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Hands-on Gear Review
Yates Big Wall Ladder Review
Cons: Heavy, bulky
The Yates Big Wall Ladder stands out for its ease of use and comfort when standing in it for hours at a time. This is our top choice for aid-intensive big walls. It is a beefy aider, which means you get durability and comfort at the expense of weight this is one of the heavier aiders out there. In most cases the tradeoff for the extra weight is well worth it. This is a review of the 6 Step size. There is also a 7 Step size that is recommended for people over 6 feet or who are doing harder aid.
Overall, this is our favorite aider for most big wall applications and gets the OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice Award. It is only on mainly free routes such as The Nose or Regular Route on Half Dome where we would use a lighter aider such as the Petzl Wall Step Etrier. Another highly rated webbing ladder is the Metolius 8 Step Ladder Aider.
See How this compared to the other aiders and etriers that we tested in our complete Aider Review.
RELATED REVIEW: Finding the Perfect Big Wall Aider
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
It's all about the steps: beefy 1" webbing is covered with beefy 1.75" webbing to create the most comfortable steps out there. The beefy plastic spreader bar up top does two things: 1) It keeps the steps open so you can get your foot in and 2) keeps the aider from squeezing the sides of your foot. The steps are relatively close together so that you can rest with two feet in the aider when selecting gear. Then when you reach up to place a piece you stand just on your one top foot. This is important, especially for people who are moving from using four aiders to just two. The construction is bomber. Chris Mac says he has put more than 15 big wall ascents in his and has yet to wear a pair out.
One extra feature is the elastic strap under a few of the steps that keeps your foot from coming out of the aider. Some people, especially beginners, might appreciate this. However, we don't use this feature because it takes more time and makes it annoying when you want to quickly step out of the aiders while cleaning. Most importantly, over time you will get good enough at ascending that your feet won't come out of the aiders.
When Chris Mac teaches aid climbing, he finds that most people have a much easier time with this aider because of the intuitive ladder style design and generously sized steps. He now only teaches with ladder style aiders.
The downside to this aider is the weight and bulk that are the tradeoff for the aider being so comfortable and durable. For a free climbing-intensive aid wall such as The Nose, this aider is bulky and heavy when clipped to the side of your harness while making free moves. Also, it is more likely to get stuck in cracks. If you are cleaning with these aiders, you can definitely feel that they are heavier, especially when pushing up the top ascender. However, at the belay you will be happy to stand around in such comfy steps.
Chris Mac recommends this aider when teaching people to aid climb or when he is doing more aid-intensive big walls (as opposed to walls that have a lot of free climbing such as El Capitan's Nose). He has used the 6 step length but very tall people or people doing really hard aid might consider the 7 step length. Chris has considered chopping off a step to make a 5 step aider for more free intensive routes like The Nose where normally he would use a standard Etrier style.
Chris says, "I have used these a lot after Ammon McNeely showed them to me then gave me a pair (thanks Ammon!). Up until that point, I was a diehard user of the standard aider style or "etrier" style. But after using these for one wall I was a convert to the Yates Big Wall Ladder. I have used them for every aid-instensive big wall I have done in the last five years."
This aider is $10-15 more than most other aiders except for the Petzl. We think the price premium is worth it, but if you are on a strict budget or are not going to do many walls, you might consider a less expensive aider Such as the Metolius 5 Step Aider or Fish Smart Aider.
— Chris McNamara
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