/ How Did You Transition to Leading Trad?
What really got me thinking about it is a trip i've just come back from at the Peak District where I took 12 Officer Cadets and I got the question from almost all of them! Here's a post about the weekend: www.cragandsnow.blog.com
I'd really appreciate any input, Thanks!
Went on a walking trip to the lakes, got given a rack at the bottom of Shepherd's crag and got on with it.
It's what I started doing?
I didn't "transition" I started on trad. Me and my mates bought a book, a short rope and a couple of Ex WD karabiners and just went and got on with it on Stanage. We were leading routes on the first day. Mind you this was 50 years ago, it's all a bit more complex these days but I don't see why so many people make such a fuss about it.
Not very easily, because I'm a big wuss. But I'm sure that was of no help to you :)
I top roped a couple of routes, then did a 'learn to lead' 2-day course at PYB, then started leading. There's not a lot to it.
I'm another who started with trad, so only a gradual transition from seconding to leading.
Joining a club might be an alternative to paying for an instructor?
Went out climbing with more experienced mates, seconded them, observed what they were doing, asked questions, picked up the rack when and lead I felt ready, on routes that were carefully chosen by my senior partners.
Otherwise known as a "traditional apprenticeship".
I would suggest there are two main common ways these days.
1. The way I did it was that I was competent leading indoors and outdoor sport. Wanted to do trad. Didn't know anyone who did. Went on a 3 day course.
2. Since then I've taught a couple of mates who were competent indoor leaders, to place gear and do trad leads.
The other way as someone has suggested is to join a club. Its probably slightly rarer these days though as I don't think that's the automatic thought process for new/young climbers. I would say their thought process is, learn indoors (very accessible), use the internet, etc etc
Picked up a borrowed rack and got busy.......
Started out leading in the Ogwen valley. Pretty basic gear and knowledge to be honest but starting on Diffs/VDiffs you just learn as you go and read a few books on the subject.
The mistake most people make these days is to want to climb on much higher grades because they are leading 6a or whatever indoors.
No transition - I'd done plenty of walking and scrambling so jumped straight in to leading diffs and V Diffs in Northumberland with minimal gear and big bendy boots. That was back in the 60's and the nearest thing to a climbing wall on Tyneside was Causey Quarry where I met some experienced climbers and learned how to set up a top rope on the the hardest routes there at the time (E1/2 nowadays) until I felt confident to have a go at leading VS's.
One way we've tried to teach others through the uni club was to let them lead a climb, placing gear, but all on a top rope as a precaution. Get them placing gear whilst in a climbing situation. That requires someone to set up a top-rope mind.
For me, too, it was how I started i.e. it was a natural progression from hillwalking and tree climbing. I learned the basics of belaying on a 4-day Mountaineering Association course in 1967 (and did my first leading straight after that), then a lot more from experienced climbers in various clubs I later joined.
Basically seconded a load of routes and realised it was generally harder to get gear out than put it in. So knowing I could climb the route and also hang around long enough to place gear I just started off on a few easy climbs where falling off wasn't really in the equation and worked up from there.
I'd say when you're learning, do routes well below your normal ability that way the climbing is not an issue and you can focus getting good gear placements in. Then in general keep to easier routes until you've built up a good experience of gear placements as if you're falling off stuff there a decent chance stuff will just fall out.
Saying that, a friend of mine fell onto the first nut he'd ever placed and it held. Admittedly though it was a sinker perfect V shaped slot so he was kind of lucky.
> Otherwise known as a "traditional apprenticeship".
Yup, same here.
However I would amend "were carefully chosen by my senior partners"
to "were carefully chosen by my senior partners to scare the cr@p out of me".
another learnt from a competant leader here... between climbs i was handed a set of pro and told to walk along the base of the crag and place some gear, it was then tested and appraised. when my placements were good enough we moved onto building belays.
it's one of those things that's important to have a second opinion on i think and maybe not rush the learning process... but then i'm fairly injury averse
went for a club weekend - first day there was a toprope on an HVS in the quarries which I tried in trainers and fell off before getting to the top eventually. second day briefed on how to belay and taken up Flying Buttress on the Cromlech only to have to hold the leader falling off the top pitch, so I don't think there was any transition - it all seemed rather serious for a first timer in the late 1980s.
One good option these days is to find a MIA trainee - they need instruction experience between training and assessment and should not be charging for this. Of course the standard of instruction is not guaranteed as they don't hold the full award, but there are lots of fantastic trainees out there - you often see UKC posts looking for guinea pig climbers to take out. After a day or two of 1:1 or 1:2 instruction most people should be ready to lead independently relatively safely.
The most important thing is to practice putting in gear surely? I learned this by doing it on a top-rope. Place, get some slack, then clip it to a cows tail or something, and jump a bit to weight the pro.
I did a taster indoors, a couple of weekends out seconding, then bought rope, some draws, and wires/ hexes and got on with it with friends. I still remember the madness of my first trad lead. Not a good choice, a grit diff with almost no gear and a nice shine. I survived and still going.
| Went out climbing with more experienced mates, seconded them,
| observed what they were doing, asked questions, picked up the rack
| when and lead I felt ready, on routes that were carefully chosen by
| my senior partners. Otherwise known as a "traditional apprenticeship".
Yep, same here. Friends took me out (after a good year or so climbing indoors, including leading), I seconded them on stuff on day 1 and learned about gear placing and belay construction, then on the second day I felt ready enough to do my first leads including my first severe.
When you start, it's less about the climbing and more about learning how to protect yourself. Then once you drill this for a bit, you can start to progress up to things that are a little more hairy, and how you deal with that will dictate where you go on from there... ;)
Sport climbing hadn't been invented!
Self taught the basics from scrambling (and reading books). Then joined a club to hone skills, then read and watched experts (and learnt from the less than expert mess up)
Learnt the basics at school, top roping indoors and out.
Bought half a rack and a rope, a few mates had half a rack and a rope as well.
Got stuck in and had a few adventures and a smaller number of epics, which concentrated the mind and sped up the learning process.
Started seconding outdoors, 3 trips later started leading outdoors. Days before walls were the starting point for many that they are now.
Started climbing with mates, top roping at first, because that was all we had kit for, we soon cobbled together some lead gear between us and started leading, scared ourselves quite a lot to start with. This was about 1992, there were a few climbing walls around then, but we didn't visit them much.
Bought a rope, harness and a few bits of gear, joined a club and met other people who had gear, was able to stop soloing.
After a bit of generalised toproping I picked a route I liked the look of, top roped it, abbed down and put some gear in, then led it with gear in, abbed down and took the gear out, then led it putting the gear in. That way I knew I could lead it technically, knew where the placements were and gave myself a confidence boost. Then led loads more at the same grade.
Went to the hardware shop and bought three nuts and some 6mm three-ply blue polypropylene. And luck and library books.
A year later got taken out to NW by a 'real climber' with some ancient raggedy hawser-laid and I did all the leading.
Then I bought some kit.
I suppose this was 85 - 87, so not that long ago. And the best books in the library were Joe Brown's Hard Years and some Dennis Gray ones - his anecdotes about the Drasdos made an impact.
Started out soloing, up to Severe, then went on a Mountaineering Association beginners course to find out how to use a rope. Led from the on.
To be fair, people starting to lead now are faced with a vast arsenal of technical gear which didn't exist in the mid sixties. We were able to get used to it at a leisurely pace as it was invented.
Started top-roping indoors, then leading indoors, then leading sport outdoors, then read a book and watched youtube instructional videos, then lead trad outdoors.
After climbing indoors for a bit I did an alpine skills course which had a wee bit of sport climbing including leading. On returning from that I bought a rope and quickdraws and went sport climbing. We quickly exhausted the easy sport climbs locally and I decided wanted to try trad - my partner was somewhat less keen but I talked/pestered him into it.
We paid for an instructor (MIA) for two days and he basically taught us the basics of placing gear, belays etc then shortly after that headed out on our own. We've since done the odd workshop or session as a guinea pig for MIA trainees plus also paid for instruction on specific stuff, e.g. how to jam.
Started out soloing up to VS when i was 14 or 15, then bought a rope a few nuts on rope and a Whillans sit harness and just went out with a mate and started climbing. We were more or less just learning as we went, got the knots we needed out of a book and placing gear and setting up belays was fairly natural in that it was fairly obvious what was a good placement and what wasn't.
6 years ago UKC ran a First Lead Essay competition sponsored by DMM. Although its not directly an answer to your question, the various entries gave a good idea of what it felt like to "Transition" as you put it. (Nouns into verbs, what's the world coming to, next they'll be inventing sport climbing).
Here's the link: http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=282928
I'd just learnt to belay and play on plastic inside when someone I knew from work was at the wall and invited me to meet up with him. We climbed at the wall a couple of times and he taught me to lead belay. Then we went outside, then we climbed Trad together and I started leading soon after that when I had an idea how the nuts worked.
Another one of the old brigade here. Me and my mate (Nobby) had an old bit of hemp rope, and we each tied on with a 30 foot length of hemp waistline (wrapped around your waist and tied off with a reef knot) and an old WD krab to clip the rope to. We started by going to a disused quarry on the Wrekin and I just set off until I got to the top. I had no idea about belaying, so just bought him up on a tight rope held around my shoulders. This was in the 60's so no climbing walls then. But I don't recommend this as a way to start leading......I had a few close calls before learning the ropes(pun intended) by watching others. But I suppose that what I am saying is that you shouldn't get too uptight about leading, just do it. This will no doubt get me castigated by the self-appointed elf-and-safety experts on this forum.
In 1973, I nicked a book from the local library called "Rock Climbing-Know The Game", digested it, bought/got hold of a few bits of gear and a rope and went climbing at Crookrise Crag.
Too much utter rubbish chuntered about transition, courses, instructors, guides and the like. People should just get on with it!
By soloing Flying Buttress on the Gromlech, in the wet.
Easy routes at Windgather with friends who knew what they were doing
Distance learning. Generous partner gave me the lead for pitch 2 of my second ever climb. Neither of my MOACs fell out, but I hadn't actually had the nerve to stop and try to place them. Instructions on what to do at the belay were issued from 30 feet below. I have difficulty following a scouse accent when I'm right next to the speaker...
Join a friendly local club and learn from others.
Do you want people to lie about how they started leading trad?
I was taught by the army cadets in 1960. They hired a civilian guide to teach a group of 4 of us. On the first day he led us all up Middlefell Buttress teaching us the basics of belaying. It was a shoulder or waist belay in those days. No rock shoes just "Commando" soled army boots.
On the second day we went to Lower Scout Crag - no top roping. He led each of us up in turn, then split us into pairs and we took turns at leading with him shouting advice to us. No runners in those days, apart from putting a sling and Stubai krab round a holly tree near the top. Thereafter we mixed the pairs up so that we all climbed with each other alternating leads with him supervising from the ground.
In the afternoon we climbed the same way on Upper Scout Crag. The next day over to Borrowdale and more alternating leading including on Little Chamonix.
Then next day back to Lower Scout Crag and we all led the Severe in the corner with the rocking chockstone (I think it's gone now) and more leading on the other climbs on both the Upper and Lower Crags.
The next day we went to Ravens Crag where he led us up Evening Wall and Ordinary Routes, and on the final day we climbed Bowfell Buttress taking it in turns to lead through.
After that I bought my own rope and teamed up with mates for general multi pitch climbing with holidays to the Lakes, North Wales, Cornwall and Skye.
Used a book (Modern Manual of Rope Techniques, I think) and bought/begged/borrowed rope and some gear. Went out with friends, anyone who'd climb with me really.
So mostly trial and error, but with some technical guidance first!
You could always teach them the basics of gear placement on the ground, then get them to lead a route whilst on top-rope. Then they can choose to have a go in their own time with a bit of an idea of what's involved.
Followed a couple of routes... placed a bit of gear at ground level, including bounce testing, building equalised anchors... picked up the rack and had a go at something not too hard (a 5.6, I think, then a 5.7, then a 5.8 the next day... tried a 5.9 a couple of days later and got spanked!).
This was all with a uni club in the US, I was fortunate to meet some people who were willing to teach me.
I went out with my club, they lent me a rack and suggested I find a cold greasy chimney to wriggle up.
The club bit was the key element.
Started indoors, top-roping led to leading, watched youtube videos to learn how to rethread the anchor before leading outdoor sport, bought a second hand set of nuts and did some very easy trad leading, joined a club and seconded harder trad and leading was the next natural progression. I found the transition fairly straight forward. It's easy if your head is in the right place. I think the build up is important for that.
I thought the above was a good blog post which sums it up nicely.
In essence, get out lots with the right people.
Back in the 60s [1960's that is, in case you think I'm over 70 - not quite yet] an experienced mountain man took me out. I'd previously done lots of hill walking - summer and some winter. First time ever on a rope - an easy gully - one axe each and a rope - no crampons - on St Sunday Crag with him leading. Then he took me [I was seconding] up Curving Gully - a 500 ft VDiff - on a wet misty day. Frightened the lfe out of me. But somehow as we walked back down the valley the bug bit me. Bought a rope and a couple of slings and crabs [these were pre-tape and very much pre-'rack' days]. Went with a mate and frightened ourselves on Diffs and VDiffs. More climbing with the experienced guy who pointed us up appropriate routes - V Diffs. Tapes and manufactured nuts came along and after a few years we cracked the VS barrier - which was really something for us. Never looked back since. Ah the memories.
Pretty much learned how to place some gear and got on some easy routes up to V Diff. Left leading for a little while due to a lack of partners and started soloing easier mountain routes (up to about V-Diff) which was great for my head game. Moved to a place with accessible rock climbing and plenty people to get out with. Only way to get good and comfortable at it is by doing it really.
How strangely familiar.
Carefully chosen is also interesting as they sent me to a sandy route that was well within my ability (I was fresh from clipland France and climbing as hard as I ever would in French grade terms). They said "BTW it's a bit sandy so put gear in even when it looks easy".
I had a battle as that HVS was a bit steep and I'd never placed a nut before...but 12 years on and I've never looked back. I rarely sport climb this days (and as a consequence I am weak).
Well, isn't it simply a natural progression? The more you do the more you learn, the more competent you become. That's all. No hidden short cuts.
Climbed top-rope for a while, mostly in gyms (walls), then brother-in-law taught me sport leading outside. Did that for a bit, but discovered that around my area (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) that the sport routes within the range I could climb were severely limited -- most of the easier stuff was trad. Went on a climbing vacation to El Potrero Chico in Mexico (which is primarily a sport destination) and hired a guide for the week. On the last day, said instead of doing more guided climbs, can we spend the day with him teaching me the fundamentals of trad leading. Did this, bought a starter rack, and continued leading trad back home, and now many places. Didn't die.
Hill walking > scrambling > course at pyb > get on with it
just went out with mates and learned as we went.
Like this but without the rack!
After soloing Brown Slabs leading my first route (Truss Buttress at Gouther) felt easy.
Just get them going on things which are much lower than their top rope/sport grade so they can concentrate on gear.
Couple of days seconding single pitch, a day seconding multi-pitch then bought gear teamed up with a mate and went leading!
Do whatever you're comfortable with; be it a course, lots of seconding etc
I did a bit of indoor climbing and some top-roping at Pex Hill but was a bit stumped about how to get into trad because I didn't know anyone who climbed outdoors. Happily Tall Clare of this parish organised a UKC skills meet/picnic and some generous people lent me gear, showed me how to place it and encouraged me as I wobbled my way up a couple of diffs at Burbage North. After that I bought some kit, showed one of my mates how to place it and we just got on with it.
Me and some other climbers I know have generally served a sort of apprenticeship with a more experienced climber when its come to starting out on trad. For me the guys knowledge of a wide range of crags around the country was as important as the technical stuff
Agreed, 25 years ago I was seconding more experienced guys from a club with big beards and foul mouths. 25 years later I am still occasionally going out with one the club's climbers. Now 60 he's happy to second me on harder winter stuff. Those first 2 years getting taken up big mountain vdiffs was a great foundation.
Learned to lead climb on an indoor course then joined a climbing club. Went on my first club meet at the Roaches, seconded half a dozen routes with a couple of guys, Pete and Nick, who had been climbing for years and then Pete lent me his rack, pointed me at a V.Diff and said "Don't leave it too long after you start seconding till you start leading, off you go!" Led my first couple of routes and Pete reckoned my gear placements were OK and Nick helped me set up belay at the top. Over the next few months I climbed harder routes, seconding a guy called Alex and leading some easy routes myself as I bought my own gear and then started leading harder stuff and doing longer routes. Had a couple of falls along the way but the gear has held.
My mum took me indoor climbing when I was 10 or so and I had done it on/off until I went to uni. Joined the uni mountaineering club, spent a few weekends seconding more experienced people and read loads of stuff online and instructional books. I started off learning around the same time as a bunch of other people and we all just jumped in and started cutting our teeth on our first leads quite quickly. The subsidized courses the MCofS runs helped alot aswell and reassured me that all the things I had learned from others were safe!
Since then I just became more and more absorbed by climbing, I even shelled out on driving lessons, test and then a car solely so I could get out climbing more!
I sport climbed for years indoor, then got on my outdoor course at Uni and got taught trad climbing by, amongst other people, Andy Turner. I suspect others probably have a slower, more casual progression, but on the other hand I've gone from never having climbed seen a piece of gear to leading E4 and passing my SPA within the space of 6 months, so it was certainly effective.
I was about 13/14 I spent months building a rack which was basicly a few slings, QDa, a few nuts and a couple of second hand cams, I then got the train to hathersage with 2 other climbers who were part of the kids club at the indoor wall, we went to Stannage, I lead my first trad route, placed about 8 peices of gear for the belay as I wasn't confident. Had a epic day out. Wish I had kept going I might have been a half decent climber now!
I didn't transition either. My first time roped climbing I went to Deeply Vale with a mate. Seconded him up a route then led the next one. It was only V-Diff but that was the whole point of going - to lead something.
I bought a rope and harness, belay device, about 4 hexes and made some nuts threaded on cord. Sewed a chalk bag out of an old pair of jeans. Made my own ice hammer as well to match my bought Vertige axe.Taught myself through reading climbing mags at college then gradually increased my gear every couple of months, student load time was a bonanza :) I got a shunt for top roping practice climbs and I got a few more mates into climbing and we just started going up stuff. Eventually I could afford guide books :)
I started out top roping. After a while me and my friends decided to go to the lakes and try some leading. We just dropped our grade from VS to Vdiff, and got hopelessly lost on Raven Crag in Langdale trying to follow route descriptions. I'm still not sure where Holly Tree Traverse goes.
We only had a couple of slings and some hexes, but it was great experience.
My advice would be to get a bit of gear (you don't need a full rack), drop your grade from top roping and go try it out.
I joined a club and climbing trad was what they tended to do. I got given the rack on my second time out and told to get on with it (more or less).
Just led trad.
I'm 19 and started climbing a year or two ago. Started with trad as the apprentice of one of my mates' dad at home in the Lakes. He gave me some gear to start my rack and then off I went. Live in Sheffield now...shame.
>.....and got on with it.
Pretty much the common factor in all such successful transitions, I suspect.
Joined the local climbing club. Made the transition from indoor lead to outdoor second. Spent six months or so seconding lots of routes to make sure new how to place gear then started leading some really easy diffs and v-diffs before working my way up the grades.
I started climbing in a gym in New York City. The first time I got taken climbing in the
"Gunks" (upstate New York) I was hooked.
The Shawangunks are a nature preserve so trad climbing is the only thing allowed.
Beautiful granite, hundreds of routes from relatively easy to super hard.
It was a great place to learn.
I ended up following boyfriends for a few years, but every time the relationship ended I found
myself without a climbing partner, so I decided to learn how to lead.
I ended up traveling all over the US to climb in different areas and on different types
of rock with various guides.
I am glad that I had some climbing experince before I started leading, because
I not only learned how to get up a route, I also learned how to get myself out of a scrape.
I left the States and my climbing buddies 4 years ago.
Although I still climb outside of Vienna, Austria my trad gear doesn't get much use anymore.
Everything is bolted here, so now I mainly sport climb, but I am a trad girl deep down in my soul.
I think it was the first time I'd climbed outside...
Someone at work kindly gave me an old set of walnuts, a couple of slings, five quickdraws and some screw gates. I bought Libby Peters ML training book (the red one) and went to Windgather. Got out to loads of crags this summer and learnt something new at every one of them.
My racks bigger now and I've led up to HVS 5b and been tantalisingly close to my first E1.
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