Aid Climbing Gear – Skyhooks

Skyhooks are often used for aid climbing, but they can also play a (mainly psychological) role on bold trad routes.

skyhook belay

Types of Skyhooks

Hooks come in many different sizes, with each brand being shaped slightly differently. However, for most aid routes, you'll only need the three common types:

- Bat/talon hook (small)
- Cliffhanger hook (medium)
- Grappling hook (large)

Skyhook hooks for aid climbing

Having two of each is recommended so that you can make consecutive moves with the same sized hook.

On harder routes, it is worth supplementing your hook rack with some giant hooks such as the Fish hook.

Harder routes also tend to require pointed cliffhanger and grappling hooks to fit in drilled holes.

To make your hook pointed, simply file the end to a blunt point at around 45 degrees.

Pointed skyhook aid climbing

Make sure to tie your hooks with cord or webbing which is stronger than the hook itself.

We recommend 9/16"(14mm) webbing or 6mm cord in your favourite colour.

With a smaller loop, you can reach higher when aid climbing.

Place skyhooks aid climbing

An alternative method is to tie an overhand knot in a short length of thick webbing and feed it through the hole in the back of the skyhook.

Make sure the knot is big enough so that it won't slip through the hole.

How to tie cord on skyhooks


How To Place Skyhooks

Hooks work best on flakes or incut edges of rock.

Sometimes, a very light tap with your hammer sets the hook into position nicely. But if you hit them in too hard, they are likely to bend, break the rock or spring out suddenly.

Skyhooks hooks for aid climbing

If a flake is just out of reach, you can use the ‘over-reacher’:

- Extend your daisy chain with a quickdraw
- Clip the hook to it
- Tape the hook to your hammer
- Slide the hook up the wall
- Once the hook bites, give it a very gentle bounce test and creep upwards

Skyhook aid climbing

Leaving Hooks as Protection

sea of dreams el cap aid climbing

The average skyhook has a breaking strength of around 2kN; the same as a tiny micro nut.

This is enough to hold your body weight or an extremely short fall.

Sky hooks micro nut
Equalized skyhooks and micro nut

To make your hooks more likely to hold a fall, you can equalize them with other marginal pieces.

Or add a shock-absorbing sling, such as the Yates Scream-Aid.

Other than the fact that skyhooks are extremely weak, there are two main disadvantages to using them as protection.

Sky hook breaking strength 2kN
Aid climbing skyhook on flake

1) Hooks placed on flakes are likely to break the flake. In a fall, the hook exerts a lot more force on the rock than your fingers did when you used it as a handhold.

Solid hand and footholds are not always solid hook placements!

2) When you climb above your hook, it is fairly likely to get flicked by movements in the rope and tumble off the rock.

Sky hook on flake aid climbing
Aid climbing skyhooks duck tape el cap

This can be reduced by using standard office stationary such as duck-tape or blu-tac.

You can also weight the hook down with a bundle of carabiners or that enormous hex you always carry but never use.

Sky hook on flake with hex
Aid climbing skyhooks duck tape el cap

Or even use an upwards-pulling piece of gear to hold the hook in place.

It may seem like a lot of trouble for a marginal piece of protection, but if it's the only thing stopping you from hitting the ground, it'll be worth the effort, at least psychologically.

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