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I was reflecting on how different disciplines of climbing help you become a stronger climber in other disciplines. Like how bouldering makes you a better sport climber, because it teaches you beta and helps you develop the strength you need to get you through the hard cruxes of a sport route. And how sport climbing makes you a stronger trad climber by giving you the endurance from climbing longer routes, while letting you climb near or at your limit safely while on fixed protection.

Getting into trad climbing is where you make a huge transition from juicing though routes to learning how to route find, place protection, find good belay points and set up bomber anchors. As a sport climber you don't have to commit much brain power into following a route or placing anchors, it's like connect the dots, you just follow the bolts, and clip in your draws until you find the next belay station. Trad climbing requires a lot more specialized gear, a lot more knowledge and a lot more route finding skills.

Being a strong climber isn't good enough for trad climbing, you need to be a wise climber. Most people learn to trad climb I think by following a good leader. You climb with someone who has a lot of wisdom, and you get to clean all the gear they place, which gives you an opportunity to see what they use and how they use it.

Given that aid climbers get a lot more use out of their gear, place way more pro and get a lot more practical experience with it, would it benefit some one getting into trad climbing to first try out aid climbing to to give them more experience with their gear and make them better at placing solid pro?

  • Maybe you should extract the actual question and post the rest as answer. Your second last paragraph is exactly the answer I would give. Of course expanding on it like why it is not exactly analogous, but in the end it comes down to what you wrote there. – imsodin Jun 7 '15 at 21:30
  • @imsodin - I've done as you suggested, I encourage you to go ahead and add your answer as well, repeat any points from my answer that you would have given on your own, and expand on those points however you feel. I think questions are left with only one answer too often on this site. Just because the first answer may not be wrong, doesn't mean that someone can't articulate a better answer, or a simpler answer, a more direct, or more detailed answer. – ShemSeger Jun 7 '15 at 22:24
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Before I started to trad climb, I was using mobile protection in an alpine environment. As a consequence, I never fell into a piece of gear and belays (that were not bolted) were save by location, often by slinging some big rock. This is the extreme case, but also when starting to trad climb the same happened: I didn't have much experience so I wasn't sure about my placement. This meant I could not go to my limit which made it boring fast. Then I went to training weekends where we set up top anchors from which we were loosely belayed while trad leading. The deal was: Every placement is tested by jumping into it. This is more or less save, at least as long as you don't look up while falling (one helmet was cracked by a cam :) ).

The big advantage of this method over aid climbing is that you actually fall into your gear. As to the reports of a friend, which is a lot into aid, you don't want to fall in aid climbing. Falls get messy all the time and many aid placements can just sustain body weight, they will fail in case of a fall. On the other hand you will place a ton of gear when aiding, so you get a very good eye for placements. This helps you a lot in trad: One hugely challenging aspect is, that in trad you are concentrating on climbing, but still have to find protection places. The friend with lots of aiding experience does this almost automatically and seems to always choose the right gear on the first try. This saves vital time.

In conclusion I would say that for getting proficient in placing gear, aid climbing is great. But it does not give you that much information on the quality of your placements. Aid placements are usually "only" loaded by bodyweight, while trad placements always need to sustain high loads in case of a fall. For getting better at judging placement for high forces and getting confidence, go jump into your gear while being on a backup belay. Just be prepared for flying gear and for damaging some of the gear - but the result is well worth it.

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Learning how to place gear is a lot different than actually using it. Trad climbers place their pro, but hope they never have to fall on it. They give it a few tugs, maybe weight it to make sure it'll hold, but for the most part it's there just in case of a fall. Aid climbers on the other hand, they use every piece of gear that they place, they get real practical experience with their gear because not only do they place pro every couple feet, they weight it and hang off of every piece. When they set up an anchor, that anchor isn't there just in case of a fall, they're using it to haul heavy loads and often their followers will be ascending a rope secured from that anchor.

I think learning how to aid climb before trad climbing will benefit your skills with placing pro the same way sport climbing and bouldering will benefit your strength and endurance. Strong sport climbers (5.12+) with the experience of big wall aid climbing are the most well rounded climbers in my opinion, and will naturally be very strong Trad Climbers.

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    Bounce test all your pro and you'll also become really good at using your nut tool! – Pepi Jun 8 '15 at 8:38
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In aid climbing the frequency of difficult placements and the length of potential falls essentially determines the grade. Basically anything A2/C2 and up is going to require you to use some combination of hooks, cam hooks, bashies, and pins. These skills generally do not translate to trad climbing. If you are planning on climbing in a remote area or doing a first ascent being able to hammer a pin might be a useful skill. Being able to climb A4 and above means you will have to deal with long run outs (often for hours at a time). This may be a good way to increase your lead head, but as I have never lead at this level, I do not really know.

Being able to climb A2 and hard routes, opens up the area of big wall climbing. While not all aid climbing is big wall climbing, almost all big wall climbing is aid climbing. The skills required to sleep on a ledge and haul loads do not generally translate to trad climbing. The gear and anchor management skills along with an increased tolerance for suffering do have some benefit for trad climbing. In my opinion, aid climbing is probably the best way to increase your tolerance for suffering. In terms of anchor management, there are enough differences between big wall anchors and trad anchors, that you are better off spending your time dealing with trad anchors.

Every trad climber should be comfortable with climbing A0. The ability to pull on a piece to skip the crux, or a move that is giving you problems, on a long route can be critical. The question, at least in my mind, then becomes does learning how to climb C1 help you to be a better trad climber. There is no question that on a pitch of C1 you place a lot more gear, and are forced to deal with more tricky placements, than on a pitch of trad. That said, most people aid climb much slower such that the difference in total number of placements in a day between aid and trad climbing is not that massive.

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