Tech Tips - Aid - A game of inches

Top stepping is spooky but essential for maximizing reach. (Daisy chain and rope not shown for clarity.)

Top stepping is spooky but essential for maximizing reach. (Daisy chain and rope not shown for clarity.)

Add height advantage to your aid climbing

It’s the same scenario again and again in aid climbing: You’re teetering in your top step, the tension of your daisy chain barely keeping you in balance. Just one more dicey move and you’re outta the scary stuff. Yet that final nut, cam, or pin placement is just barely out of reach. Aid climbing has been called a "game of inches," but it often feels more like a game of millimeters. The smallest extra distance you can squeeze out of a move can be a huge advantage for reaching that next placement. Anything you can do to extend your reach will help. Think tall. Sometimes this means using your finger to push that cam just a bit higher, or linking the cables of two nuts together to extend your reach. Avoid easy placements at nose-level; do whatever you can to get that next piece of pro as far above your head as possible. Think short. Tie off your gear with short runners. Hooks, pin stacks, and rivet hangers should be tied with short lengths of 5/16-inch tie-off webbing. The loop only needs to be big enough for one carabiner. Clip high. When you clip into your piece with your daisy chain and aider, think about where the highest clip-in point is. Though pins and nuts don’t provide many options, camming units do. U-stem cams should be clipped at the bend in the cable. For single-stem cams, tie a short loop of 5/16-inch tie-off webbing into the stem’s eye. Don’t clip into the sewn runner, which is where you clip your rope. Remember, every inch counts! Stand proud. Getting into the second step, and torquing upward against your harness, can be awkward and scary (it often feels like the force is going to pull your pants off!). It only gets worse when you need to resort to that dreaded top step. Keep a carabiner (a bent-gate, key-lock carabiner helps avoid snagging) clipped into your belay loop or the first pocket of your daisy chain. Use this as your short clip-in point when you need to get more than waist high above your placement. A fifi hook also works great, especially an adjustable one rigged with 6mm cord, although looking down from your top step at the gateless fifi is a little freaky.