Do you believe the experience gained in piece placement from aid climbing is transferable to free climbing?

Yes.

Will it make you a safer trad climber?

Maybe.

If you believe it is and will, how do you reconcile the difference in forces between bounce testing aid pieces to even modest falls on gear while free climbing?

Sometimes it really is black and white. The right piece will stick, period. And the wrong one will blow from even a small force.

If you believe it is worth the effort; given the tedious, and I'm sure I am not the only one who feels this way, nature of the beast; how do you justify doing it as opposed to alternative and perhaps more productive exercises?

Well, to start with, aiding makes you use what's left on the rack. It forces you to hone your eye and see what you might have overlooked.

Second, it makes you think about the forces on your gear from different angles. When you top-step, will that nut get pulled out? (RG knows what I'm talking about!) Can that tricam take a force from the side?

Third, it makes you see what bad rock does. Not so much an issue in the Gunks, but plenty of places where a cam in a slightly flaring placement is bomber where the rock is good, but if it's at all crumbly, a bounce test will rip it right out.

Fourth, it forces you to place far more gear per foot than you would when free climbing,

Fifth, it gives you the time to really examine it close-up.

Sixth, the motivation to get it right, with all that air blowing up your ass, and nothing but the piece holding you up!

The one alternative that I have employed is to walk along the base of the crag and experiment by placing pieces within arm's reach of the ground and bounce testing them with a long sling. (Warning: be sure to keep your face off to one side so you don't get a mouthful of metal if the piece pops while employing this technique.) I have also done this "ground school" with anchors; setting up different configurations and directions of pull with a given situation and bounce testing the set-up with with a long sling.

Certainly a valuable exercise. Especially for the sake of learning to construct multi-piece anchors.

Is aid climbing in the "off-season" to gain experience with gear placements worth the risk?

For the new leader, I'd say absolutely, yes.

RG relates a ground fall incident and GO refers to clusterf--k aspect of aiding. Often in the "off-season" placements are wet and dirty, if not icy, and thus friction is reduced. The systems management aspect of aiding certainly complicates things, especially if you are soloing, and may increase the the risk relative to free climbing for someone relatively new to trad climbing.

No way. On muddy, icy, snowy, or wet rock, you're waaaay safer aiding than free climbing. Especially on good rock like at the Gunks. Especially if you're not very good at aiding, and your placements are all no more than 2 feet from each other. Aside from the usual risks of not tying your knots right and such, your only major risks are either screwing up the belay systems, or falling out of your aiders and taking a daisy fall.

Somewhat off-thread and most pertinent to Mass climbers; GO for beginning aid climbers the start, overhanging; and finish, bulge, to P1 Jane can be tough. I think it took me 14 pieces and two damn hours the first time I aided it. I'm now down to 6 to 7 pieces and about 15 minutes. What do you think about Intertwine as an alternative initial experience at Crow Hill for someone new to aid?

Intertwine is certainly a good practice aid climb, but the slabby nature of it makes it too easy except for a first run (IMO). But I put a friend on it for her first aid climb (in the rain) and it worked out well:



I still think Jane is better, though. I think the overhanging nature of the climb is a plus, not a minus.

Thanks to all who might humor me with responses.

You bet!

GO