|at right: climbers attempting an H3 move. (photo credit: supertopo user Clint Cummins, http://i129.photobucket.com/albums/p231/scgrossman/CzechPaprikaMt89G.jpg. )|
Gaston Rébuffat said “If you use your head , your physical qualities will help you to acquire technique. Technique governs security, whether you are alone or in a party on a rope.” This is probably not what he meant.
Once forgotten, the historic ‘shoulder-stand’ move is seeing a new renaissance. The rationale behind the not-so-new technique is that, one, two, or six people can cover the same ground that has traditionally been aid terrain or even completely blank ground. It’s proponents describe it as ‘the new clean aid’. It's critics regard it as dangerous, unnatural, or even 'downright wrong'. No bolts, rivets, drilled beak-holes, or pins are placed. In fact no protection is required at all.
In exchange for it’s purity, there is a greater level of danger. It is up to you to decide if it is really ‘free climbing’ or not. As every forum poster ever said: “It just depends on your definition of climbing.” The new grade system outlines the risks at each level of the Human aid technique. Perhaps we are stronger together, but we are, without a doubt, measurably taller when stacked on top of one another.
Human Aid climbing: The grades of difficulty correspond to the numbers of body placements on a pitch. Due to the number of climbers required and the inherent danger, most climbs established as human aid climbs see very few repeats.
H1: Requires only the height of one average sized climber, plus a short hop to reach features.
H2: The classic ‘shoulder-stand’. Using the partner’s upper body as foothold, one can ascend.
H3: Demands a stack of three climbers with honed balance.
H3+: Either three tall climbers or three climbers and a hop, much more dangerous than the mere plus would suggest.
H4: With only body-placements for up to 24 feet, falling becomes very serious.
H5: many climbs originally established as H5 are now much tamer thanks to the widespread use of blowup dolls, lassos, and stick clips.
H6: With six people stacked and tied in at intervals, a ‘whip’ is out of the question and would carry serious consequence for all involved. Even guessing the fall factor is difficult. These spectacular but rarely attempted sequences could have you clipping the anchors on many sport routes without ever touching rock.
H>6: With the outcome almost certainly catastrophic dog-pile, climbs of this difficulty have not yet seen attempts.