Leavenworth Rock Guides: Traditional Lead Climbing Course 

Course: Lead Climbing - Trad Focus

2022 Dates: April - October
  • Custom Programs Available Daily
  • April 24 (2 spots)
  • May 1
  • May 14
  • May 22
  • May 28 (1 spot)
  • June 5
  • June 11 (1 spot)
  • June 19
  • June 25
  • July 3
  • July 9
  • July 17
  • July 23
  • July 30
  • August 6
  • August 8
  • August 20
  • August 28
  • September 3
  • September 11
  • September 17
  • September 25

Scheduled Cost: $295 per participant

Cost: Custom Programs
  • $315 each w/ 1-2 climbers
  • $280 each w/ 3 climbers
  • $240 each w/ 4 climbers

Ready to Sign up?

Cost Includes
Guide fee, use of climbing harness, climbing helmet, all group climbing equipment including use of climbing rack.
Cost Does Not Include
Transportation to/from Leavenworth, personal food, water, and clothing.

Client to Guide Ratio: Up to 4:1

Expedition PDFs 

Equipment List ยป

Lead Climbing Course 2
Lead Climbing Course 1
Trad Lead Climbing Course
Lead Climbing Course 3
Trad Lead Climbing Course 1
Lead Climbing Course 4
Trad Lead Climbing Course 5
Lead Climbing Course 5
Trad Lead Climbing Course 9
Lead Climbing Course 6
Lead Climbing Course 7
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 Climbing 

Rock Climbing Anchors Clinic
Introduction to Outdoor Climbing
Crack Climbing Technique
Sport Climbing Technique

Courses after Traditional Lead Climbing 

Improvised Rock Rescue
Multi-pitch Climbing

Programs after Traditional Lead Climbing 

Snow Creek Wall Climbs


If run at a 1:1 ratio this program takes about 5 hours, and if run at a 2:1 or greater ratio the course takes 8 hours. Courses are offered as set-date programs of scheduled on demand.


Participants should be familiar with belaying, and basic climbing knots. The goal of the course is to move you toward leading pitches on your own. Most participants will complete at least one trad lead by the end of the course.


To register for this course you should complete our domestic climbing application and return it to the Northwest Mountain School office. You can complete our online registration here. Once you have completed your application you can make your deposit or full payment here. It is best to call our office at 509-548-5823 to make sure that space is available on your selected program. Space is allotted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

This program takes place on US Forest Service lands under a commercial-outfitter and guide permit. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs & activities and is an equal opportunity provider and employer.