Trango Russian Aid System
By Matt Smith

For the last 50 years, tales of a funky Russian aid climbing system has made the rounds of the big wall climbing community in the west. Instead of using the standard 4-aider method, eastern block climbers were rumored to use knee straps, rings and hooks to do their aid climbing. However, actually catching a glimpse of the system proved difficult. It was easier to make a winter ascent of Cerro Torre than it was to take a look at this fabled Russian aid system. That is, until last year. Trango decided to bring the system to the west.

The Trango Russian Aid System consists of two Ultratape "Aid-triers" with a series of titanium rings sewn into them, and two leg cuffs. Each leg cuff is padded and designed to rest just below the knee. From the cuff, a foot loop, which carries your weight, runs under your foot and back up to the cuff. Sewn into each cuff is a titanium hook intended for hooking into the titanium rings on the daisy.

Using the Russian Aid System for aiding was easy to get used to. Instead of the bulky tangled mess of aiders in front of me, I found myself moving quickly and freely with the Russian system. Probably the best thing about this system is that stepping out of the aid system to do some free moves was entirely painless. The only real negative thing I could find about aiding with this system was that I wasn't able to reach as high. Since the hooks ride just below the knees, and the highest rings are six inches below the loop of the Aid-triers, my knees were always below my piece.

For ascending the daisies can be clipped directly to your ascenders. A loop of webbing is sewn to the cuff, directly to the foot loop. The loop is provided for convenience so a carabiner can hook a titanium ring on the daisy to the cuff while ascending. The double set of rings on the daisies make a variety of ascending styles possible, depending on your ascenders and needs. The cuff can be clipped to the daisy in different places according to your height and the style of ascending you plan to use. The two daisy straps are different colors which minimize any confusion that may occur as to which aider is attached to which ascender (The colors conveniently match Petzlšs Ascension L/R ascenders).

The cuffs and the foot loop are fully adjustable. The buckles provided to adjust the length of the straps resemble something you would find on an inexpensive book bag shoulder strap. The shape of the buckle is such that, in my opinion, it was never intended to have the webbing doubled back through it. I doubled the webbing through anyway, and didnšt have any problems. However, I would like to see the design of the buckles improved. One nice feature on the cuff is that the foot loop can be held in place by a Velcro strap around your ankle. This significantly reduces the amount of fumbling required while ascending to keep your foot in the loop.

As far as using the aiders for ascending, performance is as much a function of skill and style as it is a function of construction. That is, using 1" tubular webbing I can ascend just as well as I can using $50 etriers. The true advantage is the Trango Russian Aiders are a system. The system can be used to aid climb, as safety straps, to ascend etc. You get all the functionality in a very compact, lightweight set. At $130, the system is a little more expensive than a pair of six step spectra aiders.

I would offer a few suggestions for using the Russian Aiders. To clip the daisy to the cuff for ascending, use a small wire gate "D" or oval carabiner. Position the gate facing towards the outside of each leg. If you face the gate in you might accidentally hook rings from the other daisy as your other leg goes by. Donšt be fooled by intuition and place the cuff such that the hook is much in front of your knee. It may seem like a good place, but if you suffer the same fate as I did, you will soon discover bruises on the inside of your leg. Thanks to some advice from the Trango staff, I tried rotating the cuff slightly towards the back so that the hook was just to the inside of my knee.

Summary: At $130 and 18 oz, I found the Trango Russian Aid System to be a great option to the bulky 4-aider system. They are so small, versatile and face it, they look cool. I give them a thumbs up.

Matt Smith is the canyoneering editor for GearReview.com

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