Bigwall Equipment Guide

Erik Sloan’s Bigwall Gear Guide

Offset Nuts
Bring 1 set of regular offset nuts and 2 sets of brass micro nuts (even xtras of brass #4-6). The brass ones get damaged easily if you try to jerk them out, so bring a baby hammer to tap them out with your nut tool.

Offset Cams

Bring 2-3 of each size for most routes. Borrow, scrounge, or get these cams however you can. They will make your bigwall introduction much easier.

Best brands:

Totem – by a long shot. People haven’t talked about cams like they do about the Totems since Offset Aliens hit the market in the late 90s. Buy Totems or be bummed!
Fixe Aliens – The ‘Revo’ Offset Aliens are very good.
BD X4 – Not as good as Totems or Aliens, due to harder metal cams that don’t ‘stick’ like the others, but decent.
Metolius – not even on the same page as the others. Sturdy, but have a severely limited range, and get stuck easy.

Cam Hooks

Bring 2 each Narrow and Wide. Camhooks are indispensible for efficient climbing on walls. They fit into cracks that take pitons or tiny nuts, but tend to be much more secure. They can help you move beyond a section you would otherwise nail, or they can allow you to motor through sections of thin nutting. Learning to cam hook can be spooky, so practice before you get on the wall.


(Grappling, Cliffhanger, and Talon are the names of Black Diamond hooks)

Bring a Grappling hook even on easy walls to occasionally help transition from aid to free climbing. A standard set of hooks is 1-2 ea Talon or Bathook, Cliffhanger, and Grappling(filed to a point). If the rack calls for a large hook bring the Pika Ibis 3” hook. Sling your hooks with strong webbing.

Lead and Haul Lines

Use at least a 10.2mm lead line, because jugging on a rope is hard on it (If you weigh over 200 lbs, I would recommend at least 10.5mm). If possible, splurge for a new rope before your first El Cap climb. It will help you climb more confidently. For a haul line use an old 9mm or 10mm climbing rope, so if you have any trouble with your lead line you will have a spare.

Refers to Black Diamond Peckers, or Moses Tomahawks. Medium and big beaks can be hand-placed as “hooks” in thin cracks and are incredibly secure (especially if you give them a couple taps with the hammer ;). If you have to nail, beaks offer the best protection with the least impact. Big beaks get stuck easily so tap gently. In Yosemite, the wall to the left of The Couch at Half Dome (Curry) Village is a good place to find cracks where you can practice placing and removing beaks.

Long Slings/Quickdraws/Cordelette

Bring 10-12 quickdraws, 5-7 ‘alpine draws’ or quickdraws made from long slings. Also bring 8-12 lightweight shoulder-length slings.

On most easy walls, your anchor will consist of two to three modern bolts equally spaced apart. So a cordelette is overkill most of the time and just takes longer to setup and take down, and only creates one power point. I prefer to use shoulder length runners and create two different power points (easily done with three bolts, using two for one power point, and one shared and one different bolt for a second power point). One power point is for the lead line, the other is for the hauler. Extra slings are also great for coiling ropes, sticking through your sleeve of a jacket to clip it on the back of your harness, and for cleaning.

Biners/Locking Biners

Buy the lightest weight ‘biners you are comfortable using. In addition to every piece on your rack having it’s own racking biner, bring 14 free biners on a beginner wall with two people, and 21 free biners with three people. On grade VI climbs always bring 21 free biners. Lightweight locking biners are great for the essential stuff you clip to your harness, like your ditty bag, belay device, Knife/Prussiks, free shoes, ascenders, and hauler. Anything clipped under your haulbag should be on a locking biner, as stuff tends to flip around down there. If you are short lockers you can tape the gate shut, say on your poop tube or other things you don’t get out too often.

Rivet Hangers

These hook over rivets, or hangerless bolts, on aid pitches. Keep one on each aider for leading pitches with rivets. Avoid the “cinch” or butterfly style hangers as they do not hold falls.

Extended Rivet Hangers

If you need rivet hangers for a route and you are under 5’7”, bring a couple of these. These are speciality bigwall product. You can order them directly from bigwall ace Donny Goetz @

Keyhole Hangers

These slide over hangerless bolts. They are stronger than rivet hangers, but they take longer to fit on, and sometimes don’t fit, so always bring both these and wire rivet hangers.


Always bring two pulleys in case you drop one. The Micro Traxion or similar is ok for your first walls, but once you start bringing any amount of stuff you’ll want a Pro Traxion. Bring the Micro Traxion as a backup, or just bring a plain pulley that can be used with an ascender. Always feed the haul line through the hauler before giving it to the leader, decreasing any chance it can be dropped and allowing the leader to just clip it in and start hauling.

Knot Protector

Cut the top off a plastic water bottle. This keeps your haul line from getting shredded over edges(the top of the water bottle fits over your haul bag knot as a protector). Feed the end of your haul line through the water bottle and clip the rope to your haul bag biner. Easy to make, free, don’t forget this essential piece of bigwall gear.

Haul Bag

Bring one smaller, 4000+ cu. in. haulbag for rack, snacks, rain gear. Bring one 7000+ cu. in. haulbag for everything else. The really big haulbags are not ideal because it is very difficult to get to the bottom of them.

Lowerout Line

Use 40-50 feet of 8-9mm rope to anchor (to tie them to the anchor) the haul bags, and to lower them out safely using a munter-mule knot (best knot for tying the bag to the anchor, also doubles as a lower out knot.


Bring a swivel when you go for the Nose, Salathe, or Lurking Fear. Don’t bring it for your first, shorter walls which tend to not traverse as much.

‘Heads or Copperheads

These are usually fixed, or left in the mountain by a previous party, on beginner climbs. Heads are aluminum, or soft nut-shaped chocks which you shape place using a hammer(in a placement that looks like a bad nut placement – tapered but flaring so a nut wouldn’t stick) Heads are shaped to fit perfectly in the rock BEFORE you slide it in. Unlike a nut, after sliding it in the rock you “paste” it using a center punch and hammer.

Center Punch

Bring a 1/8” punch if you are bringing copperheads for your climb. They are great for removing old heads, and work pretty good for placing new ones. Punches are available at a hardware store.