I'm a relatively new climber who's really keen to get better. I'm a bit stuck on 5a/b routes and want to get better so that I can learn to lead climb. I don't have a regular climbing partner. I've been wondering whether some sort of climbing coaching might help me. Does such a thing exist? I'm in Essex/London.
In reply to MrsSeychelles: Many walls/instructors ask for the ability to get up 6a so that they can assume a certain level of climbing competence before they teach you to lead. A key part of leading is the ability to find a good comfortable place to clip from and this means a certain amount of climbing ability is useful. The exact level specified may be down to what the majority of routes available to teach you on will be graded: so if a wall has lots of 4s/4+s they may be happy with a climber doing well in the 5s but many walls have limited lines in this easy grade range so they are looking for 6a so that they can drop you back to 4+ or easy 5s for you to learn to lead on. In practise they often have to allow for a fudge factor too- a climber saying they can climb 6a may turn up 'just' struggling up 6a so they are allowing a little leeway for exaggeration.
I met someone new in my club who claimed they were a solid VS leader who turned out to be nervous seconding a grade II scramble on Milestone Buttress, you can't make up how dumb some people are based on ego.
Given all the complications and expense I think people are better off learning to lead mostly with experienced climbers they know, on well protected routes that are easy for them (getting feedback on placements tactics etc). If you dont know anyone like this join a club. This is similar say to getting extra driving lessons outside your formal instruction but in this case there is no formal requirement and the test is really the risk of screwing up. Formal instructors need to be careful when they teach leading so its slower and way more expensive and I've known the liability issue to bite back (dishonest client fell and blamed guide).
In reply to MrsSeychelles: I live in Colchester. I'm not an expert but I have reasonably good technique and I'm happy to help you break into the sixes. I think I could help with that. Drop me a line through here if you like.
I'm not a weirdo stalker by the way, a happily married man in fact.
In reply to Offwidth: I'm guessing with those grades he's talking about indoor leading but re: your comments about outdoor leading I find a mixture works well. Instructors doing short courses need to beware of the limitations of what they are teaching and to be sure that they are getting their students to learn a little well rather than just helping the students cope through a few leads whilst they are present (an awareness of the difference between short term memory and how to get things into students' long term memory is one of the things the new Coaching Awards may help increase awareness of). Personally I'll always try to give a good grounding/clear up misconceptions and improve technique and give people a plan to go away and work on longer term- and doing this with experienced leaders/regular club partners is ideal- sometimes students then come back for more tips/a 'checkup'.
I learnt with friends rather than in a formal setting so I certainly don't discount this. using an Instructor can help explain the whys of how things are done and give a good grounding but that will need building on long term and having an experienced eye to give feedback is priceless. Whoever (Instructor or experienced climber) is giving that feedback is best to understand that their way is not the only way and to help novices play with simple tools in a controlled situation first. The only downside of learning with your mates is that they often (not always) push you too fast, too hard and without any real structured progression- after all they often have an agenda of routes they want to do too whereas an Instructor should be designing a day about the client.
I've taught dozens of folks to lead in summer and winter and am far better at it now than as a recently passed MIA. I tend to take far more time about what I do. I also find it really rewarding... especially when I later see them burning me off at the crag!
Ha! but you would say that, as you need to make a living !;-)... free with experienced mates is obviously still best for the poorer rock climbers. Sound advice though for those with the will and the dosh (and some good pointers for all).
I've given up being 'rewarded' in that way (and never got paid) as I couldn't really do the guidebook work I wanted to and be heavily involved in a student club (with all the H&S gubbins they increasingly faced).
I miss the winter club trips where we did use guides more extensively: winter climbing is way more expensive in kit and petrol and I still think good advice saved more (in so many ways) than the initial (club subsidised) outlay. I also miss working with Cubby and Mr Ettle: great guys and highly recommended guides.