The term contrasts with free climbing in which no artificial aids are used to make progress. In aid climbing, the climber ascends by hanging on, and climbing on, his or her equipment; in free climbing the climber ascends by holding onto, and stepping on, natural features of the rock, using rope and equipment only to catch them in case of a fall, and to hang on at belay stations. In general, aid climbing places less emphasis on athletic fitness and physical strength but more on technical skill, though the physical aspects of hard aid climbing should not be underestimated. Aid techniques are most often utilized on extremely steep and long routes, demanding great endurance and stamina, both physical and mental.
Until the 1940s the only protection was the piton, driven into a crack in the rock with a hammer. Today, aid climbing uses a considerably larger array of hardware than the pitons used by the first climbers although the primary technique of ascension has not much evolved. The typical gear of an aid climber includes pitons, hooks, copperheads, nuts, camming devices, ascenders, hauling pulleys, aiders, daisy chains and wall hammers. The invention of camming devices or "friends" and other non-damaging rock gear has resulted in the practice of clean aid, where nothing is hammered, a great bonus for popular routes which could be disfigured from continual hammering.
The hardest aid routes are poorly protected and the climber must make long sequences of moves using hooks or tenuous placements. On these routes, a climber may have to commit to moving up onto the most marginal of placements. For example, if a copperhead is pounded into a shallow crease in a rock, and if it rips, the climber is in for a wild ride, as a whole string of tenuous pieces rip out one by one.
Free climbing is now the mainstream of climbing. But aid climbers have answered the criticism of Messner and others by climbing routes where the absence of holds or features in the rock make free climbing impossible, and by eschewing purely mechanical techniques (such as repetitively drilling bolts).
Today, many routes which were originally done using aid are being climbed free by a new generation of climbers with immense skill, physical ability, and significantly advanced equipment including modern ropes, sticky rubber shoes, and modern camming devices. Ironically, some of the techniques used to achieve free ascents of aid routes, for example placing extra bolts for protection (retro-bolting), are now sometimes thought to have "polluted the pure spring of mountaineering" by destroying the route as it was climbed by the first ascenionists. The solution is often a compromise in which an absolute minimum of bolts is added to allow safe protection for free climbers, while not totally destroying the challenge of the route as an aid climb. However, as with most compromises, this is not a solution that satisfies everyone.
Loras' 4-year campaign raises nearly $50 million; 'We are humbled': College surpasses its goal by more than $3 million
Dec 24, 2002; Loras College has surpassed by more than $3 million its goal for the largest fund-raising effort in school history. Loras...