Leavenworth Rock Guides: Traditional Lead Climbing Course
Learning to lead trad routes climb can be a stressful and even dangerous process. Trad leading is also the foundation of rock climbing and is an essential skill if you hope to eventually lead routes in an alpine environment. The skills taught in this course will serve you well while crack climbing, but also carry over into sport climbing, ice climbing, and alpine climbing.
By learning with a guide you have the opportunity to slow things down, moving forward to each new step only when you are ready. Over the years we have put a lot of energy into teaching people how to make the transition from top roping and climbing in gyms to leading sport and "trad" climbs or setting up top ropes in a variety of locations. In this course we start with a thorough review of anchor construction and various ways to equalize or backup a good anchor. Many choose to take our anchors clinic in advance of this course as it provides a solid foundation and maximizes your time leading routes under the supervision of a qualified guide.
We discuss bolts, camming devices, nut placements, and natural anchors. Once participants you these skills under control we help with selection of appropriate routes for initial leads and get people climbing. These routes generally feature good protection, and an uncomplicated crag where you can walk off or rappel off after completing your lead pitch.
A typical progression involves top roping a route while demonstrating smooth movement, and efficient climbing. We then move onto a mock lead where you are still on top rope, but trail a lead rope, making placements while you climb. These placements are then evaluated by your climbing guide and you are either given positive suggestions for improving the placements or the go ahead to lead the route without the top-rope. On your first lead climb you will initially place gear on top rope, at which point your guide will inspect each piece of climbing gear, ascertaining that it is placed properly. You will then re-climb the route, clipping each piece as you go. At each stage of this progression your guide is right there coaching you, evaluating your gear placements, and making sure that you are ready to progress to the next level in lead climbing.
Introduction to lead climbing courses are taught in Icicle Creek Canyon. While courses can be organized with a focus on bolted sport climbs, we generally orient our intro lead courses toward leading traditional (trad) routes, where climbers place cams and nuts as they climb. We clip bolts only in hard to protect sections and at belay anchors. We are not opposed to sport climbing in any way, Leavenworth just generally provides better opportunities for lead climbing than sport climbing. Participants should arrive familiar with tying into the climbing rope, and belaying, and should be able to comfortably climb routes without falling or struggling on top rope at the grade they intend to lead.
Skills Taught during Traditional Lead Climbing Course
- positioning the belayer for lead climbing
- Deciding what gear to carry on the route
- Placing protection while lead climbing
- Using cams, nuts, slings, and natural features for protection
- Basic rope management
- Belaying directly from the top anchor
- Belaying the second
- Climbing safely and efficiently
- Knots for tying into the climbing rope and/or anchor
- Dealing with tangled or caught ropes
- Single and double rope rappelling
- Developing a lead climbing "head"
- Resting while leading
- Bailing from a route
Courses before Traditional Lead ClimbingRock Climbing Anchors Clinic
Introduction to Outdoor Climbing
Crack Climbing Technique
Sport Climbing Technique
Courses after Traditional Lead ClimbingImprovised Rock Rescue