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Dec 21, 2002, 10:29 PM
Post #1 of 10 (2993 views)

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I copied a series of my posts from another website and edited them into this piece.
Hope it is not redundant to info already provided here.


So, how does that wacky expando stuff work?

We must first differentiate between expando and loose. There IS a difference. Sometimes expando can become loose... not good... Loose rock should be dealt with using extreme caution. Minimize forces by free-climbing, using cams instead of pins, and the use of cam hooks or nuts. Way loose s*** is SCARY!! Beeee CAREFUL!!!

Now for the expando part.
Aside from the loose stuff, to me, expando is the most sporty part of aid-climbing. It is unpredictable. Solid thin seams (RURPs, Beaks, heads for days) ARE predictable (unless you are dealing with fixed shwagg).

Cams have made suicidal expando possible (or more tame). Climbing these features is relatively straight-forward (A1+). The key to expando is to clip-in (as short as possible) your next daisy to the piece being placed. This is not as important when using clean (no hammer) gear because cams have a range and can open under loading and still hold. Expando that requires nailing is a new game. I give a pin a few taps and then tie-off or clip (accordingly) it with my next aider/daisy combo (all on 1 biner) and make sure that my upper daisy is tight (to minimize shock-load). I hold onto my upper aiders with my left arm while I quickly wail away on the new pin with my right. PING!!! The lower pin blows and you have an insta-test (though minor (hopefully)) of your new placement. Repeat the process. It is a good idea to wail the s*** out of the first pin placement of an expanding feature, however, beware the difference between expando and loose!! Ball-nuts are also great for thinner (not thinnest) expando. They make ugly popping noises... but still hold... Place pieces as far apart as possible. The chances of your lower piece blowing become much less with greater distance between the pieces.

Delicate flakes, manditory pin placements: Be very careful when nailing thin flakes (use care when placing pins in delicate features. Not enough (hammering or tapping) and the pin won't hold... too much and you'll blow the flake apart and get a face-full 'o minerals... ouch!

The butter-knife-blade:
Beware. If the blade looks like the right size (your well-trained piton-eye) and it still goes in like butter, then try the next size up, then the next one, etc. Beware the difference between expando and loose!!

Judgment is also required when determining if a feature is expando or solid. Scope it out... are there cracks in it, how detached is it, what is holding it to the wall, how deep is the main crack, etc...????? Granite is flexible - treat it that way. Proper judgment can only come from good ol' hammer-to-pin nailing experience...

Head placements are more dicey when it comes to expando. If the crack is deep enough, hammer the head into a wedge (nut) shape, slot it into a constriction, and tap it in with your chisel until it seats. Test. Normal head placements (tight groove) become tricky. Exercise judgment on how much to wail on the head... not enough and it won't hold... too much and it will spit out the head you are hanging from. Always clip into the piece being placed!!! Try to avoid going from a head placement to a pin placement in the same expanding feature - it is a sure way to go for a quick ride!! Trust me!!

Hook placements (on the opposing face) can save your ass. A hook placement allows you to place the next pin without worrying about wailing on it. Send the puppy home! Now you have taken a lot of the flex out of the flake for the next placements. Hook placements on the flake itself are great too - same deal as above. Also, use slings or tie-offs on horns of flakes.

Clean all cams, nuts, ball-nuts, etc. out of an expanding feature before cleaning the pins. If you clean a pin next to a cam (etc.) the flake will de-expand and pinch the cam and you may not be able to clean it. Down-jug or rap down to clean pins if necessary.

Expando can sometimes be the trickiest and most exciting part of aid climbing. Hopefully the tips above will help when you are confronted with the next semi-solid section of rock on your next wall route. Itís fun to watch your gear fall out behind you as you climb!

Think SICK!!!

Have FUN!!!

[ This Message was edited by: copperhead on 2002-12-21 23:28 ]


Dec 21, 2002, 11:08 PM
Post #2 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Nov 25, 2002
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How am I doing?


Dec 21, 2002, 11:13 PM
Post #3 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Feb 27, 2002
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Right On! Keep it coming! Quality information

I would like to pry open wanna a'dos clap-trap expando flakes right now.


Dec 22, 2002, 7:22 AM
Post #4 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Jul 27, 2001
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Outstanding post. Thanks.


Dec 22, 2002, 6:43 PM
Post #5 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Oct 9, 2001
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Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! [DDEL]

Talk about SICK, eh? Ya just gotta love expanding flakes! [I mean, you'd better learn to love expanding flakes if you're gonna climb big walls in Yosemite...]

So how are ya doin', Copperhead?

Bitchin'! The Doc is impressed!

I particularly like Bryan's discussion of "loose" versus "expanding". I have a bit of a scar on my elbow because I didn't understand the difference between the two! [Ouch]

Climbing an expanding flake is not accomplished by brute strength and blow of hammer - rather it is accomplished by finessing your way up the thing in the most unintrusive way possible.

What does this mean?

It means, try not to move the thing any more than you have to. [Being]underhanded and deceiptfull [sic] can help .... so try to be sneaky]

But you might have to move the flake to begin with.

Finding an expanding flake is half the fun! It usually goes something along the lines of this:

"Hmm, lessee, I wonder if this piece'll work. Yeah, seems to be OK..."

[Clip on aiders and stand on piece, then watch in absolute horror as the rock moves!]

"Holy FRIG! It's expanding!!! FUUUUUUUUUCK!"

[Heart rate increases dramatically, head spins, you quickly move back down onto the piece below you to ponder your fate, and wonder why on earth you ever took up this metier...]

The first thing I like to do when faced when one of these things is to whack in a pin to open 'er up. The trick is choosing which pin to use. You want to choose a piton that'll open it enough, but not too much. Once you open 'er up a bit, then you've got something to work with.

When it comes to what to place next, the last thing on your list to use should be another piton! If you whack in two pins in a row, you may find yourself faced with the "delightful situation" Bryan describes above. I've done that a few times, and it's about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. [Though they say "if you hang a man long enough, he gets used to hangin'..." Hell, I was frickin' married for twelve years. Sheesh.]

If you are going to finesse the flake, then you have to treat it with respect. Try to place a piece that won't open it any more.

Obviously if the flake is big enough, cams are the ticket. But that's kids' stuff. It ain't rocket science to climb an expando flake on medium-sized cams.

Where things get tough is when it looks like you need to place another pin. In fact, you can see the pin scars where others before you have nailed.

But just because they nailed doesn't mean you should.

Try one of these ideas for outwitting an expando flake:

Open 'er up to begin with

When climbing expanding flakes, try to stand tall in the saddle. Get as high as you can in your aiders in order to spread the placements as far apart as you can. If your next placement is only two feet higher than your last, you have a much better chance of dislodging your last placement. But if you can make your next placement say four feet higher, you are much less likely to open the flake four feet lower.

Needless to say, this is yet another place where Russian Aiders positively shine!

Try placing a head instead of a pin. Except in the thinnest of cracks, a head will usually fit better than most any pin. Look for a tapered placement if possible, but remember it is a head after all - you can paste that little m*therf*cker home in most any divot.

But be careful with heads - if you open the flake even a bit you could render the head useless! Be very careful of the placement you make after a head.

Several heads in a row can be bomber! Just don't open the flake any more than you already have.

Use your wired stoppers, but be careful in the micro sizes. It doesn't take much movement - virtually none - for a micro to lose its grip. Heads are much stickier than micros, but a small- or medium- sized wire can give you lots of confidence.

The thirteenth pitch of Lunar Eclipse was marked "A3 Expando" and had me a bit worried, until I actually climbed it. I snuck up delicately on Aliens and wires - it felt trivial! It would have been much harder had I nailed.

Use nylon wherever possible. This of course depends on the orientation of the flake, and may be impossible to use. But on horizontal or diagonal flakes, nylon can be The Sh*t. Sometimes you can hang the nylon right on the pointy bits of the flake which have been chipped for precisely that purpose - a Jim Bridwell trademark. You'll need duct tape to secure the nylon, but if you're soloing, you can hold the nylon down with a prusik loop on your lead rope

Use hooks! Frequently you can get a pointed hook hung over the flake. This will be one of those rare occasions when you will think, "Whew! Thank goodness - a hook!" Sometimes they're good enough to leave as pro, and you'll have to funk them out later.

The secret weapon for expando, which Bryan forgot to mention, is the cam hook. These things are particularly terrifying to use at night because when you get on 'em and the flake opens up, they spark - YIKES! But they don't pull. A few gentle taps of your hammer can make these little puppies absolutely the bomb.

Finally, try to bypass the flake! I mean, why nail an expanding flake if there is solid hook on the face next to it? Don't use the flake unless there is nothing else. Be creative - use your eyeballs. There might even be a drilled bathook placement on the wall next to the flake. Being creative and using the best option is what keeps you alive on hard aid.

Keep your head about you. Take your time. Always think, "what can I do to move up without opening the flake any farther?"

Are your hands sweating yet? Mine sure are!

There are several different ways you can learn how to climb an expanding flake.

You could get your partner to lead it for you, and you could clean it and figure out what he did.

You could study the information you read here and try to learn from others' experience.

Or you can learn the way I did when I encountered my first-ever expando flake - eight hundred feet off the deck while climbing solo!

Fortunately, my Wall Doctor was able to shout up instructions to me!

I am Dr. Piton,

and I am so sick I actually enjoy expanding flakes!


P.S. Pay no attention to what Bryan wrote above concerning how to clean an expando flake. Just funk those pins out as you come to them.

Then afterwards, send me a PM and let me know what route you climbed .... I want to increase my worth....


Aug 18, 2003, 10:11 AM
Post #6 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Jun 17, 2002
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With the fall season coming up in Yosemite, this is definitely worth a bump. Thanks again for taking the time, Bryan. Good to see you back in front of the PC.



Aug 18, 2003, 11:25 AM
Post #7 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Dec 29, 2001
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Re: Expando aid [In reply to]
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I did 16 cam hook moves on a expando route in looking glass NC. on a traverse.Rowans route.1st pitch
It was yummie

They were bomber though,but they did make popping noises from time to time.



Aug 18, 2003, 1:27 PM
Post #8 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Mar 30, 2002
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I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but if cams get pinched down by a flake, I find it useful to stick the end of my hammer behind the flake and lever them out. Kind of like pulling nails. Of course this doesn't work if the flake is too thin, but it has come in useful a few times. It helps on pesky stuck nuts too.


Aug 18, 2003, 5:09 PM
Post #9 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Nov 3, 2002
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Re: Expando aid [In reply to]
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I'm just a gumbie compared to others on this site, but I've found one trick useful that I haven't seen mentioned yet in this thread... that of pinning heads in place.

The thought here is to use a pin to seat a head far deeper behind the expanding flake than would be possible with a chisel, and utilizing stacking of pin with cable or redirecting the force on the top of the head to cause it to be pulled deeper into the placement.

Although this feels a little like a blind man playing chicken in the dark, some really solid placements are possible...

First, the head is hand-placed as deep as possible into the crack, then moved around until a constriction is found (all other things being equal, also seek the thickest part of the flake, closest to point of attachment.) Then, a pin of appropriate size is used to drive either the head itself deeper into the crack, to drive the cable deeper into the crack, or to stack pin with the cable of the head, preferably just below the blob of head itself. After securing the pin with a keeper (in case the whole mess blows) the head is then weighted, the other issues mentioned elsewhere (like keeping yopur adjustable daisys tight on both upper and lower pieces) being addressed as well.

Good luck.



Aug 18, 2003, 5:19 PM
Post #10 of 10 (2993 views)

Registered: Dec 28, 2001
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Re: Expando aid [In reply to]
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The one time I did expando nailing I used a head like Brutus is talking about. If it's small expanding flakes be careful not to bust them up!

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