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quikclimber

How to get into trad climbing

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Start on the easy stuff with a good partner and pay attention to the basics: anchors, smart placement of gear, recognition of rotten rock, etc. Remember it's a different ball game when you are placing the gear and depending on it. Oh -- it might also help to be in some sort of aerobic shape. Trad climbs generally don't feature belays from the front seat of your van.

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quote:

Originally posted by quikclimber:

ive been climbing sport for way to long...

WA weather is getting really bad, so you have the whole winter to accumulate gear, learn basic anchors, it is not a rocket science, and play with gear placements at Smith. I think you can climb the Pack Animal entirely on nuts, hang on them too. I think it only take some common sense to see how the gear works. Other than that you already know the rest. Just remember that most (what people call) "trad" climbs are cracks so get comfortable with jamming - Karate Crack, Lion's Chair and... don't remember any offwidth at Smith but down in the Lower Gorge.

Contact me, maybe we can hook up for Index on Tuesday? rafael@eastwestclinic.com

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quote:

Originally posted by quikclimber:

ive been climbing sport for way to long. i realley want to get into trad climbing without killing myself. any reccomendations?

 

Come climb with me. I am getting into it too. Or -

Buy some stoppers, hexes and cams to 3 inch. Go scare yourself on some easy beginner routes like GNS - Index or Icicle Buttress R&D route Lworth, or Midway - Castle Rock Lworth

 

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The number one thing in my mind is to start small. I'd say start with route 3-4 gardes below what you sport lead. Its really easy to get scketched out especially a few pitches up. When I was just starting to lead I had situations where I felt totally exposed. I would have been more comfortable free soloing. But it gets better.

Try placing gear on top rope with a loose belay. It a good way to practice placing gear and climbing with a rack. To learn to trust gear find a good/steep/clean piece of rock, get 2 belayers one with the top rope and one on the leader rope (or one person if they know how to belay on two ropes) and fall on a few nut placements see if they hold?

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While many people will tell you that placing gear is "not rocket science" there are many mistakes beginning trad climbers make. Nuts flipping out of placements or zippering, cams walking out of place and becoming useless or placed behind features they might pry off, the American death triangle anchor slinging, ludicrous rope drag, and more fun bungles await the uninstructed newbie.

Qualified instruction, either from a guide, a university program, a club, or a mentor will greatly increase your learning curve and safety margin. Read the books:

Freedom of the Hills (Graydon Ed.), Climbing Anchors (Long), More Climbing Anchors (Long), Self Rescue (Faustalo sp?). Practice placing top-rope anchors with nothing but gear. Clean-aiding with a top-rope belay is very useful for learning to place gear. Finally, lead ALOT at grades that do not challenge your climbing ability, adhere to the adage "Never challege yourself in climbing ability and protection ability at the same time", and understand that trad climbs of a given grade are generally much harder than sport climbs of the same grade (start a good four NUMBER grades below what you can onsight on sport routes...i.e you flash 5.8 at Smith, start on 5.4 trad). You may feel silly on the 5.4's but you'll have solid protection skills by the time you work up to grades that challenge your climbing skills.

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Instruction, books and practice are good recommendations. Consider, too, spending some time thinking about how to back off a climb. On an 80 foot sport climb, all you do is thread the nearest bolt and rappel. On a "traditional" rock climb, you may need to downclimb difficult terrain without a good belay, you may need to rappel off terrible anchors, or you may need to aid your way off the climb or lasso a bush to get yourself out of a jam. These are not things that you will have learned at the sport crag or in a gym.

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Ditto all of the above advice, especially reading and rereading John Long - Climbing Anchors.

Realize that there seem to be two types of trad climbers (and climbers in general, for that matter, but the difference is more pronounced in trad):

1) Those who climb above gear because they know they will not fall; and

2) Those who climb above gear because they have confidence in their gear and know that it will hold them on both a rational and emotional level.

Often people are in the situation 1) because, allthough they know on a rational level that the gear is good is good, they have not actually trusted it by falling on it on a regular basis.

If you just want to climb gear because of aesthetics, ethical superiority, or other reasons, the only real difference is that 1) seems like a scary life (and could be more dangerous if you turn out to be incompetent).

If you want to be able to push yourself on gear, however, you should try to get yourself to 2).

While hanging from gear (clean aiding, as discussed above) will get you to understand rationally that your pieces are good, Regularly falling on gear (combined with mileage and competent placement) is the only way I know to really understand it on an emotional level. Falling on gear desensitizes you to the irrational fear that makes you overgrip and ensures that your trad climbing level will never catch up to your sport climbing level (of course, rational fear like "my last three pieces are crap and there's a ledge below me" is another matter. . . ).

Few, if any responsible climbers will tell you to start falling on your gear from the get go. While placing gear is not brain surgery (I'm a huge believer that common sense gets you through the vast majority of gear placing decisions) there are subtleties to placing gear and you would need a good amount of dumb luck in addition to common sense to survive if you decided to start trusting your gear without the experience to know if it is any good.

Nonetheless, there are several ways to start leaning to trast your gear, the most foolproof of which is a top rope belay while gear and falling on it.

Obviously, this isn't going to ge the first thing you do when you start learning gear. Just understand that if pushing yourself physically on lead is one of the things that you enjoyed about sport climbing, the only reason that your gear leading ability should lag behind your sport leading ability on a permanent basis is that you just like sport climbing better. Its bullshit to expect that you can't climb as hard just because you are above a nut.

matt

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Um ya what he said, I learned by following a competent climber who sewed it up mass, then I got to clean it all, this went on for a while then I tried to lead and got really gripped,.. GO to trad areas alot, dont take wippers on gear at Smith, nic

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Take up free soloing, then try leading on gear. You will feel much safer.

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thanks guys,

this is helping out a bit. ive done the r&d route up icicle, some cracks at little bridge creek, i few easy routes at peshastin, and some long cracks at vedavoo, wy. it seems that the climber following me always has trouble getting gear out, what am i dong wrong? i've never had to leave any, just rappell down my self and get it. all i have now is hexes and nuts, if i have the money should i buy some cams? if so which ones do you reccomend?

 

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1) you might be seating that gear too much. just a gentle tug not a massive bounce test type pull.

2) your belayer might have less trad experience than you, ie slim to none?

3) is this a troll? cause i hear those Vedauwoo cracks are way hard.... if you can lead them that is all the experience you need.

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I dunno, if the piece won't come out easily for the second climber, at least you have a pretty good idea it would hold a fall. Sometimes you just have to work at the buggers a while to get them to come out. If they come out too easily I would be a little worried that they weren't placed solidly enough.

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about Vedavoo,

ive been there twice, the place is awesome and the rock is wicked. i didnt use tape and the cracks are lined with crystals, my hands were pretty messed up. i led a 5.4 and a 5.6 over there, they both were way harder than i expected, are the ratings there kinda steep?

 

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Matt Anderson has gots the right advice.

The people I have taught how to lead trad and how I learned is from a more experienced climber, start cleaning the gear.

Then have them place pieces while on TR. Then I go up check the pieces and critique. Do that a few times and you get used to it. Also learn the nuiances of trad, like when to use a hex or a cam or a tri-cam. Also you get used to holding a stance while finding the right fit.

Also don't make the beginner mistake of just jamming in a cam and assuming it's good. Check the placement!!!

Have fun and find a good mentor.

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Ya its me Feney is doing good how are you? SHe's livin in seattle, and just got back from a euro tour, my email is wipperwill31@hotmail.com, use it! nic

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quote:

Originally posted by nolanr:

I dunno, if the piece won't come out easily for the second climber, at least you have a pretty good idea it would hold a fall.

I don't think this is true. I think a piece that is hard to get out is possibly the wrong size or was placed in a bad location. Or maybe the rope has moved the piece and got it stuck. I don't think the dificulty in removing the piece says much about the reliability of the piece.

Mike

 

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Vedauwoo, like Index, is known to have fairly stiff ratings for the grade. Plan on spending a couple of years at least in your "apprenticeship" phase of trad leading; there are a lot of subtle things that experience gained over time and with better trad leaders will teach you. You want to feel comfortable in your ability to downclimb or bail on a route if you get into trouble, so that panic doesn't become an issue. Learn rescue techniques, learn how to get good beta, learn how to lead a route safely for you, the leader, as well as for your second and anyone else who may be below you (i.e. redirecting the rope, etc.). Get experience on different types of rock, on short and long routes. It helps at this stage to have good partners, and one who is at a lower level than you, so you can practice leading and making the bigger decisions, as well as a partner better than you, from whom you will learn and gain experience, safely. Many beginning leaders will gain skill very quickly, but experience and seasoning, good decision making and planning will only come with more extended exposure and use.

But with more responsibility eventually comes more satisfaction. Enjoy!

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Although I learned to trad lead just by doing it, I've been told that aid climbing is the best way to learn. You place tons of pro and get to test it all as well.

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Cracks. Friction. Learn to be solid any place in a crack or on a slab. Learn to stop and find rests in the most difficult parts of the crack climbs found at practice areas like the UW rock. Cracks and friction don't require much athletic ability, so if your technique is spotless, you should be able to climb up and down cracks you have wired, and you should be able to stop anywhere and rest. This training will transfer to granite climbing, adding the tenacity and calm you'll need for careful and correct placement of gear. Somebody once told me that if you can climb every crack at the UW, "real" cracks will seem easy. To an extent, it was good advice. Also, leg strength is perhaps more important than in sport climbing, since the routes don't tend to be as steep. However, training down at the gym obviously enhances your fitness, as long as you balance it with thin/delicate friction and face training so that you can function in the real world where jugs aren't ubiquitous (nor lime green).

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Jobe - I think you have a great suggestion. My wife has been climbing with me for 3 years and has only occasionally felt like taking the lead on trad routes. I recently spent a day at Index showing her the basics of aiding. The payback was big. Not only is she more interested in trying some bigger aid climbs but she really understands how gear places and holds. The only problem for most new climbers is having enough gear to aid or having someone show them the basics. That short 15', 10c crack below GN Slab at Index is a good learning spot. A couple etriers and nuts up to a #5, maybe some small Aliens and a Leeper Cam is all you really need.

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