Climbing an El Cap Grade VI in a day, while now somewhat commonplace, is still one of the greatest physical and psychological challenges that a rock climber can face. Covering the monolith’s thousands of feet of vertical terrain under the 24-hour mark is no small feat. As most accomplished speed climbers will tell you, technique is as valuable as strength and bravery when it comes to blitzing the Captain.
Behold, the Yosemite Secret Weapon (YSW). Born from years of toil on the big walls of the Valley, this nifty gadget is guaranteed to have you flying up the thin seams, bolt ladders, and manky fixed sections that grace El Cap and other big walls. The YSW has been employed on many a Grade VI speed record, and is useful on any speed climb with continuous, uniform features.
The elements of the YSW (you will need one on each aider) are a set of five finger-sized cams, a rivet hanger, a cam hook, and a narrow-profile, taped-open biner. Attach these items to your daisy chain and aider and they’ll be positioned for rapid deployment, eliminating the time-consuming process of switching commonly used pieces in and out.
There are two ways to attach the YSW: Connecting everything with either a large locking biner or a webbing loop on a water knot. The webbing-loop method is sleeker and more slender, but will wear out after just a couple of walls. The locking biner is more durable, and exchangeable. If your chosen route has loads of pin scars, clip a couple of offset cams to each weapon. If a specific pitch has stacks of 3/4-inch crack climbing, swap in a couple extra pieces of that size.
One of the more cunning elements of the YSW is the taped-open biner. With this handy little piece, it’s much easier to clip slightly out-of-reach fixed gear, especially on traverses. The taped-open biner is also a huge asset in easing the transition between aid and free climbing, an already tense moment that becomes scarier yet if you have to struggle to unclip your aider while hanging from a finger lock or tiny crimp. With the taped-open biner, you can flick or kick the aider out with a hand or foot, thus increasing the ease and speed of your transition. It should be noted that the taped-open biner is only good for body weight.