Aid climbers ascend a rock face by pulling on pieces of fixed or placed gear and stepping in aiders (ladders made of webbing loops) to assist them. Aid climbing was the original technique used to climb big vertical walls in the early 1900s, and remains popular for big wall climbing in places like Yosemite, California. Tools used in clean aid climbing include hooks, nuts and modern traditional gear like cams. Many relics from early fixed aid climbing days can still be found on classic routes in the form of pinscars or actual pitons that still remain.
BIG WALL CLIMBING
You may have overheard folks wondering “what is the point of aid climbing?” but it’s actually an extremely handy and necessary skill to ascend certain steep walls. Many big wall routes have very difficult moves, like the Nose on El Cap that goes free at 5.14- and has been climbed by few talented rock climbers. Aid climbing through the difficult sections makes a route like the Nose available to almost anyone.
Climbing a “big wall” is usually a multi-day event, which climbers often refer to as a little bit of climbing with a lot of workhorsing. Logistics for big wall climbing are complicated; climbers must bring a static line and haul bags to carry up their food, water and supplies, as well as portaledges for sleeping and overnight gear.
There has been a rise in popularity in climbers pushing the limits of free and aid big wall climbing. One way climbers are breaking new ground is in speed climbing: the current speed record on the nose is 2:23:46. Climbers are also at the leading edge of difficult big wall climbing. In 2015, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgenson did the first free ascent of the Dawn Wall, the hardest big wall route in the world (which recently saw a second ascent by Adam Ondra, and in 2012 Alex Honnold free soloed El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mount Watkins in a single 24 hour push.
Alpine climbing is one of the most adventurous and dangerous branches of climbing and is a sport for those who dream of climbing mountains. Alpine climbers often need to apply a range of techniques from other sub-disciplines of climbing like face and crack climbing, placing traditional gear, and ice climbing. Multipitching and aid climbing techniques can also prove to be useful.