How To Climb a Big Wall – Following

To follow, or clean, an aid pitch (known as jumaring) you will need two jumars, a GriGri and your double set of daisies and aiders.

big wall climbing yosemite

Leaving the Belay

When your leader has fixed the lead rope, you can attach yourself to it. Attach your jumars to the carabiner with your aiders as shown.

Attach climbing jumars to aiders

Pull the catch back on each of your jumars, slot them onto the rope and close the catch. Adjust your upper daisy to about half of its full length.

Attach ascender to rope

Step into your lower aider to pull some of the stretch out of the rope. As you do this, push your upper jumar up the rope. Then sit back, weighting your upper daisy, while pushing your lower jumar up the rope. Do this a few times until you've pulled all the stretch out of the rope. This sequence is the basic technique, known as jumaring, that you will use to ascend the rope to the belay.

Top Tip
Your jumars will slide up the rope better if you pull the catch back a little. Don't pull it all the way back or your jumar will pop off the rope.

How to jumar ascend a rope
Jumaring a rope

Jumars are not full-strength attachment points, so you also need to use a GriGri (or similar) to attach yourself to the rope. Take the slack rope from underneath your jumars and put it through your GriGri, so that the rope will feed through as you go up. Attach this to your belay loop.

Your GriGri is your primary full-strength attachment point, so make sure it is on the correct way around.

While you are attaching yourself to the lead rope, the leader will be setting up the hauling system. When they tell you that the 'haul rope is ready', you can release the haul bag from the belay. First, make sure the haulbag is attached to the end of the rope. Remove the back-up sling and unfasten the reef knot on the docking tether. Unwrap the docking tether ends and lower the haulbag out on the Italian hitch.

Big wall belay anchor
Haul bag docking tether sling

Many pitches traverse a little, in which case your docking tether won't be long enough to lower out the haulbag. You can, however, use the extra length of the haul line to lower it out. Instead of tying the haulbag to the end of the haul rope, tie it in further up with an alpine butterfly, so that you can use the remaining rope to lower it out. You'll need to do this before the leader pulls up the slack haul rope – just let them pull up a few meters to start hauling with.

Use the loose end of the haul rope to tie an Italian hitch on a carabiner on your belay. Keep hold of the haul rope as you release the docking tether and the haulbag will weight the haul rope's Italian hitch. Now lower the haulbag out on this Italian hitch.

Lower out haul bag with rope

Next, untie from the belay (but stay tied into the end of the lead rope) and begin cleaning the pitch.

Jumaring on Vertical or Overhanging Terrain

Jumaring on steep ground is hard work, but gets easier with practise. You'll need to place your feet on appropriate steps of your aiders, so that when your jumars are close together your feet are level with each other. Generally this will be one foot in your second step, the other in your third.

Weight your lower aider while simultaneously pushing your upper jumar up the rope (you'll need to unweight your foot on the upper one to do this). Then sit back on your upper daisy while pushing the lower jumar up, pulling the catch back slightly to help it slide up the rope. You may need to adjust your upper daisy to a shorter length to stop you falling too far back whilst sitting on it.

How to jumar ascend a rope on a big wall

Make sure the rope feeds through your GriGri as you are jumaring up. Sometimes the weight of the rope will do this for you, but often you'll need to stop every few meters to pull it through.

It's a good idea to attach the rope to your belay loop every 10 meters or so, using a clove hitch on a screwgate. This helps to keep the rope from getting stuck around distant flakes when it's windy, and also acts as a further back-up.

Jumaring on Slabs

Jumaring on lower-angle terrain is easier. All your weight is on your legs – you don't need to weight your daisies. But if you need a rest, just sit back on to your top daisy.

You'll need to adjust your daisies longer and put your feet one step lower in each aider than you would on steep ground.

Removing Aid Climbing Gear While Jumaring

If the rope isn't pulling tight on to a piece of gear, you can simply unclip the gear from the rope, jumar up until you're next to it, then remove it. It's a good idea to clip it to your daisy or aider before removing it, just in case you drop it. Make sure to unclip the gear when your jumar is still a few inches below it; your jumars will jam into it if you go too close.

How to remove gear when ascending jumaring a rope
Jumars and grigri on rope how to climb a big wall

Often, the rope will be pulling the gear tight and it is very hard to unclip. In this situation, weight your lower aider, lean into the rope and take your upper jumar off the rope, holding yourself in for balance. Slot the upper jumar back on the rope above the gear, close the catch and sit back on your upper daisy. Now you can unclip the gear from the rope and move your lower jumar up.

If you find that your lower jumar is getting 'sucked in' to the gear when you weight your top jumar again (this can happen on a slight traverse or overhang), then try moving the lower one down the rope first. You may need to move your GriGri down too to do this.

Cleaning Traverses and Overhangs on Aid Pitches

To clean a traverse or a steep overhang, you'll need to take both of your jumars off the rope and clip your aiders into the gear that the leader placed. Effectively, you are 'leading on top rope', belaying yourself with your GriGri. Simply clip across the pieces, removing the ones behind you as you go. Make sure to keep pulling the slack rope through your GriGri as you go.

If the piece held the leader, then it'll (probably) hold you too. If it doesn't hold, then you'll fall safely onto your GriGri.

Following a traverse climbing
Cleaning an aid climbing pitch

Top Tip
If there's a lot of stretch in the rope, it can be difficult to remove your second jumar after taking the first one off, as it will be sucked into the next piece of gear. To make this less strenuous, pull the rope through your GriGri until it is locked with your weight on it. With no weight on your jumars, they can be removed easily.

Cleaning Pendulums and Lowering Out on a Big Wall

When you reach the piece which your leader pendulumed or tension traversed from, you can't remove it or you'll swing uncontrollably across the wall. To avoid this, you'll need to do a 'lower out'. You'll need plenty of slack rope for a lower out (around three times the diagonal distance of the lower out). This usually isn't a problem half way up a pitch, but if there's a lower out near the start of a pitch, make sure your leader fixes the rope with enough slack for you to do this.

The following method describes lowering out by passing a bight of rope through a fixed piece, therefore not needing to untie from the end of the rope. For very long lower outs, you may need to untie.

On well-travelled routes, the lower out piece will usually be a bolt or a collection of fixed gear. Remove your jumars from the rope, clipping one of your daisies directly into the lower out piece. Your weight will be on this daisy while you're setting up the lower-out. If you're using adjustable (not full strength) daisies, you could use a sling instead.

Climbing bolt

Pull all the slack rope through your GriGri so the rope is tight to the upper belay. Take the slack rope from below your GriGri and push a bight of it through the ring or carabiner at the lower out point.

Lowering out on a big wall traverse how to climb a big wall

Take the strand of threaded rope that goes from your GriGri through the lower out point. Attach that part of the rope to another belay device (such as an ATC) on your belay loop (if you don't have one, use an Italian hitch).

Lowering out on a big wall traverse

Lean into the lower out point and take in all the slack rope through the ATC so that your weight is taken by it.

Cleaning a big wall traverse

Keeping hold of the rope, remove your daisy and any other gear from the lower out point. Then lower yourself out by letting slack through your ATC.

When you have finished lowering, put your jumars back on the rope above you, remove your ATC and pull the bight of rope back through the lower out point. You can continue jumaring the now vertical rope.

Top Tip
If you don't quite have enough rope, you can jumar up a little after lowering as far as you can. This will give you extra rope to complete the lower out.

Following on a big wall traverse

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