Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques


Introduction to Aid Climbing

Climber using aid techniques on big wall route.

Climber using aid techniques on big wall route.  Brendan Cusick

There is a point in every climber's life when he or she looks at a massive vertical rock face and says, "I want to climb that." Often times the problem is that the rock is too steep and the holds are too small to allow a free ascent. Aid climbing is a specific technique that provides climbers with the ability to get up routes that are too hard to free climb.

Most people become aware of aid climbing through the lens of big wall climbing. Big walls are routes that usually take more than a day to ascend. They often require climbers to bivy on a portable platform, and many of these lines require them to use direct aid in order to climb through difficult parts of the wall.

Moving on from long multi-pitch routes to big walls is a natural progression for rock climbers. But well-rounded alpinists need these aid climbing skills to add to their abilities in ice climbing, mountaineering, and rock climbing. There are many mountains throughout the world that have routes that primarily require moderate free climbing skills but which also have short difficult sections. A basic understanding of aid opens up thousands of new routes to the well-rounded alpinist.

Course Overview

The American Alpine Institute's four-day aid climbing and big wall technique seminar is designed for competent leaders who want to expand the number of routes that they can climb and raise their climbing ability by exploring new techniques and concepts. This course will broaden your free climbing skills as you learn aid because we will introduce you to new free climbing skills as well as aid climbing methodologies. 

Because aid climbing is so technical in nature, the Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques course is only offered at a two-to-one climber-to-guide ratio. The course must have a minimum of two students registered to run at the published price.

Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques


Advanced Aid and Free Climbing Skills:

An aid climber carefully places his next piece while climbing at Index.

An aid climber carefully places his next piece while climbing at Index. Alasdair Turner

  • Selection & use of personal equipment for an aid climb including specific ropes, harnesses, & equipment
  • Design concepts, selection & use of technical equipment for mixed aid & free climbing
  • Advanced rigging for multi-pitch climbing
  • Use of big wall gear & equipment including etriers, daisy chains, mechanical ascenders, haul bags, portaledges, leeper cams, hooks & an assortment of other gear
  • Use of fixed lines
  • Strategy for multi-pitch aid or mixed climbs
  • Strategies for multi-pitch descents
  • Techniques for hauling, big wall bivies, & for pendulums
  • Clean aid climbing techniques
  • Complex hauling systems
  • Management of hanging belays
  • Strategies for multi-day routes


Self-Rescue Skills & Objective Hazards Evaluation

  • Techniques for raising and lowering an injured climber
  • Evaluation & prediction of mountain weather patterns
  • Introduction to the assessment of natural hazards


Leadership Skills 

  • Technical & personal functions of individuals on an ascent: roles & responsibility
  • Problem solving: gathering appropriate data & assessment techniques
  • Evolving leadership roles: individual leadership vs. collective decision making


Environmental Protection Skills 

  • An introduction to vertical ecology
  • Leave No Trace travel, camping, & climbing skills

Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques

Dates and Locations



  • June 16 - 19, 2024
  • July 28 - 31, 2024
  • Aug 18 - 21, 2024
  • Sept 08 - 11, 2024


Nevada: Red Rock Canyon

Dates may be available on a private basis. Call for details.  




  • June 15 - 18, 2025
  • July 27 - 30, 2025
  • Aug 17 - 20, 2025
  • Sept 07 - 10, 2025


* We also may be able to offer this course on a private basis in Moab, UT and Eldorado Canyon, CO. Please contact our office for further details.


A note on enrollment:

There is a minimum of two participants for this course to run at the public rate.  With one participant we will consider this a 'private course' and charge private rates. You may also contact us about scheduling privately guided days outside of the public dates listed above. 

Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques


Max Ratio - 2:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 6


  • Learn to Lead Course or AMTL 2 or equivalent experience
  • Ability to effectively lead traditional 5.6 rock
  • Ability to lead and descend multiptich rock routes


Climber working his way up Cerro Torre in Patagonia, Argentina.

Climber working his way up Cerro Torre in Patagonia, Argentina.
Andrew Wexler

Aid Climbing and Big Wall Techniques

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