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adventuregal

How much experience needed for sport leading?

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Ok, here's a question... How long had you been climbing before you started leading sport routes? I've only been climbing for about a month (3-4 days a week), but am improving quickly and my climbing partners tell me I'm ready. I know all the mechanics, safety, etc. I led a 5.9 today w/ no problems and feel confident about my abilities. But I get the feeling some people at the gym (Yes, it's the gym in MN for now... Gotta wait till the snow melts to get outside!) disapprove of me starting to lead so quickly? Am I making this up? Should I have more regular top rope experience before I start leading? Help!! confused.gif

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I don't see any reason why you shouldn't start leading sport, provided you have a competent belayer and don't climb beyond your ability. Find a belayer who has some experience and can show you what you need to know. I assume you know what to do when you get to the top? If you can climb 5.9 on top rope, start leading at 5.6.

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adventuregal said:

I know all the mechanics, safety, etc.

 

no you don't .... not by a long shot.

 

but, that doesn't mean you shouldn't lead climb. Best to start on climbs well below your no-falls/no-hangs top-rope level.

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Should I have more regular top rope experience before I start leading?

 

Of course, no one is going to be able to answer that for you over the internet. You might be solid, you might be sketchy...it is different for everyone. There is no clear cut answer to when a person should start leading.

 

What I would do is find a more experienced climber, that you trust, and have them belay you on some routes and watch your technique. See what they think, if they were scared belaying you then maybe you should tone it down a notch.

 

Clipping isn't the easiest motion to get use to. It takes some time and practice. I'd stick to easier routes so that you can concentrate on your clipping technicue. When you start to push your limit you will need it. If you fall while botching a clip, it will be a long one. If your struggleing to get the rope in and getting pumped, just back off and try something easier.

 

Another thing that is important is to practice falling. Get a belayer who knows what they are doing and make yourself take some whippers from different heights on the wall. Get a feel for how far you fall and what happens. Of course I assume that you allready know the principles of how to fall and what to whatch out for. I also stress the belayer who knows what they are doing part!

 

That goes for you as well. Climbing up and clipping the draws the right way is one thing, belaying is a whole 'nother story. (Without trying to sound like a former lead instructor...) Belaying a leader is a big responsibility. It is a subtle skill to catch a fall properly, especialy on a small wall. It usualy takes a climber longer than one month of just top-rope belaying practice before they have the rope handeling skills that a good dynamic lead belay requires.

 

That being said...the gym I used to work for wouldn't even let you take the lead test untill you had been climbing for at least a year and had a few outdoor leads under your belt, or took a private lead class.

 

I hope that helps, let me know if you have more questions...good luck, be safe.bigdrink.gif

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this should make thurs interesting. if you know the mechs of placing draws correctly and setting up an anchor at the top (usually trivial w/ two chains, etc) it isn't a huge step up. You just need to ease back a bit and be a bit more sure of your hands and feet. too bad the consequences of falling on things below 5.10 are often more severe than above 5.10. a mental centering routine helps when you are running it out (if that's even possible to say) to the next bolt.

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Congratulations on having discovered the joy of climbing! First of all, that your friends feel you are ready to lead is wholly irrelevant in my opinion. If your friends were telling you that they didn’t think you were ready, then I might give their opinions more weight; however, with regard to what you are ready to do, only you can know.

 

Only one month of climbing, I agree, isn’t very much; however, in a controlled environment like the gym, on routes that match your ability (and under they eye and guidance of someone knowledgeable and experienced in leading), I don’t believe your lack of experience is a major factor--gyms are all about learning and practicing. If YOU feel ready to lead, and have the desire, I think that, by all means, you should give it a go.

bigdrink.gif

 

That's my $.02.

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my theory is that all newbies do stoopid shit...and if you live through the first couple o' years... yer prolly goin to bee alright for about a year (until you get into the hairy stuff)... so... i figure all anyone of us has (as per safe climbing) is one year tops... grin.gif

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In Russia, climbers begin leading trad at 5.11b A3 on their first day. If they can't make it to the top of the 10p route, they are not a climber. We would call such a person an Amerikanski.

 

Ooops, wrong avatar.... blush.gif

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What Fern said above!

 

You are not yet a good judge of whether or not you know it all yet. 99% probable that you don't know it all yet. Things happen fast when you're about to grease off.

 

Have someone evaluate you who you know has experience . And I emphasized that you know on purpose. Make sure the person is not just some horndog at the gym who is talking himself up so as to impress.

 

Lead climbing is a whole different world than toproping. It is definitely something to try and see if you like it!

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I agree with everyone here. Only you will know if you are ready to lead. Although, if you understood all of the mechanics of leading and how to do it, I suspect you wopuld have already done it by now. Not to sound scolding, but leading is serious. But, the bottom line is you don't learn until you actually step up and do it. I agree with others that going in a gym and learning is good. I teach a climbing course weekely to 6-12 year olds, and it is a case by case basis as to when they are ready to lead in the gym. They must be able to TR a 5.8 without falling or hangdogging, and they have to be able to make there clips. This is excellent practice, and they must be able to clip in 4 different scenarios (the biner facing in two different directions, clipping with right and left hands. They must do this 50 times in a row without backclipping. Once they have this down, I then put them on the easiest lead route in the gym and set up a TR. They are attached to the TR, and carry a lead rope up and "mock-Lead". This may help build your confidence if you do this first. Bottom line, like everyone says, make sure those who are teaching you are compitent and know what they are doing. Oh yeah, and you will want to learn out to fall, and how ti set up a TR when you get to the top. Most importantly, and not to get washed down in the details, Have Fun!!!!!!!!

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I'm not sure I agree with the "only you will know when you are ready to lead" philosophy. A good friend of mine ruined his anckle and will never walk the same again because he was convinced that he was ready to lead....obviously he wasn't.

 

I would seek the advice of a experienced mentor. Let them watch you, and have them offer critisizm. they may tell you to hold off on the 5.9's untill you are smoother on the 5.8's. And that would be good advice.

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You'll never know if you're ready if you don't try. Learning to lead is primarily a mental game. When you get on the sharp end of the rope you'll either panic and freak out, or deal with it.

 

It's obvious that leading is serious and mistakes can have severe consequences, so just make sure you really know what you should (and shouldn't) be doing before you commit yourself.

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fern said:

adventuregal said:

I know all the mechanics, safety, etc.

 

no you don't .... not by a long shot.

 

but, that doesn't mean you shouldn't lead climb. Best to start on climbs well below your no-falls/no-hangs top-rope level.

 

I have to go with fern here. lead in the gym all you want but please realize that climbing outside is a totaly diffrent game. Climb with some one who has a TON of experience. Take a class if you have to. Read everything by John Long you can get your hands on (have I mentiond I am in love with him?) It is about miles on the rock, and you haven't got any yet. Put your time in. Pay your dues. Some people advancer farther faster than opthers, but don't push it. Steph Davis says " life is long" and I totaly agree. Especialy if you can keep from making stupid climbing mistakes and ending your life all too soon.

 

p.s. I am looking for a big waal partner for 2005 wink.gif

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I agree, never assume you know all of the saftey/mechanical stuff. I've been climbing for over 12 years and still am learning new stuff. Plus, even if you did learn everything in one month from a book or instructor, there are lots of different ways to think about climbing situations, and ways to approach problems. You need to have lots of tricks in the bag so that you can adapt to different situations. This is true even in the most basic sport climbing environment...even in the gym.

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Lambone said:

I agree, never assume you know all of the saftey/mechanical stuff. I've been climbing for over 12 years and still am learning new stuff. Plus, even if you did learn everything in one month from a book or instructor, there are lots of different ways to think about climbing situations, and ways to approach problems. You need to have lots of tricks in the bag so that you can adapt to different situations. This is true even in the most basic sport climbing environment...even in the gym.

 

there are old climbers and there are bold climbers... there are VERY FEW old bold climbers.

 

-someone says that??? who is it jk???

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Muffy_The_Wanker_Sprayer said:

there are old climbers and there are bold climbers... there are VERY FEW old bold climbers.

That's what the rock tells you if you listen closely.

 

Dru says Fred is the exception! wink.gif

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jkrueger said:

Muffy_The_Wanker_Sprayer said:

there are old climbers and there are bold climbers... there are VERY FEW old bold climbers.

That's what the rock tells you if you listen closely.

 

Dru says Fred is the exception! wink.gif

 

Dru also goes on and on about giant squid ... rolleyes.gif

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Here is a way for you to get the mechanics down in a perfectly safe manner. "Lead on Toprope". Top rope a climb and drag a second rope. Pretend that you are leading and clip that second rope as though your life depended on it. If you mess up, no worries, you're on top rope. When you start to feel like you are really getting the hang of it, have your belayer give you a "slack" top rope, that is, you are still protected by the top rope, but you will fall about a foot if you grease off. Finally get rid of the top rope and lead for real on a baby simple route. Don't graduate to the next level until you do every clip perfectly.

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If you feel like you are ready and an experienced climber gives you the green light I'd say go for it, but practice clipping into and preparing to descend from a variety of anchors with the experienced person watching before you head up a real route.

 

It may also be worth your while to read the article here Climbing's Sport Leading Primer

 

One thing that I like to do right after clipping myself to the anchor (that I rarely see anyone else do ) is tie a figure-8 on a bight and clip that to my harness with a big locking biner before untying the primary figure eight that's attached to my harness and threading the rope through the anchors. See below.

c.gif

 

The odds that both hangers and/or the chain that you've clipped to will pop off and send you flying are pretty low, but there are quite a few other mistakes that you could make while playing with the rope up there that might have the same effect, so it's a prudent step to take IMO.

 

And, I have heard of at least one instance in which the chains did fly off, or at least one of the nuts holding it in place did, so a little bit of redundancy doesn't hurt.

 

"On November 10 my son Isaak and I were doing Monsters Under My Bed, at Skinny Man Wall (a 10a that angles up and right). Isaak led the route after we had

both done it, and was pulling on the left anchor chain to clip a sling into his belay loop when the nut unscrewed from the bolt. He went flying off backwards riping the sling and chain, and I caught him below the 5th bolt.

(unhurt :-o) The nut went south, and since we couldn't find it we left the 3 top washers and the chain at the base. the 3 spacers were still slid over the anchor bolt. We haven't been back, so a new nut is needed to reattach the chain. I felt pretty lame for not looking at the rig, since i was the one who should have known better. Let's check them nuts for tightness, EH?"

 

 

 

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adventuregal said:

Ok, here's a question... How long had you been climbing before you started leading sport routes?

'bout 10 years. it was a trip to Spain in '89. before then only gear routes, or run-out slabby slabs. when I first started climbing, I'd highball boulder, or top-rope routes before free soloing them.

 

Don't underestimate the value of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Any number of psychological maladies can suffice.

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My friends and I pretty much just picked up John Long's "How to Rock Climb," taught ourselves, and started leading after about a month as we didn't know anyone else who climbed and there wasn't much in the way of TRing available to us. Not recommended. It would have been much wiser and safer to get some instruction and/or head out with someone experienced first.

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JayB said:

If you feel like you are ready and an experienced climber gives you the green light I'd say go for it, but practice clipping into and preparing to descend from a variety of anchors with the experienced person watching before you head up a real route.

 

It may also be worth your while to read the article here Climbing's Sport Leading Primer

 

One thing that I like to do right after clipping myself to the anchor (that I rarely see anyone else do ) is tie a figure-8 on a bight and clip that to my harness with a big locking biner before untying the primary figure eight that's attached to my harness and threading the rope through the anchors. See below.

c.gif

 

 

 

The above is an excellent technique, and is commonly referred to as "back-tying", FYI. That way you can either let your partners know "hey, I'm going to back-tie at the anchor, or if someone suggests that you do so or whatever, you won't be like "huh? Do I have a black tie?"

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Wait, what's with this back tie thing - does it assume you are still on belay and are threading the chains to be lowered? I always do that before I rap off the anchors but only because I'm paranoid about dropping the rope...

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