Many people that I meet while climbing ask me what it is like establishing a bigwall free climb. After we talk a bit some of them say that they would like to do it some day. I remind them that it is more work than climbing and hand drilling is not fun and that 95% of the time is used to establish the climb and 5% of the time is you actually climbing it.
This past break I had the pleasure of teaming up with an old friend who had not been on a new routing adventure. Over the four days that we worked on our new line (only getting 800ft up) he learned a lot!
I am going to summarize some of the things that we talked about that will make our next time working on the route a pleasure for Sean!
- http://www.campsaver.com/easy-aider This is the link for the Metolius Easy Aider. Bottom Line don’t mess with ascending lines without this stuck to your feet! Sean learned that trying to ascend a fixed rope is much more difficult while trying to keep your feet on the step of a traditional aider.
- Food and Water. Sean is a big guy and needs lots of food and water. He didn’t bonk but I know that he felt pretty low after a day without proper food and water intake.
- Dress for the weather. (Average temperatures were in the low 30’s and we were on a North facing wall that received no sun). Sean was dressed warm enough but understanding layering is key to staying healthy and ready when pushing up a new terrain.
- Belay gloves are not only for ascending but for rock and dirt removal and tree branch removal, hand drilling and keeping your skin in one piece after days of being on the wall.
- Big dinners and breakfasts lots of water are the key going, going, going each day at your limit. After long approaches, steep approaches, 100’s of feet of ascending with heavy loads you need to keep your body feeling ahead rather than behind. As soon as you are behind the spiraling out of control towards bonking begins and then you are a liability instead of a helper on the wall. Sean was great at always being ready to go even through the fatigue.
- Cleaning routes is hard and dangerous! When you have to wire brush or remove loose blocks or small pieces of loose rock, you have to be very careful. When dirt is falling down upon you or blowing up the wall to you it ends up everywhere. Dropping rocks clean of your partner, fixed lines and anchors can be challenging.
- Wear a hoody. It keeps you warm but mostly it keeps the sand from going into every pore of your body.
- Wear durable clothing. Down jackets will split open when you are climbing or ascending that surprise off-width or chimney pitch.
- Auto Locking Biners! Use them for everything. Its amazing what will open by itself when you are ascending or banging on rocks.