Learning to Aid Climb: TowerLand near Hanksville, Utah

I have some explaining to do. It's been a long time since I've last updated. It's not because I haven't been doing anything lately (on the contrary, things have been keeping their usual pace), but I decided to move my blog from wordpress to squarespace, and the transition is taking me a long time because I'm not used to using squarespace. I'm still not done, but here's a start to a new era in my blogging.

On to aid climbing. Back towards the end of October I got to go with Michael and Jim to Utah to learn how to aid climb from Utah Climbing Club members. We drove out to Hanksville, Utah to climb at a place the club called "TowerLand". I think the place may also be better known as "Viewfinder Towers" or something like that. We left Thursday night from California and drove all night to get to Utah the next morning at 7am. 

We set up our tents and passed out for a few hours before heading to try out some Towers that the club had set up already. Friday was just about getting on some sandstone. We worked two towers and 3 routes that Friday.

 Backside of Dirty Devil Tower

Backside of Dirty Devil Tower

 Photo by Michael Auffant - 5.9 route on Dirty Devil Tower

Photo by Michael Auffant - 5.9 route on Dirty Devil Tower

  • Dirty Devil Tower - Had a 5.9 (trad) and 5.11c (sport/trad) on it
    • The 5.9 route was actually pretty tricky for me since I don't get much practice on cracks... let alone, sandstone cracks. You couldn't use anything on the face of the climb because it was all shit and choss... not really my favorite climb of the weekend, but set the flavor.
    • The 5.11c route however was pretty unique! I didn't complete it, but Michael did. I worked the moves though on it for a while and it was a really cool climb. 
  • Ugg Tower - C1 
    • This was an aid route, and at this point I knew next to nothing about aid save for one bolt ladder I did back in May. We got to climb this on top rope though and I managed shitty cam placements to get me up to the top. I learned Saturday though all the mistakes I was making.
 Ugg Tower - looks like a camel

Ugg Tower - looks like a camel

 Dirty Devil Tower - 5.11c route

Dirty Devil Tower - 5.11c route

It was a fun day. :) We got to mess around with some trad gear, bag a couple towers, off road a bit and take it easy. The real learning would come Saturday.

Eat. Sleep. Saturday.

This beauty above is where we really learned to aid climb. This tower is called BlackJack Tower and the route we did was named 21. The guy who did the first assent of this tower was the one coaching me and Michael through aid climbing techniques. 

 Photo by Michael Auffant - BlackJack Tower (Coke Bottle tower in the background)

Photo by Michael Auffant - BlackJack Tower (Coke Bottle tower in the background)

Michael and I, with help and coaching, each lead this aid route. It took us a big part of the day, about 4 hours each person to aid to the top. A mix of using of cams and pitons as aid through this route with a couple of bolts in unprotectable places. I won't go through the nitty-gritty, but here are some big lessons I learned.

  • Aid climbing is a great way to learn what bomber cam placements are. You place gear and pound on it with your ladders and you quickly learn what holds and what won't.
  • Sandstone is a great rock to learn aid climbing. It's sketchy, so you quickly learn what works and what doesn't.
  • Lead belaying someone aiding a tower can make you quite hungry... I'm not kidding.
  • There's a particular noise you are looking for when pounding in pitons - higher pitches the more you hammer
  • Hammering is hard. 
  • Put ovals into your pitons before placings your aid gear in there
  • Moving up an aid route can be slow and goes something like this: 1) Place bomber cam or piton 2) clip ladder 3) clip easy daisy (loose) in case gear falls out 3) pound ladder with foot with all your might to make sure gear doesn't move 4) once confident, weight gear 6) clip in rope 7) move up ladder, tighten up easy daisy and repeat
 Photo by Michael Auffant - Me pounding in a piton above the roof

Photo by Michael Auffant - Me pounding in a piton above the roof

It was actually really awesome! I didn't know what to expect from this trip except maybe that I would learn something new that could be valuable to me in the future... but now... I see my future with more aid climbing! I thought it was a lot of fun. It was definitely a different kind of fun, but thrilling none the less. Neither of us fell and we both made it to the top.

Here's a short video I made of the weekend:

Sidebar, we saw these guys flying around while we were climbing too. Gotta love Utah.

 Photo by Michael Auffant - Can someone say Subaru commercial?

Photo by Michael Auffant - Can someone say Subaru commercial?

And I got to try on these nerdy but cool glasses that are used when you belay!

IMGP0189.jpg

I wish I remembered more of the funny details from this trip, but it was so long ago :( I will get better at keeping up with my blog here soon, but first I've got a few more old posts to write.

Moral of the story is: aid climbing is sick and ballsy, I don't care what you say. I'm stoked I got to learn it and can't wait to use it more!

Cheers.