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Buffalo Aidfest November 2014. 25-Nov-2014 At 12:48:04 PM TimP
I've been curious about aid climbing for years and began reading up on it after following last years aidfest posts on Chockstone.

My interest is partly about becoming a well rounded climber (got my eye on ice and alpine climbing too), and partly wanting to experience the kind of skills and adventures I've been reading about.

Considering my options for climbing any route over grade 17 would involve more skill and strength than I have, I thought I'd give aid a go; only to find it is as physical and challenging as free climbing but in different ways.

Thanks to Phillipivan and M9 for instigating this years aidfest weekend, I was tempted to go last year but actually got my act together this time.

I met a few of the crew Friday night but we got together Saturday morning to talk aid. M9 was happy to share his vast knowledge of aid climbing, the gear, and Mt Buffalo. We also had also NealD's input; fresh from a big wall solo in Yosemite. By this time Phillipivan and Scott where already on Ozy.

It was great to finally be handling the gear I'd only seen photo's of as M9 talked through the whole process from leading to jugging, hauling, bivies etc. with Neal's added perspective plus the gear and experience others brought. Great to see M9's home made gear, created and finely tuned to his way of climbing. I saw the idiosyncrasies of the different solutions and it made me realise there is no one way, it is what-ever works for your own personal abilities / situation / gear / goals.

I managed to assemble the basic kit for the weekend thanks to Miguel79 for loan of gear (and jugging intro at Camels Hump) also KeiranL for retired jumars. Got to borrow two different types of hooks to play with for my lead.

First up I belayed Dave on Cacophonic Crack, a pretty nasty off-width at the top, then had a go at seconding / cleaning. Got to lead Thanksgiving Crack (M3) the next day; tried a cam-hook and got coached through a freaky hook placement top-out by M9. That arvo Dave and I did an abseil then free hanging jumar up Country Road, I managed a full botanical wrestle at the top-out. Bush 1 climber 0.

It seems to me aid is an art of keeping a clear head and managing all the gear in the context of massive potential for a clusterfx of etts, daisies, rope and gear. Then having all this dialled in to make efficient use of energy on longer climbs, or to just survive if things get nasty and/or fatigue sets in. The whole gig has to be meticulously planned: dehydration could set the scene for fatal mistakes. Ad to this the mental challenge of exposure and freaky hook or cam-hook moves and faith in tiny RPs. I'd read the term 'marginal gear' but now I know what it means, and that's only at M3!

Aid climbing sure teaches you about placements, I've just whacked pro in what looks good when free climbing, but bounce testing then cleaning them after gives you pretty good feedback. I thought they'd be a nightmare to get out, never used my RP's like this before, but I managed to get all my gear back.

Good to revisit exposure, don't get much at my local crag. Even the short climbs art Buffalo are hundreds of meters above the valley with swirling up-drafts, it'll take a bit of getting used to and confidence in my own processes… I'll need to settle into all that.

We watched Phillipivan and Scott on Ozy and I wondered if I could be that game, it'd be an amazing thing to accomplish even in a couple of days let alone their 17hrs.

Taking in all the info and processing it to evolve my own methods will take time and practice plus a bit more gear accumulation. There's a whole lot to be finely tuned to make it all efficient, which doesn't matter on short stuff but on bigger climbs or critical situations I can see the need. So I'll slowly be putting together a coherent personal method from all the great ideas / solutions we where exposed to on the weekend.

Lake Catani impressed my family who walked and swam while I climbed, so they're happy to go back. Even had a great adventure with my son crossing the lake with our clothes wrapped up then summiting the hill on the other side.

All in all a great weekend.

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