
Since this has been bumped, for aid walls, definitely ladders. And another big vote for Fish ladders, whether 3/4 inch webbing or pay the couple bucks extra for more cush from 1 inch. Like some poster upthread, I have one ladder and one matching Fish light aider on each biner. Four is definitely a bit more of a cluster but less strenuous overall. For a mixed wall (Nose), three aiders, one per biner. You can leave one behind when going free and still have two left in case that doesn't work out as planned... The aiders with lots of short steps are not good at all, if you are wearing approach shoes or boots, it is too much fiddling to get your foot in. The spacing of steps on the Fish aiders (which matches the ladders exactly - perfect!) is right. It makes you make bigger steps up thereby saving time every single placement. To me, the solid plastic spreader bar at the top seems essential. I have other Misty Mtn. gear and think it is fantastic (best big wall gear sling by far), but their ladder lacks the spreader bar, which is a great handle and helps get your foot in when top stepping.

Go Fish!

Apr 10, 2012 - 10:42am PT
Credit: WBraun

Rolls eyes ..... :-)

Trad climber
los gatos. ca
Apr 10, 2012 - 12:04pm PT
yates ladders... got them and haven't looked back to the days of untangling and untwisting my old etriers. They are a bit heavier but i think it's worth the weight

Trad climber
East Coast
Apr 10, 2012 - 12:53pm PT
I think the interval distance of the steps matters more than the style or brand. Each has their pros and cons.

What I have found is that when you are in the third step of the Yates Speed Ladders (similar to second step in traditional style aiders), I want the aider biner to just come up to my crotch.

That way, I am at least in a position of more stable tension when I fifi in on a steep wall.

For topstepping, you can use adjustable aiders or fifis, a biner on your daisy chain, or a quik clip.
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