Experience an intense thrill as you climb up steep rocky slopes with a partner. Lead climbing is a fantastic full-body workout for intermediate to advanced rock climbing enthusiasts; though don’t feel limited if you’re still a novice.
How Does Lead Climbing Work?
Lead climbing is normally done with a partner. If you’re the leader, you strap yourself into a harness that is attached to the end of a rope, and your partner (the belayer) gradually feeds you rope as you start the climb.
While you climb, occasionally you’ll attach protections such as quickdraws to cracks in the rock surface. These protections will keep you safe if you suddenly lose your footing and fall. Your partner will be right there to tighten the rope if this happens. Once you’ve climbed to the top, you’ll then clip the final anchor.
Lead climbing isn’t for a rookie. You and your partner need to have some level of experience if you’re going to successfully complete a climb. But if you want to try it out, you can always practice as a belayer and build experience until you’re ready to become leader.
Let’s Master Some Lead Climbing Basics
If you’re a first timer, lead climbing can be nerve-racking! But prepared with a few pointers, you’re well on your way to successfully making that uphill climb.
- Know your route in advance. Try lead climbing a route you’ve already completed before. This way, you can do less worrying about where to go and start focusing more on the climbing technique. If this isn’t an option, you can always find climbing routes others around your level have climbed so that you know the route won’t be too difficult for a first timer.
- Get equipped. You’ll need plenty of protections and anchors so that you don’t accidentally run out while making the climb. You’ll also need dynamic rope, a climbing harness, and a belay device.
- Learn how to properly clip a quickdraw. Don’t make the same mistake many other novices make. You’ll need to take the time to understand backclipping so that your rope doesn’t accidentally come loose from the gate.
- Make sure your belaying partner knows what he’s doing. If you fall, you want your partner to act quickly. And when the uphill climb gets rocky, you’ll need someone supportive to help keep those limbs moving.
- Don’t worry so much about falling. While there’s always a chance that you’ll fall, you should be safe and sound with a capable belayer and well protected route. Just pay attention to the climb, and don’t let worries or fears cloud your judgment.
- It’s okay if you can’t finish a route. Relax! Don’t beat yourself up if the route gets too hard or unforeseen events make finishing a route impossible. Simply go back down from whence you came.
Keep in Mind…
Accidents happen. If you do fall, don’t panic. You should be quite safe as long as you placed protections regularly and your partner is alert.
If you screw something up and find yourself plunging down to the ground below, you’ll usually fall twice as far as the last placed protection. You may want to place your protections six to twelve feet apart, so that if you do fall, you’ll only fly twelve feet at the very minimum.
Of course, you’ll probably fall a few more feet because of the elasticity of the rope. Lead climbing rope is meant to absorb the impact of falls, so it’s made out of dynamic material for added stretchiness.
If you’re too close to the ground to begin with, you may experience a ground fall or “decking.” This happens when you hit the ground before the protection can catch you. But keep placing those protections, and you shouldn’t have a problem.
By staying prepared you can turn a potentially dangerous activity into a fun, enjoyable one.
Start by practicing lead falling. You want to know what it feels like to fall from a climb so that you don’t panic once you do. If you want to practice lead falling, make sure your protections are in place and let your partner know what you’re planning.
Once you’re ready to let go, simply let go. Soon you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.