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Aid climbing roofs is harder than you think

Big Wall Episode #13 - Roofs

Big Wall Bible

Big Wall Roofs

The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.


Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.


If you practice and show up super prepared, but don't know how to do very steep leading or cleaning, you could get shut down. Roofs are the most extreme version of an overhang so this episode shows you how to do it and NOT do it. To emphasize how NOT easy it is, we had two people who have never done it before attempt it to show you where they got "hung up".


Practice

This is probably easier to practice without an actual rock than some of the other skills required. A playground monkey bars can be a great place and if your carabiners don't easily clip to the bars, you can girth hitch a sling to each one before clipping. If it's too easy, try skipping bars. You can also set up a 10-25 foot rope between trees with butterfly knots tied periodically and practice that way, if it sags too much, throw it on a grigri and use an ascender and a carabiner or pulley for a 3:1. It's such an inefficient system to do that you won't get more than 2kn on your rope before your weight is on it. Dynamic ropes will stretch too much, use static!


These techniques are applied to ANY lateral aid climbing. Even if your feet are on the wall the entire time or if it is steep like Leaning Tower but not impossible to touch the wall between moves, or just straight up overhanging, these same skills are required. Your angle while you dangle doesn't matter and the best practice you can do is a full on roof.


Rant: Why is it called a roof??? It should be called a ceiling. Rant over.


Leading

You are fully hanging in your personal anchor system (PAS) almost the entire time, so you have to manage these well. The Yates Adjustable Daisys are the only ones that can be extended while your weight is on them which can make this process a lot easier but if you just learn to stand up on your aiders at the right time, you can temporarily take your weight off any PAS and adjust it.


You clip the next piece you placed, fixed piece, or bolt with your PAS and tighten it, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. You can turn yourself into a slackline if you have your previous PAS and next PAS both tight. This is less of a problem if you have the Yates PAS's but a really big problem if you have to remove the force to extended the previous one.


Once you are plumb with that piece, you can move one or both ladders over and clip it to your PAS carabiner. Stand in that aider and pull your PAS tighter. At this point you should be able to unclip the previous piece


To Clip Or Not To Clip

It's common to skip every few placements on lead to preserve your gear or draws or slings but steep terrain is different! Clip none or clip them all. If you clip none, they can lower off the anchor or the last piece (yes it will be abandoned) and skip the entire roof. This might be nice on the Kor Roof on Washington Column since it is all bolts but pretty gnarly on the Great Roof on the Nose. That is a 5.13 with fixed crap in a thin crack and if any of that blows, you swing into the dihedral you just climbed to get to the roof. In that case, you clip everything.


If the follower is on their ascenders and not re-aiding that section, it is harder for them to reach the last piece than it is for you because you clipped the carabiner on the gear, and you were attached the thumb loop or directly into the carabiner. Careful adding a sling to extend the piece to prevent rope drag because that puts the follower another 2 feet away from the last piece. If the follower is going to re-aid that section which is sometimes easier for them, they have to copy everything you did and therefore need every piece left in even more. Don't back clean at all or back clean 100% so they can do a lower out and skip it all.


When to Extend

Once you go from lateral to vertical again, you can skip clipping a few pieces and put a double length sling on the piece 10 or 20 feet above the roof or lateral section, assuming it's not too steep. This way they can swing to the last piece and pull it out and you have less rope drag. If you do this too much on Leaning Tower, your partner is going to struggle and therefore take a lot longer to clean up your mistake.


Following

You know that hole in the top of your ascender? This is when it shines! Ascending sideways is weird in general and does have the risk of popping the rope out of the ascender so be sure to clip that eye to keep that rope in place!


Spoiler alert: you can't go sideways with ascenders. You are constantly lowering yourself to plumb below the next piece. Remove your top ascender and place it past the next piece and sit on it... you'll see it is just going to pull the rope straight down right there and suck up your last ascender trying to do so. It's a shuffle game. If your leader left all the gear in, sometimes it's easier to put your PAS on the gear directly and just repeat their aid climb. Remember, you are NOT on belay, so you have to unclip the rope from the next piece and push your ascenders as far forward as you can to reduce any shock load if your gear blows.


Falling on ascender

Chillax, it's fine in this context. If you are right at the anchor and stand up past your ascenders then jump back, yea, sure you might die. That is because there is no rope in the system to absorb your fall. But if you are 30 meters down and fall 1 meter on your ascenders, you are NOT desheathing that rope. If you are 180lbs, you might only get 1-1.5kN of force on the rope and ascender. It takes over 4 before you might have a problem and it takes 5+ kN before you have a real problem. Try not to take whippers on ascenders because some guy on the internet that you don't know told you to do it, but you don't have to change your underwear if you find yourself in that situation and shit your pants. I mean, you should change your underwear if you shit yourself, I'm just saying you don't need to shit yourself.


I'll write more soon!!!

I'll include a lot more about lower out systems in this section. Moving my lab is consuming my big wall bible writing time. See what I'm up too in this VIDEO. Sign up for our emails on our HOME PAGE and I'll let you know when I make progress on this.




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