The specialized technique of hooking is one of the trickiest aid climbing moves that you will make on a big wall. Hooking, especially if you are a beginning aid climber, is usually scary. Think about it: you’re standing on a tiny piece of steel hooked on an edge on a steep blank face. Your aiders are clipped to a sling attached to the hook. Your feet dangle in the aiders.
Standing there, you feel precarious. You feel that any movement will cause the hook to pop off the edge, sending you falling and flying. It is a special thrill to successfully make a series of hook moves on your pitch.
Carry 3 Types of Hooks
Most aid pitches on big walls usually require only three types of hooks. These are the best hooks to carry on your aid rack:
The Cliffhanger Hook, made by Black Diamond, is the classic hook style that is used on most aid routes. The Cliffhanger has a flat chiseled point and a flat tip for stability on flakes and edges. The bottom of the hook is bipodal to reduce rotation and keep it stable when weighted.
Some aid routes require Cliffhanger hooks with the tip filed to a sharp triangular point for use in a shallow, drilled 1/4-inch-deep hole on blank faces. A pointed hook is sometimes called a Bat hook, a name given by the great Yosemite climber Warren Harding, who often drilled several shallow holes in a row to avoid drilling deeper holes and placing bolts. These pointed hooks are seldom used on routes except in drilled holes since more weight is transferred onto the point, which can break edges.
The Grappling Hook, another Black Diamond hook, is similar in shape and design to the Cliffhanger but is more stable and works on a greater variety of edges and flakes. Its wide, flat, chiseled point grabs edges, especially big ones, and its wide base with flared feet makes it stable when weighted.
The Grappling Hook is one of the best hooks for your aid rack. Buy and use two or three on your climbs and you’ll feel solid on almost every hook placement. Like the Cliffhanger, you can also file and sharpen the point for use in Bat hook holes.
The Talon Hook, also made by Black Diamond, is the third hook to carry on your rack of aid gear. The Talon, like the foot of a raptor, is a three-pronged hook, with each arm of equal length. The tip of each prong, however, makes the Talon a useful piece of aid climbing equipment. Each tip offers a different shape for different edges—pointed, medium wide, and wide. The width of the bottom prongs when the hook is used keeps it stable. The hook covers edges from 4.8mm (3/16-inch) to 13mm (1/2-inch). The pointed hook works well in shallow Bat holes.
Other Types of Hooks
Some aid climbing routes might require larger hooks than these three, including a ring-angle hook made from an old soft-iron Army angle piton like the Fish Hook Angle Claw or a Fish Hook, from Fish Products. These large hooks are great for hooking big flakes and wide ledges.
Aid climbers also use Cam Hooks, a large, strong hook that is wedged or cammed in thin cracks, seams, and piton scars. Cam Hooks are your best friend on big walls, but they are not hooks that you use on flakes and edges so they are not described here.
Another type of hook is a Black Diamond Pecker or a Moses Tomahawk. These are used as pitons but placed by hand, without hammering, in thin cracks, seams, and piton scars. Again, these are essential modern climbing tools for Yosemite big wall routes, but they are not hooks, even though they use a hooking placement to seat themselves.