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Hands-on Gear Review
Yates Speed Wall Ladder Review
Cons: heavy, bulky
The Yates Speedwall Ladder is a lighter and thinner version of the our Editors' Choice winner, the Yates Big Wall Ladder. The steps are 1" wide compared to the Big Wall Ladder's 1.75" steps. That means this aider is not as comfortable to stand in for hours but is lighter when clipped to the side of your harness. While the Big Wall Ladder comes in a 6-step and a 7-step length, the Speed Wall Ladder only comes in a 6-step length (67"). This is the aider Ammon McNeely uses to set El Cap speed records.
Overall we prefer the Yates Big Wall Ladder to Speed Wall Ladder because it is more comfortable and is only a little heavier. But it's personal preference. McNeely prefers the Speed Wall because he likes a lighter aider. Chris Mac prefers to take a heavy, comfortable aider for the aid-intensive walls and a light aider like the Petzl Wall Step Etrier for free-intensive walls. But if you only want one aider that is versatile, it is hard to go wrong with the Speed Wall Ladder. It's comfy, durable, and not too clunky when free climbing. Another ladder to consider is the Metolius 8-Step Ladder Aider, which is even lighter but lacks a spreader bar.
This product is not available at any major retailers, it is only available from Yatesgear.com. Check out all of the other big wall 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
The Speed Wall has the same great spreader bar as the Yates Big Wall Ladder. The beefy plastic spreader bar up top does two things: it keeps the steps open so you can get your foot in easily and it 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; we have yet to hear of a pair wearing out.
When Chris McNamara teaches aid climbing he finds that most people have a much easier time with these 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, which are the trade off for the aider being so comfortable and durable. It is not as heavy as the Big Wall Ladder, but it is still pretty heavy. For a free climbing-intensive aid wall like The Nose, this aider is bulky and heavy when clipped to the side of your harness as you make free moves. Also, it is more likely to get stuck in cracks.
We recommend this aider when doing more aid-intensive big walls, as opposed to walls that have a lot of free climbing such as El Capitan's Nose.
Chris Mac used these a lot after Ammon McNeely showed them to him then gave him a pair ("Thanks Ammon!"). Up until that point, Chris was a diehard user of the standard aider-style or etrier-style. But after using these for one wall he was a convert to the Yates. Chris says, "I have used them for every aid-instensive big wall I have done in the last five years."
This aider is a pretty good deal only a little more expensive than the Metolius Aider and Aid Ladder.
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: November 27, 2009