The Big Wall Bible

Your Guide to Epic Big Walls Without Epics

Knowledge is zero grams. Take it with you.

Welcome to a free resource by HowNOT2 that will help you get up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just by us, but from others as well.

This book is in a blog format. This page points to all 14 chapters, and the end of each chapter points to the next.

Free PDF Download Available

Episode #1 - LOGISTICS

Planning for El Capitan

Logistics can set you up for success.

Episode #2 - PREPERATION

12 Essentials You Need To Climb Big Walls

What to take to live in a vertical world.

Episode #3 - PACKING

Packing Haul Bags for Big Walling

How to pack a giant one-chamber bag.

Episode #4 - LIVING

How to Sleep on a Cliff and Poop in a Bag

Just living on a cliff face is a skill.

Episode #5 - GEAR

My Big Wall Rack - Cams, Nuts, and Hooks

Look at people's racks and enjoy gear porn!

Episode #6 - PLACEMENTS

Aid Climbing - Hooking and Nutting

Placing gear is more an art than a science.

Episode #7 - KNOTS

15 Knots You Need to Big Wall

Tying together a foundation to send.

Episode #8 - LEADING

Aid Climbing Big Walls - How To Lead

The process of climbing the ladder you installed

Episode #9 - ANCHORS

Big Wall Anchors

Setting up a great anchor is the foundation to being efficient and organized.

Episode #10 - HAULING

Hauling Giant Big Wall Bags Up El Capitan

Getting to the top is cool, but dragging 200lbs of dead weight to the top is the real miracle.

Episode #11 - ASCENDING

Ascending Up Big Walls

Sometimes following can be just as tricky as leading.

Episode #12 - RAPPELLING

Getting Down From Big Walls Is Dangerous

A lot of bolting done today is fixing old bolts. How do you remove those old bolts? Can you reuse the hole? See what tools are available to make this possible.

Episode #13 - ROOFS

Aid Climbing Roofs Is Harder Than You Think

Watch how, where and when bolts break and you'll understand what you can trust your life to and how to install them better. 450+ bolt and hanger break tests organized in easy to see spreadsheets with their associated episodes.

Episode #14 - FULL EXAMPLE

Big Walling - Full Example Start To Finish

Watch the whole process A-Z.

HowNOT2 Store

I started a store and sell (almost) everything you need for big walling. We have all the ropes, bags, pulleys, portaledges, and everything you need for a triple rack. Buying from us helps us make more content and you get an EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT STORE WIDE if you become a $99-a-year supporter.

John Middendorf donated to this project. Clicking and sharing it will bring you to this main blog which leads you to every other part of our big wall content. Did you know BigWalls.NET was one of the first climbing website in the world and John still operates it?

Founder of A5 Adventures, John has been crushing walls since 1978 and has heavily influenced hammers, hauling pulleys, ball nuts, drill holders, solo devices, hooking pitons, haul bags, and portaledge designs for over 25 years. Today he sells the D4 portaledge. Middendorf has recently written two volumes of the history of tools. They include break tests going back 100 years in addition to great stories of the folks first pushing the limits. The PDFs are free right at the top of BigWalls.NET or you can buy a print copy HERE.

If you are feeling old school, or want to see what has and hasn't changed, check out the 1988 Big Wall Tech Manual PDF.


You could die trying the stuff we talk about. Don't sue me because I showed you my rack and tell you how to poop in a bag, please. How's that for a disclaimer?

What I meant was, please seek professional advice on extreme sports techniques and follow the manufacturer's recommendations on your gear. Everything in this content is personal opinion and the break tests are not statistically significant enough to base your life on the results. Is that better?

The Vision

The Bolting Bible was other people's content as I researched bolts, then we slowly added our content to fill in the gaps, and is now a whole lot of bolting information. The Big Wall Bible is the other way around. It starts with our content, hoping to stir up other people to contribute their content, but at the end is a whole lot of information about big walling.

It's a complex topic that can be approached so many ways, starting from different backgrounds and aiming for different goals. Some people like going up as slow as possible, others climb el cap with just a chalk bag and climbing shoes. Ok, so we won't' be covering how to free solo El Cap, but it's a great example of how extremely different you can approach the same climb. No course made by 2 people can cover everything you need to know, and no printed book can stay up to date, and I hate to tell you this, no information is going to replace just doing these things yourself. However, what if there was a place that could include dozens, and maybe even hundreds, of people's well-organized thoughts, regardless if they have a social media presence or not. Imagine if it was video or photo or written content, as it's easier to share some information in different formats. What if it was super free and able to be googled and translated into any language?

Books cost money to make, print, and ship. Courses on course-type platforms have to charge and are rarely updated. Forums require too much sifting through the weeds to find the flowers. PDFs are a PITA to maintain. Youtube videos + a highly managed blog with a few moderators to keep everyone's thoughts tidy and organized might be the answer. Blogs are the elixir of efficiency, searchability, translations, collaboration, embedded videos, and auto-formatting. Mix that with an established channel that can effectively share the best information that's added here and this could grow to be a very very helpful community-built resource.

"I love El Capitan" design by Andrea Nicole. Swag available HERE.

The 10 Big Wall Commandments

These are written FOR stone, not IN stone.
  1. Thou shalt not big wall if rain is imminent.
  2. Thou shalt top step as high as you can.
  3. Thou shalt not carry too much or too little water.
  4. Thou shalt practice everything possible before doing your first wall.
  5. Thou shalt not hammer on clean routes.
  6. Thou shalt not eat too many Mountain House Meals.
  7. Thou shalt not take heavy PVC pipe poop tubes.
  8. Thou shalt pee in thy bottles and poop in thy bags.
  9. Thou shalt take trash you see and not leave any.
  10. Thou shalt send your big wall tips for us to add.

About Us

Ryan Jenks

I grew up 2 hours away from Yosemite and started going there regularly when I was 21. I fell in love with the idea of big walling since learning people went straight up the face of the big rock called El Capitan. I ran up to the base and asked the first person I saw how I can learn to go up it and they said to go to a climbing gym, and so I did. I'm not sure how a year later I made it up leaning tower as I was severely under-prepared. I've been to Yosemite now over 200 times as a weekend warrior, made 28 attempts at big walls, and made it to the top in one shape or another 18 times. Other than John Long's book and a few SuperTopo posts, I was self-taught and got humbled many times. I hope this course will help ease your journey.

After a big wall scare in 2015, I stopped climbing to pursue a new passion called highlining. After years of complex highline rigging and breaking thousands of samples of gear, I learned big walling can be done safer than I realized. The gear is a bomber and better balance made it a lot easier. I hung my aiders up after doing Zodiac clean but 6 years later I, off the couch, lead an A3+ without adrenaline because I knew that micro gear was stronger than it looked and that my rope was bomber. I'm not an expert but I bring enough real-life experience to the table to contribute something to this resource.

In 2019, I was a small channel with about 10,000 subscribers making exclusively slackline content. My slackline friend was at my house and going big walling the next day and wanted some beta. I told him I needed a video for Wednesday, as I never missed a Wednesday, and said "turn on the camera". I beta sprayed for 45 minutes and hardly had to edit it because I was confident in what didn't work and what did. I hesitated to post such a long video but found it was my first 250,000 view video!?!? I didn't make climbing content because I thought that subject was well known and well covered by now. Guess what? There's definitely room for more. That one accidental video made me realize there were a lot of people who would like to know more about this thing I originally loved doing before I started youtube. It's nice to go full circle and use this platform I've worked on all these years to give back to Big Walling.

Jeremiah LeTourneau

In early 2022 he planted the seed of making more big wall content in some very ripe soil. I was very interested in A-Z content at the time and after breaking gear fear in my own mind, want to do more big walling myself. He spent months helping iron out the course content, and gave up a week of very good weather of his limited summer off to film these videos with me and helps me write this Big Wall Bible. He brought a very different experience to this course that really complimented my "learning the hard way" experience. Having NOT done a wall together really added a lot of variety for you, so you can see different ways of skinning the cat, instead of 1 homogenized system. I do believe the seed he planted has sprouted with these core videos and will grow into a big resource over time if others also contribute. Every big project takes a village but it's pretty cool to acknowledge where the seed came from. I appreciate his level of engagement with this project and think it will help a lot of people.

Who knew planting such a little seed could turn into a giant tree? In 2020, a high school math teacher in the mid-west sent me a photo of himself from the back of the classroom while showing a break test episode to his students. Jeremiah LeTourneau is jacked on climbing and does it about 300 days a year. At the time, I had no idea my videos were being watched by non-slackliners, let alone by high school students. It was the main reason I started to make my videos (slightly) more family-friendly. About a year later, he asked me to mentor him about big walling because I had a big wall video I made randomly in 2019 but I blew him off because I wasn't interested in teaching a new person since there is so much to cover. Later that summer, it worked out to climb for a few hours together in Yosemite while we were both there, and was a fun meet and greet. He trained for big walls for 5 years before doing his first one in 2021 and crushed it. He has not epiced or bailed off a wall after 8 successful top-outs as of 2022. He, in fact, is climbing all the routes I did in half the time. With such a vast "book knowledge" of the sport and practicing everything he could at his local crag, he crushed it when he showed up.

Credits and Thank You's

It takes a village, these are the villagers.

  • Andrea Nicole is a very supportive girlfriend who helped film, make the cover plus other graphics, listen to me edit this for months, and proofreads every brain fart I add in here. She also helped me create the taxonomy and design of this website you now enjoy. Her art is on all our swag. Watch her in Episode 13 leading her first roof.
  • Brent Roth let us use his house as a studio while he was out of town having fun. He built a beautiful plywood wall for climbing and canyon demos and you can watch him in our CANYON COURSE.
  • Guillermo Gutierrez Camargo is an audio engineer who spent days taking 5 episodes of this course from being barely watchable to having even and leveled-out audio.
  • Ryan Sheridan re-sparked my interest in big walling after a 5-year sabbatical when we did the Dano Jump Project and freely shared many of the images you see in this course.
  • Travis Nichols and Justin Smestad were my big wall partners for all those years in all the ups and sometimes the downs.
  • Your name here - if you contribute to making this a great resource for people.

Playing on the Nipple

The cover image is by the one and only Tom Evans from the El Cap Report while I was leading the nipple pitch on the zodiac with my friend Justin Smestad. I was proud to have climbed that clean with inverted cam hooks and found out Tom captured the moment. When I got down to the bridge he yelled at me for wearing brown and white and I have walked around in yellow pants and bright-colored shirts ever since. The cover design is by Andrea Nicole.

Other Resources

Climbers shall not live by one source alone but by every word of advice available


Pass the Piton Pete Zabrok and Fabio Elli have an amazing, huge, full-color book on every aspect of big walling. This is the biggest and most helpful big wall book in print today. Worth every penny! Here him muse in this short EPISODE.


Neil Chelton has a blog and 100+ short videos on the topic. He filmed most of his content on real rock, narrated a lot of it afterward for better and more concise audio, and also includes animations. It cost the price of 3 carabiners and his ebook is "pick your price" so make sure you go look at his stuff. See our interview with him in this VIDEO.

Alpine Savvy

John Godino has over over 50 blogs for tips and tricks on big walling. He also has an entire website with 400+ other useful blogs. It's all free and ad-free and full value. He posts his content also on Instagram @alpinesavvy.

How To Climb Big Walls

This falcon guide written by John Long and John Middendorf was the guide most big wallers read since 1994. It's a classic and worth reading.

How To Big Wall Climb

Super Topo's Chris Macnamara published this book in 2012 and is also a guide most big-wallers are familiar with. You can see some samples of the book at SUPERTOPO and Chris' videos on YOUTUBE.

Higher Education: A Big Wall Manual

Andy Kirkpatricks detailed big wall book printed in 2018. He has done thirty+ ascents just of El Cap (including 5 solos, 2 one day ascents, 1 winter ascent) plus routes on the Troll Wall, Dru, Eiger, places like Patagonia, Zion, Alaska, and Antarctica, This big wall book gets into the details you need.

Other helpful resources will be linked where relevant in the rest of the Big Wall Bible.

👇 Start at Episode 1 👇

Big Wall Episode #1 - Logistics