/ New to trad; Tips and tricks?

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Dakin 13 Jul 2019

Hi all,

Im slowly starting to introduce myself to trad climbing which for me is a daunting prospect. I've been climbing for over a year and I am bouldering around V5 or V6 at max and leading 6B/Cs.

Do you guys have any tips or tricks to share?

Thanks in advance 

1
Mick Ward 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Forget high grades. Do tons of easy stuff. In trad, mileage is your best friend.

You want to end up with a grade pyramid with a wide base of loads of routes on different rock types, in different situations (e.g. outcrop, mountain, sea-cliff).

Start with single pitch outcrop stuff - less serious.

Make sure your belays are bomber.

Can't have too many (bomber) runners!

Mick

deacondeacon 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Mick Ward:

Like Mick said the best tip to being a good climber is mileage. Do loads and loads and loads of it. Seven easy routes in a day will be better for you than a couple at your limit, especially in the early days. And remember that there's no harm in asking people for advice. If you're setting up a belay and there's other climbers at the top of the crag ask them to glance over it.

One key thing I notice loads of beginners doing that really isn't necessary is setting up their top belay with slings, learn to use your rope. You'll never forget it, you can make it any length you like and it's at least 8mm thick! 

henwardian 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

In addition to the other good advice:

Get used to racking gear the same way so you always know where the piece you need is.

Many people dont realise they need to learn systems until they really need them, so every few weeks, take some time to learn 1 new system, e.g. Prussicing or assisted hauling a partner or escaping the system or unassisted hauling (also know as how to destroy your ropes) or rescuing someone with their hair caught on an abseil, etc etc.

Always put in one last piece of gear before topping out, even if you feel sure you won't fall.

Climb with experienced partners as much as possible and learn from the kinds of things they do.

Learn to climb with half-ropes if you don't already.

Hone your half-rope skills by climbing wandering routes where you need to use good rope management or grind to a halt.

Don't try to push your grade by selecting poorly protected routes with a high adjectival grade.

Never be afraid to take your time on the lead, in British terms you never really need to be quick, if you want to climb in the Alps/Dolomites/etc another day then you can always learn to be faster later. If the belayer complains, give them 2 leads to your 1 or just find someone who is a better partner.

Be aware of how good your gear is, if you have 4 pieces that are all crap, put another one in. If you have 3 bomber pieces where you are, you can afford to be confident for the next few moves.

Mind your surroundings - unfortunately easy routes are full of ledges and things to hit if you fall off, you need to keep those in mind when looking at a tricky section ahead.

Try to always place regular bomber gear, even if the climb seems insultingly easy - it's not about the difficulty at the start, it's about the experience base.

Know your rocks and their foibles - a microcam in granite is probably ok, a microcam in limestone is just going to result in a puff of rock powder as you plummet groundwards.

Get you own gear asap, getting used to always climbing with the same rack is a great help, constantly switching to different partner's racks makes becoming fluid and confident that little bit much harder.

Don't buy micronuts until you are leading at least E1.

Consider your own weight and your partner's weight, if there's a big difference, climb accordingly (multi-directional anchors, etc.)

These are mainly personal. Some that helped me, plenty that I only realised after the fact, some that just come to mind thinking about the subject.

Edit: Also:

When putting in a nut, weld it into position, to hell with whatever complaint your partner makes, your primary concern is your safety on the lead, not how long they have to play with the nut key to get it out.

Overcam your cams - all the best cam placements are hideously overcammed (similar comments to nuts above!)

Don't buy hexes.

Post edited at 17:06
34
Dave Ferguson 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

take absolutely no notice of those grade comparison tables in guidebooks that try and tell you that a sport grade of 5 equates to HVS and 6b equates to E2. Also, bouldering grades are completely irrelevant on trad, certainly in your first year.

Don't invest in a huge rack to begin with, do loads of easy routes to start with and see if you like it. Some people just can't get their head round it, their ego just can't cope.

If you start resting on gear drop a grade or two, dogging routes is not what trad is about until you're climbing in the high E grades. Moving quickly and efficiently on easy routes to begin with is how you get better at trad.

Always lean back on your belay. If you can't trust your belay to hold you, you shouldn't be bringing your second up.

4
deacondeacon 13 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

I've just thought of another couple of tips for mistakes that beginners often make. 

1)When you wear a sling over your shoulder clip it 'end to end' over your body. When you come to need it you can just undo one end from the karibiner rather than trying to fish it over your head we're it gets caught inn hood etc. I may not be explaining this very well lol. And never knot a sling, it's never needed and if you weight it that knot will be forever welded.

2) learn to belay with just a screw gate and learn to body belay BEFORE you need to. You do not want to be learning on the job so to speak. 

11
Jon Read 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Be strategic when climbing. Always remember you can down climb from a strenuous position for a better rest (sometimes all the way to the ground if needed),. When you decide to go for it, be decisive and don't faff around in a desperate position hoping something will turn up. 

Do as I say, and not as I do!

Tom V 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Be wary about advice which encourages you to see falling off as a regular to-be-expected occurence.

2
olddirtydoggy 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Watch a lot of Youtube vids from 'trusted sources' over and over again until you drive it right into your head. Good vids are generally SIET, Glenmore Lodge and the BMC skills vids. Youtube won't make you an expert but getting the basic ideas in your head will give you a head start when getting going.

Don't be afraid to respectfully call out your partner on bad practice, even if he has much more experience. Take critique constructively.

Don't believe everything you read on a message board.

Kafoozalem 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

You struck gold with this thread - lots of excellent advice. My two penneth - don't be afraid to instruct your belayer where to stand. Whilst it's fine for them to be sat down when you have two bits of gear above your head, it may be necessary for them to be stood high on a rock ready to jump off when a ground-fall is a possibility.

Post edited at 20:59
wilkie14c 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

The 10 item breakfast at Outside Hathersage is expensive but magnificent 

2
John Kelly 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Italian hitch is very useful

Skinny slings, really handy on marginal spikes and extending runners 

https://www.climbers-shop.com/10941265/products/beal-6mm-dyneema-sling--60cm.aspx

I also rate big wires 

https://rockrun.com/products/wild-country-rock-9-14-set

probably only up to the 12 - they are easy to place and assess (incidentally they are cheap)

kevin stephens 13 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

welcome to the dark (or light) side!

Your bouldering grade of V5/V6 and sport of 6B/C may indicate you have developed a very dynamic, explosive style of climbing?  If so I think this will be a hinderance in building your trad grade and you will have to learn a wholly different style of climbing, balancy, static, considered etc.  I would spend a lot of time climbing loads of classic HVS on a wide range of rock types, those will really help your movement skills, gear placement etc.  You won't be able to tap into your impressive bouldering strength until you work well up the E grades. Most experienced trad climbers I know operating around E3/4 can only boulder to around V3/4. Enjoy the journey and don't let your ego get hung up on the grade comparison tables

1
deacondeacon 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

> I've just thought of another couple of tips for mistakes that beginners often make. 

> 1)When you wear a sling over your shoulder clip it 'end to end' over your body. When you come to need it you can just undo one end from the karibiner rather than trying to fish it over your head we're it gets caught inn hood etc. I may not be explaining this very well lol. And never knot a sling, it's never needed and if you weight it that knot will be forever welded.

> 2) learn to belay with just a screw gate and learn to body belay BEFORE you need to. You do not want to be learning on the job so to speak. 

Can one of the dislikers tell me what's up please I'm not moaning about being disliked, just want to find out what the issue is as I've possibly got something wrong. 

Exile 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

it wasnt me, (not really sure I like the whole concept of the like/dislike click...) but on rock I carry slings as you describe a beginner making a mistake doing because I don't like the crab on the sling jangling with / getting in the way of those on my harness. Could be that?

slab_happy 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Climb as much as you can with people who've got much more trad experience than you.

I went on an introductory trad course and found it very useful, but you've still got to learn how to apply all the knowledge you've just had stuffed into your brain, and to develop the sort of judgement that only comes with experience. Having feedback and advice from other people in your "apprenticeship" stage is invaluable.

(It also means you might be able to climb on their gear for a bit while you figure out what you want to buy for your own rack.)

Get a copy of Libby Peter's "Rock Climbing"; I still visualize the diagrams from it when I'm trying to remember particular bits of ropework.

As everyone's said, start out with lots and lots of easy stuff; don't start pushing your grade nearer your physical limit until you're reasonably confident with your gear placement and ropework.

GPN 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

I wasn’t a ‘disliker’, but learning how to body belay really isn’t necessary. It’s very hard to imagine a situation in which body belaying would be needed (or the best option).

5
John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to GPN:

I body belay quite a lot, moving around top of the crags or descents, steep, wet?,snowy? loose? 

not looking at catching a big fall just safeguarding or preventing slip

maybe add as answer to OP

Descents, approaches and top outs are often much more serious that the actual climbing

Post edited at 09:01
Planeandsimple 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Following on from what Mick said. Learning how to place gear is a continual process, it never ends. Take your time on easy climbs to find as much gear  as possible. The temptation is to blast through ignoring the awkward placements however learning how to find and place the less obvious gear in a low stress situation may be the difference between having zero decent gear and a bomber runner every 3m on a harder climb at locations like gogarth or on mountain crags.

Also don't just fire in cams because they are easy to place learn the intricacies of nuts, this will help no end when you come to place micro wires or you're climbing particular kinds of rock where cams are less reliable.

Thirdly don't become hung up on what gear gets the best reviews. Your first rack should be a work horse, durable and middle of the road. Don't buy half weight nuts, they are harder to place and come out easier. Don't be persuaded that totems are the way, they are good but better to compliment a rack of standard double axle cams. Light weight krabs are good for the Alps but remember you've got to get the mileage first you're krabs are going to get battered, lost scraped up, loaded over sharp edges and fallen on. Durability is the key. The DMM starter packs are a good place to begin your collection. 

In reply to Dakin:

- Have a go belaying sat down from the top before you have to do it on your first top out, it's a different to belaying from the bottom standing up - like at a climbing wall or the leader on the first pitch.

- Also look to set up your belays so that you can belay off of the anchors. If you attach yourself to the anchors and belay from your harness you'll suddenly end up with the whole weight of your seconder hanging off your harness when they come off. - Making it a lot harder to escape the system if you need to.

2
John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Planeandsimple:

If money no object

Buy totems (they out preform other cams) and rack them on dmm phantoms (light) buy a 8mm 1/2 rope  (mammut are tough)

There is no reason a beginner (other than cash) should climb on anything but the best kit 

that said some fat old rope and some stuff for tying ships up to might be good for top roping

Post edited at 09:14
5
Kemics 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

I didn't dislike but possible about body belaying? I cant think of a situation you would need it. Yeah i guess you might drop your belay plate but can always use an italian hitch. 

If im climbing with someone who is so clumsy they have managed to drop their belay plate AND every single carabiner on their rack... im not going to trust their body belaying ability

Planeandsimple 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

I disagree. Totems are only better in flared placements everywhere else they are the same as any double axle cam. A set of totems doesn't cover the range a set of dragons does. They are a great tool but to really appreciate  them takes experience. Ever beginner I know who has them the mainstay on their rack fits firmly into the 'all the gear no idea' category and remains there. 

Phantoms are light and durable. 19g krabs however aren't...

Rope wise the beal joker is probably the best. It's a light weight single  or a durable set of doubles when folded in half. Also unicore so resists abrasion well.

Yes that was a complete bite. 

1
kevin stephens 14 Jul 2019
In reply to henwardian:

> Don't buy hexes.

Not sure if this was meant to be ironic but it is wrong.  A rack of rockcentrics is very useful and often more secure in limestone than deceptively good looking cams, especially in Pembroke.  A set of cams and a set of hexes is more flexible, cheaper and lighter than two sets of cams

1
KS132 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

This is a great thread. There’s some very useful comments and reminders and not just for a beginner. 

1
John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Planeandsimple:I

So your saying totems fit normal placements and flared !!

You are right - only get the first 5 totems, BD C4 above that

19g - agree, too small for me

Rope choice - unicore sound useful, l like mammut, a personal choice I think

John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Kemics

taking a belay after moving together on easy ground,

why wouldn't you have this well tried option in your arsenal

who was the guy who stopped 5 men falling off everest, American expedition, 50s

pebbles 14 Jul 2019
In reply to GPN:

>. It’s very hard to imagine a situation in which body belaying would be needed (or the best option).

Here's mine: you're on a winter climb, your ropes were still a little damp this morning and now you're on a multipitch, the temperature has dropped and your ropes have frozen too stiff to go through the belay plate. For the same reason an Italian hitch wont be great.  Body belay to the rescue! 

Planeandsimple 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Kemics:

Before I went trad climbing for the first time my dad made sure I knew how to get myself out of trouble. The lesson went like this.

1. Tie your 1970s rope to the banister.

2. Abseil using a fig 8 from bedroom window.

3. Prussik back up the rope into bedroom.

4. Abseil back down with body abseil. 

All must be completed with a whillans harness on, prussiks made from old paracord and any screwgates are to be steel with exposed sharp threads. 

After this a rudimentary lead climbing lesson up a diff followed. Luckily placing gear was easy as you only needed to learn how to place a sling, 2 hexes, a machined nut, and a single wire, no quickdraws. 

Having completed this you are now ready to climb up to Vdiff remembering that the leader never falls. 

After about 2 years of this oldskool climbing you should have developed a real rack minus cams because they're expensive and maybe another 2 years before you inherit some really knackered ones. 

Back in the day... Now it's all got crap people going on courses to learn how to fall off. Practicing indoors for years before graduating to outside. Just get outside youth. 

3
Tom V 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

Do you  mean Pete Schoening on K2?  

snoop6060 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Just learn by making mistakes. If you are still alive in 3 years then you'll be a well rounded trad climber with loads of stories to tell in the pub. 

barry donovan 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Get the person well sorted who is belaying for you - would you lend them your car for the weekend ?  The gear the belays the ropes the whole malarkey is as good as the one who is between you and ending up in paradise a bit early - they’re down at the other end looking up.  

planetmarshall 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

> Buy totems (they out preform other cams) and rack them on dmm phantoms (light) buy a 8mm 1/2 rope  (mammut are tough)

Be aware that almost everything you read on message forums will be opinion and nothing else.

I for example find phantoms fiddly and prefer a full size wiregate. I have no opinion on Totems, but the mere fact that they split opinion would lead me to recommend a beginner gets something that doesn't.

John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Tom V:

I stand  corrected

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Schoening

Turns out he stopped 6 men 

Post edited at 12:26
Luke90 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

I think I might have been one of the dislikes. I didn't agree with your advice to "never knot a sling" and I don't think body belaying is a particularly important skill for a beginner to prioritise.

Yes, people often knot slings unnecessarily and heavily weighted knots in slings are a right pain to undo but I think "never do it" and "it will be forever welded" are both unhelpful overstatements. It's occasionally useful to put a knot in a sling and I've never yet been unable to undo one. If you're concerned, there are knots you can tie that are less likely to bind up horrendously.

And yes, as others have already stated here, body belaying can occasionally still be useful but I think there are huge numbers of more important skills for a beginner to master first.

I'm completely with you on the sling-racking thing. Much easier to access slings that are clipped into place rather than looped.

1
deacondeacon 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Luke90:

Cheers. Appreciate the reply  

baron 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Luke90:

Doesn’t how you carry your slings depend on how long they are?

deacondeacon 14 Jul 2019
In reply to baron:

No. As long as they're not the short ones (which are best left in the shop) you just double them. 

BrendanO 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Some great advice here (for me too!).

i think worth buying cheapish workhorse gear because...

...although it's kind-of an investment, I think it's good to have the attitude that to some extent it is all expendable  -  you ARENT.  If your rope looks a bit sketchy, replace it (or cut off the dodgy bits). This is always easier if it was a £60 rope not a £120 rope. 

And the workhorse stuff may take knocks a lot better - nuts beat cams on this.  If you can develop a regular partner, maybe they buy the rope and you have the car. Dont buy lots of stuff early on. 

And I quite like hexes...well, DMM Torque nuts (stopped using old-style hexes as a result).

Belay device that does guide mode is quite nice if you're not big and strong.

baron 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

Even my 240cm one?

planetmarshall 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Be generally suspicious of advice that uses either of the words 'never' or 'always'.

deacondeacon 14 Jul 2019
In reply to baron:

Yeah if you like lol  

mauraman 14 Jul 2019
In reply to kevin stephens:

For what is worth (not experienced, still very much in the learning stage), I agree with Kevin. I am not discarding my hexes until I am ready for el Cap (aged 93 and unable to discern if I am indeed in Yosemite or in the lakes....)

Post edited at 13:52
elsewhere 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

It doesn't matter what respectable brand of whatever you buy. All brands have their fans and it is mostly a matter of opinion which you "must" buy.

barry donovan 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Oh yea and remember sort out who pays for what when it gets stuck ? - if you jam in the cams or they pull them around trying to get them out it can turn into £150 per pitch - learn what threads are. 

1
Dakin 14 Jul 2019

Thanks all! I've had a read through all comments and will bear them in mind. I probably should have said that I have already built a rack aside from cans but my partner had cams so we're all good on the gear front I think.

Going to Dinorwic next week so I'll just crack on and have a go. 

John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Slate would not be my first choice for starting trad climbing, bold and difficult to protect is my experience (lakes slate). 

Not climbed at dinorwic but understand sport is good.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/destinations/llanberis_slate_-_the_full_tour-3682

Kemics 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

> In reply to Kemics

> taking a belay after moving together on easy ground,

> why wouldn't you have this well tried option in your arsenal

> who was the guy who stopped 5 men falling off everest, American expedition, 50s

Well if someone was asking for tips for expeditions in the greater ranges then yeah maybe. But he's asking for beginner trad tips in the hierarchy of skills it's right at the bottom.

I would offer - only get long quickdraws, rope drag is real and short draws can lift your gear out. Short draws are a psychological crutch, 10cm is almost never the difference between hitting the floor or not.

Also, look for signs of polish/small patches of damage on rock as clues that there might be a good wire placement. If you have to really hunt for crap gear... there probably isnt any and if you make one or two more moves you'll find a no hand rest and bomber gear!

1
birdie num num 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Mileage on easier grades is some of the best advice here. Remember, you may find grading doesn’t exactly translate between different areas.

Personally I find Lakeland climbs harder at the same grade as Welsh climbs. Others may not agree, but Wales is where I have done most of my climbing, so that’s my yardstick.

Different rock types require a bit of care....cracks in limestone always look like they’ll take bomber gear, and to some extent they do, but beware, they don’t tend to wedge tightly and your gear can lift out readily with rope drag or catching it moving your feet up.

Try Tryfan Bach if you’re in Wales. A good slab with a variety of easy grades, good solid gear and an opportunity to pitch it with a belay part way up if you wish. 60m would get you all the way with a bit to spare

GPN 14 Jul 2019
In reply to pebbles:

> >. It’s very hard to imagine a situation in which body belaying would be needed (or the best option).

> Here's mine: you're on a winter climb, your ropes were still a little damp this morning and now you're on a multipitch, the temperature has dropped and your ropes have frozen too stiff to go through the belay plate. For the same reason an Italian hitch wont be great.  Body belay to the rescue! 

Very good. The OP was clearly asking about trad climbing rather than winter climbing though.

fifthsunset 14 Jul 2019
In reply to deacondeacon:

> Can one of the dislikers tell me what's up please I'm not moaning about being disliked, just want to find out what the issue is as I've possibly got something wrong. 

I didn't dislike, but I disagree with what you said about knotting slings on both points. In my experience it is useful, and I can undo the knots after they've been loaded (the cord type slings are easier to unknot, but I can also unknot the tape type ones with a bit more fiddling).

Northern Star 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

I would say that personally trad for me does not have all that much to do with the the grade of climbing and I've enjoyed routes from Diff to E1 all equally as much.  It's more about the line, the situation, the route's history and reputation, the adventure, the views and the unique and varied terrain that trad climbing allows you to access. 

Therefore unless you're doing single pitch trad then the biggest difference between sport and trad (apart from the gear and extra rope work) is the route-finding and the general mountain skills/awareness you'll need to get yourself up and then down these routes.

If you're in Wales then I'd leave the slate quarries for now, get yourself a guidebook and then go and attempt (with a suitably early start for anything really long, e.g. East face of Tryfan) some of the easier Welsh multi pitch classics.  You'll get plenty of practice at building the belays, placing the gear and most importantly reading the route.  This will allow you to build a solid base for your journey to come. 

Someone already mentioned Tryfan Bach - that's very good but you won't be doing much route finding and the routes with the most gear are little more than grade 2/3 scrambles.  Perhaps instead try some of the linked up routes on the Idwal slabs (Hope/Lazarus/Groove Above for example).  There are harder options if you find these too easy.  Or you could get a couple of 3-4 pitch good quality routes done in an afternoon on Milestone Buttress.

Luke90 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Northern Star:

> Someone already mentioned Tryfan Bach - that's very good but you won't be doing much route finding and the routes with the most gear are little more than grade 2/3 scrambles.

Surely that's exactly what you want for starting out. You're right that route-finding is a crucial skill but that doesn't mean the best way to learn it is by starting on multi-pitch routes with potentially fiddly navigation. Like most skills, it's easiest to acquire by building up gradually rather than jumping in the deep end.

Idwal Slabs or Tryfan's East Face are certainly fantastic and a pretty friendly venue for multipitch but they're still the scene of some epics and I'm not sure recommending them as a starting point to somebody who's just beginning to learn to trad climb is entirely sensible.

Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Luke90:

> Idwal Slabs or Tryfan's East Face are certainly fantastic and a pretty friendly venue for multipitch but they're still the scene of some epics and I'm not sure recommending them as a starting point to somebody who's just beginning to learn to trad climb is entirely sensible.

They're what my brother and I started on on our first week of lead climbing in 1968 (with rather minimal gear) and they proved just perfect for the purpose. At the end of that week, when we'd progressed from Mod to Hard Severe, we had a good time on Bochlwyd Buttress, IIRC. Again, perfect for the job. We then went round to Llanberis Pass for our first VSs.

Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to GPN:

> I wasn’t a ‘disliker’, but learning how to body belay really isn’t necessary. It’s very hard to imagine a situation in which body belaying would be needed (or the best option).

A body belay is absolutely necessary in some emergency situations; also, as John Kelly has said, in serious situations on dangerous scrambles/ descents in wet/snowy/loose conditions. Absolutely essential that it's in every climber's repertoire. Ditto the Italian hitch. Ditto the prussik knot and/or other ascender knots. Ditto abseiling without a descendeur.

Post edited at 20:51
10
GPN 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Nonsense. In 20 years of trad climbing I’ve had to use a body belay precisely 0 times. It’s way, way down on the list of ‘essential’ skills for a trad climber. The OP was clearly asking for advice on trad climbing, rather than mountaineering or winter climbing. 

As most people advise, getting the mileage on routes that are comfortably within your technical ability in is the key. Mastering antiquated and outmoded techniques is not.

1
birdie num num 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Gordon Stainforth’s post sounds more like a boast than a tip. 

However, Idwal Slabs is a great venue for starting out. But be advised that you’re straight into multi pitch with exposure and a difficult walk off with a bit of route finding. I think, based on your OP that a more gentle introduction would suit.

AJM 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

I tend to think that if I’m packing a rope, I’ll also be packing a harness and a Krab, and therefore that the various harness-less techniques for belaying and abseiling can be abandoned in favour of an Italian hitch.

Perhaps if I got into the sort of thing where I was basically scrambling with a confidence rope the logic would make more sense, but whilst we’re talking useful tips for a beginner rather than things that any “well rounded mountaineer” needs to know I think the Italian hitch would be significantly further up the list. But let’s face it, a complete beginner to trad who drops their belay plate is likely to be on a reasonably easy access crag where they can walk back down and fetch it - ditto with prusiks, an essential item once you start abseiling into crags and things like that, but most beginners are likely to have their first steps at crags where they won’t be falling off into free space or be unable to be lowered to a ledge or that sort of thing.

Those sorts of things feel to my mind like they’re a second, third or even fourth wave of knowledge - placing and removing gear and equalising an anchor would be where I’d start....

Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to birdie num num:

> Gordon Stainforth’s post sounds more like a boast than a tip. 

> However, Idwal Slabs is a great venue for starting out. But be advised that you’re straight into multi pitch with exposure and a difficult walk off with a bit of route finding. I think, based on your OP that a more gentle introduction would suit.

The Idwal Slabs are more serious than the East Face of Tryfan when you're starting out. Smaller belays.

Sorry if it sounded like a boast, but we were actually super-cautious when we started out and spent about 18 months training intensely, top-roping on s-e sandstone, before we started leading (so we had lots of technical ability in hand). We were very average among the handful of other beginners we got to know in N Wales, also starting to lead for the first time in that wonderful summer of 68. I think it was probably the case that the general level of competence was a bit higher then, simply because the sport was so much more dangerous and unforgiving than it is now. IIRC, there were several fatalities on the Idwal Slabs that summer, and certainly one on Milestone Buttress (Canopy Route).

1
Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to AJM:

I'm thinking of the classic disastrous case in the alps, for example, when a rope of two is climbing a multi-pitch rock climb with one sack (carried by the second) and before the 'easy' 'scrambling' descent all the gear including harnesses is put in one sack. And then the sack is dropped. And then the correct route is lost, and some tricky down-climbing is found to be necessary ... with just the rope. That kind of scenario has happened, unfortunately, quite a few times. But not to myself, I hasten to add.

1
John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to GPN:

> Nonsense. In 20 years of trad climbing I’ve had to use a body belay precisely 0 times. 

I'm really surprised by that, I started just before stiche plate came into common usage so maybe that's the disconnect.

I don't think I'm a luddite where equipment is concerned but I still find the body belay a really handy fast and sufficient technique for moving safely round mountain crags in all weather's - check the dude with 6 climbers hanging off his waist, properly strong.

John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

I've got one , practice lassoing, chockstones and pinnacles - nothing more satisfying than sneaking a sling over an out of reach chockstone.

1
Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

I can remember another occasion years ago, when I was climbing with someone I hadn't climbed with before, and we walked up to Stanage, with the rope in one sack and the gear in the other ... except when we got there, we had two ropes and no gear. (The sack of gear was still at home and not in the car ...) So we salvaged the day by simply tying on round the waist with a bowline and climbing v.diffs and severes using body belays.

IIRC, it was a Sunday after a party, and a little too much alcohol the night before had something to do with it.

Post edited at 21:38
AJM 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

“Quite a few” you think? So much so that you’d prioritise it as something for a novice trad leader?

It sounds to me more like something which requires multiple different mistakes (taking the harnesses off in the first place, dropping the sack, which conveniently for this scenario seems to have everything in it except the rope), and then some unfortunate circumstances beyond that, like losing a descent route that was so easy you didn’t expect to still need a harness and going from that to something you’re incapable of downclimbing....... from the outside, it seems implausible enough to be the kind of scenario which exists mainly to demonstrate that there is a specific situation in which classic abseils could be essential!

I could think of a load of equally likely scenarios to demonstrate why a rudimentary knowledge of aiding, or the ability to build a 3:1 or 5:1 haul system, is essential (I mean, basically any decent size sea cliff could act as the backdrop, right), but I maintain that you’re pitching a long way further down the journey of climbing skills than is necessarily required for a novice leader....

Gordon Stainforth 14 Jul 2019
In reply to AJM:

But that's just how epics happen (typically in bad conditions/weather). A series of mistakes because one or more in the party are getting very tired/panicking etc. Something relatively small to start with, leads to something else, then someone getting quite a minor injury, etc etc. I had my fair share of them (four, actually) in my five years of alpine climbing, after which I decided it was too dangerous ... And in case you think I was totally incompetent, two of those were when I got involved with another party that was in trouble - because of course you have to help.

And that is terrifying, because you have to shepherd down injured, shocked and panicky people, in fading light/deteriorating conditions. The worst was in the Alps where the other party had had a serious mishap: one was badly injured and in a very bad state of shock (only just keeping conscious), the other injured and shocked, and the third (not her fault, a completely inexperienced girlfriend who'd never been on a big mountain before) who had completely lost it mentally. We came down the mountain as a rope of five, with myself leading the way doing the route-finding and my climbing partner, Mike, being stronger and heavier than me, acting as the anchor man at the back.

Post edited at 22:03
AJM 14 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Yes, sure, epics happen when multiple mistakes pile up. But that makes them rare, because without multiple uncommon things happening at the same time it's not really very epic. And the first skills you learn don't need to be for rare events, they need to be for common occurrences. 

​​​

GPN 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

I agree that body belaying is occasionally a convenient technique John. It’s just not essential. I honestly can’t see why you would advise that a beginner learns it (classic abseil even more so!). 

I would say that by far the most important factor in being a safe, competent trad climber, is the ability to climb smoothly and in control (i.e. not falling off unexpectedly). Shortly followed by the ability to place good gear. 

I’d advise any beginner to trad climbing to concentrate on getting the fundamentals correct, rather than concentrating on ‘techniques’.

Post edited at 22:32
John Kelly 14 Jul 2019
In reply to GPN:

I would agree with most of your comments, I might even put good gear above good 'control' because even good climbers have moments when ambition exceeds ability at which point the gear should stop you. 

I'm sure you can get away without learning the body belay but as it only takes a few minutes to learn and it's useful, why wouldn't you. 

never going classic abseil again 😀 and never suggested anyone else should, it's tricky and very serious

Post edited at 22:56
Tom V 14 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

Totally in support. I "body belayed" people for years until technology provided a better system but in that period I managed fine and held some pretty substantial leader falls.

I tried classic abseiling precisely once.

Gordon Stainforth 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Tom V:

> Totally in support. I "body belayed" people for years until technology provided a better system but in that period I managed fine and held some pretty substantial leader falls.

I also held many falls with a body belay (waist belay, ie. round the waist, not the shoulder) ... simply because belay plates had not then been invented. Most serious was when my climbing partner insisted on trying Cobweb Crack on the Cromlech in winter, even though it had started to sleet. He came off the crux, his one runner came out and he fell about 40 feet ... direct impact onto my waist. But I held him OK. He ended up about 25 feet below me.

> I tried classic abseiling precisely once.

Ditto, if you mean that appalling method with the rope going between your crutch. So painful that it was exceptionally dangerous ... you had to try and lift the weight off your crutch, the loop over your shoulder would go slack and could then slip off completely.

But we used to call the system with the rope running through a screwgate crab (i.e no descendeur) attached to an improvised tape harness round thighs and waist, a 'classic abseil'. It worked fine; indeed was standard until the first figure of 8s and then the Sticht plate were invented.

Tom V 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

To me "classic" abseil means the painful one with the rope running dangerously close to your bollocks then back up over your shoulder; the method with a screwgate and thigh loop was just "normal" abseiling.

Probably why no-one ever did it for fun/sponsored events and would definitely have not worked well with a skimpy Montane type top.

SenzuBean 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Just a few tips:

- After leading a route, if you have the time and you feel you could 'get more out of it' - toprope it using a different technique or eliminated holds (e.g. can you do it no hands? Can you layback instead of jam? Can you bridge instead of smear?), or trying to improve your performance ('wow, I sure climbed that better than on the lead'). This I've found is a great way to get a comparison between different techniques (e.g. to develop a better sense of when to jam or layback), and to build the confidence to choose some of the scarier techniques (e.g. you may find how easy it is to bridge past cruxes, but at the expense of security, or the same with smearing).

- Put in the time to become efficient with nut/hex placements (i.e. the correct size, correct orientation ideally first go). You may find on some rock types (granite, gritstone) that at cruxes you can just stuff a cam in and go for it, but on other rock types (limestone, quartzite), you will often be required to place the correct nut (and it will only be one or two sizes, and one or two orientations) very swiftly.

- Route read, route read, route read!!! Look at the route from a variety of angles (e.g. stand on the side, and you'll see it's not really vertical, but actually a steep slab - calm down - you can climb slabs), climb up on a nearby boulder to see higher up. Move your head back and forth (sounds like a joke but it's true) and you'll see hidden edges and ledges. Plants also usually signal ledges. Plan your rests and gear placements to some degree (e.g. do you need to save a finger-sized cam for the top crack? Is the wide crack only at the bottom - so you can ditch the wide gear after you've passed that. Can you get a sneaky bridge rest before the crux?). I'd also recommend doing this on indoor walls until such a point that it's not a 'chore' to do it because it's so natural.

summo 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

I will avoid reading all the above but add my thoughts.. 

Your climbing grade is high relative to trad experience but don't skip the trad apprenticeship.

Start on low grades, besides there being masses of amazing routes, you'll learn route descriptions and get your gear eye in placing the right size rock first time every time etc. When you work up the grades these things will really matter.

Sort your admin. Get efficient at setting up multiple anchor belay stances at a variety of locations, learn some escape tactics, safe abseiling etc. 

Don't carry the world, trim your rack and the number of runners to suit the route length and rock type. You don't need 15kg of ironmongery to tackle 15m of grit. 

Wear a helmet. 

Baron Weasel 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Wear a helmet and put it on as soon as you get to the crag (if not just before), if you get a lightweight one you'll forget you're wearing it. I've been hit twice on the helmet by gear being dropped in the last year and I've seen rock fall land amongst climbers getting ready.

Do lots and lots of low grade stuff to get your systems, gear placement and removal slick. Also climb as many different styles of climb as possible because you'll develop a bigger lexicon of moves this way and it'll pay off later.

Remember to have fun!

asteclaru 15 Jul 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Be aware that almost everything you read on message forums will be opinion and nothing else.

> I for example find phantoms fiddly and prefer a full size wiregate. I have no opinion on Totems, but the mere fact that they split opinion would lead me to recommend a beginner gets something that doesn't.

Good luck finding a cam model that doesn't split opinion.

Extendable sling vs thumb loop debate anyone?

2
GrahamD 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

My hint or tip would be to try to team up with people who do trad climb. Climbing clubs are a great wY of doing this. 

planetmarshall 15 Jul 2019
In reply to asteclaru:

> Good luck finding a cam model that doesn't split opinion.

> Extendable sling vs thumb loop debate anyone?

Well exactly, but you rarely see much dissent concerning Camalots or WC Friends, certainly not when compared to Totems or Dragons.

1
jezb1 15 Jul 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Well exactly, but you rarely see much dissent concerning Camalots or WC Friends, certainly not when compared to Totems or Dragons.

Friends?! Bleugh!

;)

brianjcooper 15 Jul 2019
In reply to jezb1:

> Friends?! Bleugh!

> ;)

Agreed. Try getting the slings replaced now WC no longer provide this service!

Jon Read 15 Jul 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

> Agreed. Try getting the slings replaced now WC no longer provide this service!

CT death products to the rescue! http://www.kakibusok.plus.com/Equipment/ReslingCams/Resling.htm

Rob Exile Ward 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

When you place gear take a moment to imagine how happy you would be abseiling off it. Then try and keep at least one such piece of gear that you are happy with between you and the ground.

Adherence to these guidelines has definitely limited my 'achievements' but on the other hand, I am still here!

1
jonnie3430 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

3 rules, and the overarching rule.

1. When stuck, think feet. Look at them and do little steps to get up.

2. When in doubt, place more gear. Don't argue with yourself, your subconscious is smarter than you. Get it in, more than one if needed.

3. When climbing, climb fast. Don't hang about mid crux afraid to go back down. Climbing should be from rest to rest. By all means find the crux, but say "that's interesting," go back to your last rest, make sure you're happy with gear (you won't be, place more, but use the rest!)  Then play with the holds. Three is the magic number for goes before you do it.

Overarching: start easy! Different rock; start easy! Different crag; start easy! Haven't climbed for a few days; start easy! DO NOT SAY TO YOURSELF: I MANAGED AM HVS (WHATEVER,) LAST TIME, I'LL START ON THAT. There's more to trad climbing than technical difficulty and an easy start allows you to practise that before you get physically difficult. And let's your mind warm up slowly...

summo 15 Jul 2019
In reply to jonnie3430:

> 3 rules

> Overarching: start easy! Different rock; start easy! Different crag; start easy! Haven't climbed for a few days; start easy! 

Heard an old or perhaps new adage.

Only change one of the follow per climbing day; the region, rock type and grade. Climb a new rock type drop a grade or two, a new crag drop a grade and suss the anchors at the top out and walk off etc...  keeps the odds stacked in your favour and means you push the grade on semi familiar terrain. 

hbeevers 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

I'm still very new, so far in my opinion:

  • Dyneema slings are nice and light but nylon "tape" slings last longer.
  • Get a nice big krab for clove hitches.
  • Single pitch climb on half ropes and single to learn how to "manage" both. Also, tying into the middle of a doubled single or as climber 2 out of 3; I use a rethreaded fig 8 on bight to avoid adding a screwgate that could be cross loaded.
  • I'm the one leading so if I want more gear in then I'll damn well put more in!
  • Love me a good hex placement. The second does not...
  • On gritstone, don't spend a fortune on your first rope(s) as they get shredded.
  • Grades are a guide, in some cases a cruel joke, not a rule.

Great thread this. Feel free to point out of I'm talking rubbish above!

Andysomething 15 Jul 2019
In reply to henwardian:

"....Don't buy hexes...."

Hexes worked great on some of the routes we climbed at Twistleton yesterday.  Both as runners and as bombproof belay anchors in the limestone pavement at the top of the crag.

jonnie3430 15 Jul 2019
In reply to Andysomething:

Aye, but they're superseded by cams. Keep it simple. Set of nuts, set of cams will see you up all normal routes. Anything special can be seen from the ground. Get serious about what is still on your harness after you've finished a route and if it keeps cropping up, leave it at the bottom. (I.e. micro cams and wires, hexes, Tri cam, etc. We all have them, but use them very occasionally once the novelty has worn off.

16
StockportAl 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Wear a helmet.

Hexes are good, I use mine all the time.

Carry a first aid kit and know how to use its contents. I have a small one I can clip to the back of my harness which is good for patching up those bits of skin lost on a route, saves bleeding on the rope & gear while building a belay and a larger one in the bag which is for more serious matters. And yes it has been used.

Learn to down climb, sometimes you might not get on with the route, or other times you could realise you're out of time and you have to get off, then down climbing retrieving gear as you go could be the only option.

summo 16 Jul 2019
In reply to jonnie3430:

> Aye, but they're superseded by cams. Keep it simple. .

Exactly. Uses hexes as a novice. You'll develop a good eye for sizes and hexes don't walk into cracks if placed badly. Then after a few hundred routes buy a set of friends. 

4
jonnie3430 16 Jul 2019
In reply to summo:

Nah, that's dinosaur chat. Cams have different placement to hexes, get them early and get learning.

Offwidth 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Maybe you are not the best role model for beginners? In fact beginners with a strong stomach considering a very early multipitch might also consider reading Fiva, your amazing book which perfectly demonstrates what can go wrong with relative beginner overconfidence (and is a must for 'rule obsessed' improving climbers...  how once in serious trouble, it is possible with improvisation to get out of it alive).

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/publications/other_publications/fiva_-_an_adventure_that_went_wrong-4576

Despite the initial gung-ho approach and fond memories of some, it's simply not a good idea for most beginner pairs to learn their first trad on multipitch and Milestone and Idwall are renowned for exit bottle-necks creating rescues of cold queues, as the local MRT know well.

1
summo 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

I think crags that generally require only two pitches are a good balance to point people at. If it's all going wrong, one pitch up gets you to the top or you always have enough rope to reach the ground abbing off. Whilst still getting chance to practice stance management, leader swaps, back coiling ropes and so on. 

Railey956 16 Jul 2019

This thread is so awesome and well written.

3
Kemics 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

Total agree. Dont learn on multi pitch, even if it's just two pitches! I did and upon reaching the first belay i had to untie and drop the rope so my partner could take the rope and ab in from above to rescue me. 

The next attempt someone soloed up to me to check on me because they couldnt understand why i had taken 40 minutes and still hadnt successful built a belay.

GrahamD 16 Jul 2019
In reply to jonnie3430:

> Aye, but they're superseded by cams.

They reLly haven't.  The have different applictions largely dictateb by the profile of the crack. In limestone a crack can often be very flared, opening up the further back you go. In these, hexes are bomber and cams are pish.

>Keep it simple.

On this we agree

Gordon Stainforth 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Offwidth:

> Maybe you are not the best role model for beginners? In fact beginners with a strong stomach considering a very early multipitch might also consider reading Fiva, your amazing book which perfectly demonstrates what can go wrong with relative beginner overconfidence (and is a must for 'rule obsessed' improving climbers...  how once in serious trouble, it is possible with improvisation to get out of it alive).

I would have thought that the fact that I experienced these things very early in my climbing. I had three Alpine seasons after Fiva, and never another mishap. (Nastiest experience was helping an injured party off Piz Palu, as described above somewhere.)

> Despite the initial gung-ho approach and fond memories of some, it's simply not a good idea for most beginner pairs to learn their first trad on multipitch and Milestone and Idwall are renowned for exit bottle-necks creating rescues of cold queues, as the local MRT know well.

I said above that I didn't think the Idwal Slabs were perfectly suited for beginners, but east face of Tryfan is arguably the most suitable I've ever come across. Milestone Buttress was also very standard fare in the old days (I mean right-hand side, not the Soapgut side).

To describe Fiva as 'multipitch' is both a massive understatement and not quite right, because it's so long you have to do a lot of moving together on serious ground (made worse by rockfall). It's the equivalent of a really long rock route in the Alps. Mostly technically quite easy but requiring a high level of mountaineering/route-finding skills ... which we hadn't got at that stage in our climbing.

Gordon Stainforth 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

One tip I would pass on to beginners is to do some/a lot of practising of gear/nut placements before going onto any serious climb. I.e spend some time of an evening, rather than bouldering, wandering around the boulders and placing/trying to place nuts in any crack/pocket you can see (particularly standard nuts and not cams). Organise your rack and try placing nuts from one side and the other, with left hand and right hand etc., as if you're standing in a difficult or precarious position. Particularly practice trying to get the right size of nut straight away - the beginner tends to err on the side of selecting too big a nut (one of the main reasons Friends/ cams get stuck .. overcammed). It's also a fun exercise to see if you can get a nut to work in an 'impossible', or very flared-looking crack. I recommend particularly learning to use Hexcentrics. If you're really keen you can practise with a rope, adding extensions/ quickdraws and clipping in with one hand.

summo 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Kemics:

> Total agree. Dont learn on multi pitch, even if it's just two pitches! 

I wasn't suggesting they leap straight into two pitch routes, rather that they are a better compromise when moving on from single pitch, compared to leaping onto 4 or 5 pitch mountain routes. 

There isn't anything wrong with short pitching and turning a single pitch into a multi pitch just for practice, even to the point that you could do this 3m off the ground where you can be coached or on a scramble route. 

springfall2008 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Take extreme care on easy ground and while setting belays and abseiling, accidents often happen when you are relaxed.

If an abseil or belay goes wrong, or you just fall off the top because it's a bit slippy it can be fatal.

Never stand near an edge not attached to something bomber.

Have a system and follow it, double check everything in your system, e.g. once I have set my abseil I check each piece from the belay back to my harness again before unclipping.

jonnie3430 16 Jul 2019
In reply to GrahamD:

They really have. At least in Scotland there isn't that much limestone about so what you say puts them in the "special circumstances," rack along with micro wires and cams, superlights, and that pink tricam that my other half keeps on the rack.

jonnie3430 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Another tip, don't carry 120cm slings on the back of your harness, make them into sling draws and they then have multiple uses. Get to a belay, put in three bits of gear, sling draw clips two of them together, tie a knot to isolate, then it's just one rope for the two on a clove hitch and the other rope onto the third bit of gear. I usually carry 2 or three of these, made from 5mm skinny slings and about 4 to 6 60cm slings. Makes rope drag a lot less when you want to get long distances between belays (faster climbing,) and they can get used for spikes, slings or just runners.

Post edited at 12:03
1
Andy Long 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Somebody's pointed out that you need to be able to belay someone from above. I may have missed it but I'd add that it's equally important to be able to belay left and right-handed. On constricted stances you don't always have a choice. Bog basic but very, very important. 

On the subject of body belays, nobody seems to have mentioned that a body belay will let a knot past it without any fancy jiggery-pokery. Nice to know if you're landed with a chopped rope that has to be tied together, or a damaged one requiring an isolation loop.

brianjcooper 16 Jul 2019
In reply to henwardian:

> Don't buy hexes.

Actually, a well placed Hex trumps all other types of protection in my book. As an example. On Limestone due to its smooth surface cams can and do slip and fail more readily. As Mick says climb on different rock types and gain experience of them.

Some great advice among the posts on this thread.

Have fun.

Hat Dude 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

As many of the posts above have stated, mileage at a comfortable grade for you is key, not least because route finding can be more complex and you will learn to read the rock better.

GrahamD 16 Jul 2019
In reply to jonnie3430:

The OP is in West Yorkshire- basically limestone. 

2
Lemony 16 Jul 2019
In reply to GrahamD:

> The OP is in West Yorkshire- basically limestone. 

Yeah, I mean the Wetherby trad scene is pretty crazy but I think there might be another rocktype I associate more strongly with West Yorkshire routes.

Reach>Talent 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

One of the big differences between trad climbing and sport or bouldering is how much extra time and faff is required when you need to retreat in a hurry, as a result it is extremely important to get a robust lunchbox. If you are in Font or Horseshoe quarry then getting back to your lunch to dissuade some inquisitive wildlife is simple, less so if you are 2 pitches up on the Dewerstone and you see the squirrel eyeing up your sandwiches.

Another useful tip is when climbing a multi pitch route and swinging leads if your partner is very particular about climbing a certain pitch then it is often worth being a little suspicious. If I had £5 for every time I had been stitched up with the frightening pitch then I would probably have enough money for a change of trousers. 

Hardonicus 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Lemony:

To be fair, there's loads of limestone in West Yorkshire, it's just buried under a fcuk ton of grit!

Andysomething 16 Jul 2019
In reply to jonnie3430:

I had hexes right from when I first started, they have never been a novelty!  As you say it's usually easy to see from the ground if they are worth taking up, so I'll stick with them, but hey, each to his or her own!

1
GridNorth 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Not sure why people have to take a pro cam anti cam, pro hex anti hex stance.  I have both in my rack and they are of equal value.  Places like Pembroke love hexes, grit loves cams.  I agree that cams can slip in limestone and I have seen examples of this where I would challenge anybody to fault the placement.

Al

1
PaulJepson 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Loads of good stuff already covered. Best thing is to get loads of seconding mileage in with an experienced climber and ask lots of questions. Don't just observe them doing something, ask them why and you'll build a better picture of what it's all about. You'll also learn a good or a bad placement from the 'safe' end and see how you can get creative with them.

Remember when belaying at the top of the crag that rope-stretch and slack in the system add up. If you're belaying right at the edge and your second takes a lob, you could well get pulled off and end up in a very awkward position. Make sure when you've built your anchor that you are TIGHT on it if you're at the edge, and give yourself a bit of stretch-room. You want to be able to see your partner climbing, but you don't necessarily want to join them 5m from the top if they fall. 

Although some people may disagree with it, try using the '12 point' system for anchors. Give each piece a mark out of 4. If it's an absolute sinker nut or cam, it gets a 4. If it's shite, it gets a 1. Each anchor you want to aim for 12 points. Exceptions being a big f*cking tree (BFT) or big f*cking boulder (BFB) that get 12 points outright. Don't rely on one thing for an anchor, and that's not just talking about the piece of gear but the rock around it. If you sling a tree and get some gear around some wedged and broken rock around it's roots, think about what will happen if the tree pulls (and trees DO pull). If you have 3 bomber nuts in a single crack, it may not be a good anchor. If that one piece of rock goes, you go. 

Mutli-directional pieces are great. If you can sling a tree or thread, clip a peg or bolt, or get a cam in, do it. In a multi-pitch anchor they will protect against an upward-pull (imagine you've put 3 great nuts in and your partner leads off. He then takes a big whip and you get pulled upwards, lifting all 3 of your wonderful nuts out). In a leading scenario, they will help keep the pull on your gear directly down the line of climbing - i.e. won't 'unzip'. Don't rely on a sapling to catch you unless it's at least as wide as your wrist, alive, and well-rooted but that doesn't mean don't use anything less. It may be all you have and will help with the aforementioned. 

Learn about unzipping. Stand directly under your leader when belaying, and tell your belayer to do the same. No dynamic 'running in and out' belaying on trad, unless it's all cams/threads/pitons or at least the first piece is one (and bomber). 

A good piece of advice I got the other day - If you're belaying at the top and any of the anchor is above shoulder-height, consider sitting down to belay. 

Embrace the faff.

Check your partner and have them check you.

Extend any gear under roofs, round corners, or just out of the way of your climbing line. 

Protect your second on traverses as best you can (for them the fall will be just as bad as leading, so don't leave them unprotected just because you're comfortable on the ground). 

Have a breather when you can; you don't know when the next one will be. Take some deep breaths and relax. If you've had a wobble, don't be afraid to take a minute at the top. You can be all over the shop when you first top out and can make silly mistakes. 

If you need to rest on gear, clip in to it if you can rather than taking on the rope. This will lessen the force acting on the piece. 

Read John Longs book on anchors. 

Post edited at 16:30
jezb1 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Have fun.

John Kelly 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

Abseil

Clip directly into the anchor with appropriate length short (first) sling

Sort the ropes and attach yourself ready to go 

Clip a (second )long sling into the anchor and directly to yourself

Unclip the the first short sling, weight the system and start descent 

If you haven't started to plunge earthwards! 

Unclip long (second) sling and off you go

Post edited at 19:03
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phil456 16 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

After 8 years, I have now found ” not rushing " to have helped lots.

Just back from being ” in over my head "  swearing and 5 minutes planning saved the day.

this topic shows ukc at its best , lol

planetmarshall 17 Jul 2019
In reply to GridNorth:

>  I agree that cams can slip in limestone and I have seen examples of this where I would challenge anybody to fault the placement.

Had two cams slip out of tapered placements at Willersley yesterday, while only resting on them. Fortunately I was sufficiently paranoid to have also placed a bomber nut.

C Witter 17 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

A few tips...

A friend who guides often tells people: "don't fall off in your first year!" This isn't dogma, but do be careful at the start and remember that you've the mental space to learn better when you are within your comfort zone.

Get your gear really good. Don't place bad gear. Once you've got your gear dialled you can really push yourself, fall off, sit on your gear, lower off, etc. But, if your gear is crap you've no get out of jail free card.

Spend some time with guidebooks, learning the names of various rock features. Good route finding is an underrated skill, especially away from the grit on longer routes. Choosing the right route for the team and for the weather can also be key to a good day out. Related to this: go experience different types of rock, route and climbing style. It can be eye opening to get away from your local crags.

Be careful when taking other novices out. When you're new to trad climbing, you can often end up with other people who are new to it. It's really easy to overestimate what they will be comfortable with and underestimate the problems that can arise. I'm ashamed to say, I've had my girlfriend in tears on the other end of a rope on more than one occasion. It's not something to savour. Conversely, once I'd learnt to appreciate the different challenges climbing outside can present to people who are new to it (which does not only relate to grade, but also weather, rock type, rock feature/climbing style, size of the crag, situation, approaches, descent routes and abseils, hill fitness, sack weight, the challenges of being outside in general, non-climbing sources of anxiety, etc. etc. ad infinitum), we had some great days out.

Finally: after all is said and done, the best days out are inevitably with people whose company you really enjoy. 

Hope some of that is helpful.

brianjcooper 17 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

> Clip directly into the anchor with appropriate length short (first) sling

> Clip a (second )long sling into the anchor and directly to yourself

To the (OP).  I've been climbing for well over half a lifetime, and I'm still learning techniques. Take a look at the DMM website knowledge video regarding 'slings at anchors'. Scary stuff.

How many of us thought it was safe to 'hang' on a sling at the belay etc?

2
Offwidth 17 Jul 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

Had what seemed like a bomber nut pop out on me yesterday evening from a two piece temporary belay ...  luckily the second piece, a cam, held the small shock load. I was cleaning turf obscuring key holds from a little climbed line, before finishing the route. First runners above a bold bouldery start so if the cam failed I would have decked.

Offwidth 17 Jul 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

Link?

John Kelly 17 Jul 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

Nothing wrong with hanging on a sling at the anchor, totally fine.

But falling on a sling particularly knotted dynema can be bad

however

I'm using it to back up an abseil before I totally commit,

i'm not going to allow exceed  FF1 - I'm below the anchor

I'm not going to knot the sling,

it's way better than nothing,

I maybe shouldn't of advised it in a beginner's thread.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrgadjo9niY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SY12o2FxjpU

Post edited at 20:16
brianjcooper 17 Jul 2019
brianjcooper 17 Jul 2019
In reply to John Kelly:

Hi. John.

Sorry if my post sounded a bit critical. I was only trying to highlight shock loading on slack slings.

It certainly surprised me.

Post edited at 20:23
John Kelly 17 Jul 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

You made a very good point, I should have mentioned that limitation in my abseiling post.

Thanks

John

Offwidth 18 Jul 2019
In reply to brianjcooper:

Cheers Brian very useful and I'd not seen it before... shame the system I see used most often (a long sling clipped into 2 or more pieces and equalised to a master point using a big overhand with a loop of sling per piece) isn't shown in the tests. I'd expect it to be more robust in a FF1 than the knot systems tested, as two strands take the load and in the bigger knot, slip will be larger.

It is getting the message across about setting up a belay... never clip into a sling and climb above it looking for another piece...if setting up a sling belay, always clip into the rope first, set up the sling belay and then clip in to it low when its arranged. Sling/cordallette belays are useful if the belay is complex and the same leader is leading the next pitch. Same goes for belays on Daisy chains (some poor practice I've seen in the US with these... clipping in and climbing precariously above the clip for a second piece... turns my stomach). Same applies to a direct sling belay that might face a leader FF2

Post edited at 09:06
teh_mark 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Reach>Talent:

> when climbing a multi pitch route and swinging leads if your partner is very particular about climbing a certain pitch then it is often worth being a little suspicious.

And a good follow-on intermediate technique to learn is how to manoeuvre slyly to get the pitches you want and not get the pitches you want nothing to do with ;)

teh_mark 18 Jul 2019
In reply to PaulJepson:

> Although some people may disagree with it, try using the '12 point' system for anchors. Give each piece a mark out of 4. If it's an absolute sinker nut or cam, it gets a 4. If it's shite, it gets a 1. Each anchor you want to aim for 12 points. Exceptions being a big f*cking tree (BFT) or big f*cking boulder (BFB) that get 12 points outright. Don't rely on one thing for an anchor, and that's not just talking about the piece of gear but the rock around it. If you sling a tree and get some gear around some wedged and broken rock around it's roots, think about what will happen if the tree pulls (and trees DO pull). If you have 3 bomber nuts in a single crack, it may not be a good anchor. If that one piece of rock goes, you go. 

I like the concept (I use a sort of point-scoring system for belays myself as a sanity check), but I think only being happy with a minimum of three bomber bits of gear is a bit paranoid. I can't imagine  a situation where I've placed two bomber pieces and an alright piece, and thought 'crap, I better place a fourth bit' [because it only adds up to 11].

stevieb 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

You've got a lot of good advice here.
The one thing I would add, is to do it right every time.

Judging by your bouldering grade, you will do a lot of trad climbs that are a long way from your limit but you should still use the same approach - clean your shoes, sort your rack, use holds and footholds precisely, place enough gear, build a secure belay etc. - that you would on a much harder climb. (In some situations in the future you may choose to move quickly, run it out, move together etc. but that should still be a positive decision.)

nniff 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

My two pennyworth:

Clean your shoes religiously before you set off - dry or wet.

Sort your wires so that they curve the same way - it makes it a lot easier to pick the right size - it only took 20 or so years for me to work that one out.

Don't get lazy and place cams if there's a decent nut placement - a solid bit of rock trumps a bit of friction every time.

Don't over-analyse things - most of the time it's not going to change - the exceptions being when you really have missed a hidden hold or really are just making an arse of it.

As a good general rule, don't fall off.  Up to that point you're primarily relying upon your own physical ability not to hit the ground, with all the ropes and clatch as a back-up.  Once you've fallen off, you've lost all control and are wholly reliant upon equipment, the rock, your skill in matching the two up and a  whole load of dynamic moving parts.  Remember, the falling is safe, but a sudden stop at the end is not.  Same reason abseiling has a bad track record - it's an accident waiting to happen, being totally equipment-dependent.  Like all good rules, just bear it in mind.....

If you've placed some gear and it's good, move on.  If you're really worried, maybe place another bit.  Don't build a nest.  If the gear's poor, do what you need to do - build a nest, get brave, run away - but whatever you do, do it with a conscious, calculated decision and clarity of thought.  If you've lost the latter, you're in the wrong place.

Hardonicus 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Dakin:

When you get the fear above your gear and you're shaking like a sh1tting dog - close your eyes, take a deep breath and think of a young Winona Ryder.

Lemony 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Hardonicus:

> When you get the fear above your gear and you're shaking like a sh1tting dog - close your eyes, take a deep breath and think of a young Winona Ryder.

This is excellent advice although I also like the version which says "Close your eyes, take a deep breath then look slowly down at your feet, to your left, to your right and finally up above you." If you still can't see any holds then you're probably in a spot of bother.

brianjcooper 19 Jul 2019
In reply to nniff:

<Remember, the falling is safe, but a sudden stop at the end is not. 

I believe it was Bill Peascod who said " The ground will take the nasty sting out of the fall".

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