When you’re setting up your daisychain and ascenders for heading up a rope, getting the correct length for the daisychain is critical. If it’s too short you will be making short, choppy, and efficient strokes. If it’s too long, you won’t be able to easily reach your upper ascender from the rest position, and you’ll flame out your arms and abs in a few minutes.
(You may want slight variations on this “ideal” length. For lower angled slab pitches, you might want the daisy a bit shorter; for steeper pitches, maybe a bit longer. But you do need a starting point.)
Here’s a few guidelines for getting the daisy length set correctly.
With the daisy chains girth hitched to your belay loop or tie in points (there are pros and cons to both, see below), pull the daisy chains up vertically in front of you.
The bottom of the locking carabiner should be just about at your nose. (See photo below)
Now, clip the ascender to your fixed rope and put full body weight on it. If you reach straight up, your wrist should be at the top of the ascender. This positioning ensures that you have a gentle bend in your elbow when your hand is grabbing the handle, and you can easily reach the trigger on the cam. Take the time to get this right. (It’s been my experience that most new aid climbers initially make their daisy too long.)
Tip - Once you determine the correct connection length, mark this on your daisy chain. If you have adjustables, add a Sharpie pen mark. If you have traditional sewn pocket daisies, add a loop of 2mm or so cord or stout string (not tape, it’ll come off) to the correct loop to mark it. By doing this, you set it once, and you can quickly adjust it to the right spot anytime in the future.
Mark Hudon shared a good tip with me. Most people think only your dominant hand daisy chain needs to be the perfect length, and the length of the other one doesn’t really matter.
Mark says they both need to be the same perfect length.
Reason: When ascending, whatever way the route goes, you should lead with that hand. Say that you are right handed. If the pitch goes pretty much straight up or to the right, you will be leading with your right ascender. But, if the pitch leads to the left, you should be leading with your left hand ascender. In that case, the daisy length should be the same as the right.
Here’s a photo of the proper set up. Note at the bottom of the carabiner is just about at the climber’s nose. When weighted on the rope, it should settle into the correct position.
So, where to attach the daisies to your harness, the tie in points or the belay loop? Both locations have pros and cons. (The front of your harness is going to be a clustered junk show no matter what you do, so get used to it.) Try both and see what you like.
Tie in points: redundancy, gets you closer to the gear and thus higher in your aiders (if you have an adjustable daisy), but can be uncomfortable as it’s squeezing groin as your tie in points are smushed together, like you just took a fall.
Belay loop: more comfortable, can be redundant if you have a harness with two belay loops, puts you farther from placed gear.