First Big Wall Climb : LUSENET : Mountaineering : One Thread

How does one get started in doing a big wall ? I've been climbing for about 2 years, I can top rope 5.10s and lead 5.7s & 5.8s. I've done only a few 2 pitch climbs. It seems to be that doing a big wall is a quantum leap away from where I am now, since I know no one personally that have done big walls and all my friends are the same level I'm in. What's your recommendation for my next step and what's an "easy big wall" if there is such a thing that a beginner can attempt.

-- Larry Tong (, January 09, 1998


First of all, the most important thing you need for your first big wall is...


I haven't completed any big walls, but have done a fair bit of aid and been on Prodigal Sun in Zion(an excellent first wall: it is fully clean, has lots of fixed gear, and no free climbing to complicate things. Plus it's not even super long - 2 days for experienced climbers). The biggest problem I've noticed for new climbers is several novice big wall climbers who have maybe not even aided before attempting to do a wall together. However, if one person is pretty competent on walls, someone with only a bit of aiding experience and some multi-pitch free climbing under their belt can have an excellent experience(or as excellent an experience as a big wall can be). In short, be careful and don't make the amazingly common mistake of getting in way over your head. Find a good partner.

-- Steve Waydo (, January 09, 1998.

i personally wouldn't put so much stock in having a good partener. of course, it helps. but, if you are not ready yourself, then it's not wise to go up there in the first place. i certainly wouldn't trust anyone but myself to babysit me while i'm up there. better to wait till you feel ready, no matter how good your partner is. i was never taught how to climb big walls by anyone, and i just did "tangerine trip" on el cap a little while ago (i don't intend that as any form of bragging. it's just to say that i'm speaking from experience.). the first thing i would do if i were you, is start aid climbing. buy "big walls" by john long, read it several times, and then go and figure it out. as long as your pro is good, and you are cliping it in the normal way, you'll be fine. the safety aspect in aid climbing is the same as free climbing. only the logistics of move up on a piece are different. a big wall definently has different safety issues then other climbs, but you will learn about those in time. other things to work on are doing as many multi-pitch routes as possible. start out by doing all the two pitch routes you can, then go to three, four, and five pitch routes. just keep working. if you want it bad enough, you will get there. once you can comfortably lead 5.9 trad, lead a long A1 pitch in 2 hours, and crank off about 8 pitches of 5.8 or harder in a day, you are ready to try some stuff in Zion. i would recomend "touchstone wall" (5.8 C1 III) or "prodical son" (5.8 C1 IV). good luck. don't get discouraged. -Ryan

-- Ryan (, January 29, 1998.

Aid climbing is really easy in reality. It is the big myth that only hardmen can do it. Hard aid is serious and dangerous, but easy beggining aid is not. The biggest enemy will be your mind and the weather. All one needs to aid climb is a solid foundation on trad skills, this means placing pro very well. On many routes you do not even have to step out of your aiders. So, any level climber can do it. The advice above is good, especially about buying that book. As you do more aiding you will figure things out that are easier and better than the way that book does things. Go out and practice aid climbing at your local crag. Lead a crack using only clean gear. Fix it and then jumar the hell out of it. Haul a bag a few times to get use to setting up anchors for the second and the bag. Don't be scared to stand on small gear or cams that aren't optimal. Jump up and down on your pieces to see how good they are. When the rack is flying around your neck as you test a piece and it has not pulled, you know it is good. Many easy routes require hook moves so practice those. On the easy routes these moves are usually bomber, but can still be thrilling. Zion has many easy clean routes, i.e. moonlight, spaceshot, prodigal sun, etc. Check out the book. In Yosemite the classic first routes are: the south face of washington column and the west face of leaning tower. I am sure there are others. Ask around. Other easy routes are the triple direct on El Cap, Muir Wall, and I believe the west face of el cap. Do not believe the ratings in Don Reids book, most are outdated.(like thw west face of leaning tower) Ask around you will find beta. Good luck.

-- ronnie miller (, February 27, 1998.

I agree with the above answers. Practice,practice,practice. Go to an area that isn't too crowded. Just clean aid a bunch of free routes, and practice the occasional hook move. remember to practice on a route that is somewhat steep, as practicing on slabs is a pain. Slowly you will feel more comfortable with the process of aiding. Time yourself, try to develop an efficient system of climbing, and racking. Once you've got your set up dailed, it is that much easier to be quick. Practice jumaring too. This is the biggest slow down on a first wall. Practise your set up, and when you really need to jug it will be quicker! Basically as soon as you feel comfortable with all this stuff in action, you will be that much more prepared to send. Remember, the less taxing you can make it on yourself mentally(by having your system dialed) the more you'll be able to enjoy the airtime! Good luck, and don't listen to the dorks giving you grief at the crag while your practicing. They'll be the ones bummin when your sending!

-- Mike T. (, April 17, 1998.

DRINK WATER!!!!! Take a water bottle on the lead and empty it in one or two pitches. You may not feel thirsty but trust me you're doing a lot more work than you think. Nothing will make you want to bail off a wall more than dehydration. I've gotten dehydrated on every wall I've done in Zion and it sucks big dong. Other than that, learn to haul. It's pretty basic once you set up one or two. Learn to get all the junk you're dealing with organized. Zion's good for first walls; lots of easy, clean routes and most of 'em are rather short and uncommiting compared to some of Yosemite's (just don't count on getting rescued). Get "big walls" by Long and Middendorf. Find a good partner and bust it out. Be persistant and don't get too bummed if you end up bailing.

-- joe auer (, May 28, 1998.

My God!! This guy asked this question in 98. I hope he has made it up something by now. I'm gonna answer his question for the hell of it anyway. I think he is completely right about walls being a quantum leap from where he is right now. He should be able to lead at least some easy 5.10 terrain, I say this because you are often faced with the problem of having to step out of the aiders to bust a couple free moves. 5.8 can then be more like 5.10 since your probably wearing tennis shoes and dragging a big wall rack as well. He should also start looking for some long routes to do. Efficiency is really important on a wall so you need to get used to assembling anchors rapidly and thoughtfully, no clusterfucks. Chaos at the belay slow down the daily progress and can mean not getting in that last pitch you wanted. I also wouldn't recommend running out and buying a bunch of big wall shit. Find an old army duffel bag that you can use to haul your shit and tie up your own aiders and daisies. The hike down will suck with that duffel bag but I dont know what your chances of making it to the top are anyways. It takes mental commitment and usually a bit of suffering to get to the top of big walls. They are fun if you enjoy hard work. Good Luck.

-- Wade Griffith (, May 05, 2003.

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