Etriers, or aiders, are four- to six-step ladders made of nylon webbing that aid climbers attach to pieces of equipment that they place, bang or hook onto rock faces that are too difficult, blank or steep to free climb. Aid climbers ascend rock walls utilizing equipment as holds rather than using their hands and feet as “free climbers” do.
Etriers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some actually look like ladders and have wide steps that are easy to ascend. Others are designed so that there the triangle-shaped steps are staggered on either side of one strip of stiff webbing. Heavier aiders have steps that are reinforced with a variety of different plastic materials.
Etriers have a clip-in loop at the top, which is clipped into the daisy chain attached to the climber and also to the piece of gear that is being ascended. And they have a hand loop that can be grabbed to easier manipulate the aider.
What to Look for
The key thing a climber needs to figures out before purchasing aiders is the type of aid climbing she will be doing. If she is going to spend multiple days on the wall, she should get six-step aiders that are burly with reinforced steps that are stiffer and more comfortable to stand in. Climbers who want to do speed ascents and who are only going to spend a day or two on the wall or in the mountains should get the lighter, more compact four-step etriers that don’t have reinforced steps and that likely have thinner webbing all around.
Because there are so many different types of etriers, a climber should visit his local outdoor recreation store and try out four or five different brands and styles to see which is most comfortable. Height may also be a factor in determining which style to buy. A very short person might want to get the four-step aiders, for example.
There are so many etriers to choose from, it’s easy to be confused by the options. A climber should figure out which type of climbing she will be utilizing the etriers for, and purchase accordingly. If she’s planning to go light and fast, she shouldn’t purchase beefy, reinforced aiders. Also, be sure to buy according to height. Tall people shouldn’t purchase four-step aiders, even if they are less expensive; and likewise, short people shouldn’t bother with the extra length because that extra material will just get in the way. Finally, be wary of buying second hand items for those same reasons mentioned above. Also, be aware of the downfalls of adjustable aiders; they tend to be much more difficult to manipulate after they have been used because the webbing gets fuzzy and doesn’t work as smoothly with the buckle.