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Advice for first time trad?


Original Post
Db5504 · · Shippensburg, PA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 950

I'm starting trad climbing this fall and I was hoping someone might have some suggestions. I've been top roping for around 3 years, sport for about 2, so I figured I'd like to get into trad now. Advice about gear, techniques, and just general tips would be greatly appreciated!

Benjamin Chapman · · Small Town, USA · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 13,316

Db5504...place gear early and often. Your 1st piece should be multi-directional. Use slings to extend placements, liberally. When you're looking at a runout use the old Tony Yaniro practice of doubling up with two pieces of gear before the runout. Wear a helmet. Close the system...the leader and belayer tie in to the rope. Be safe out there.

lozo bozo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 30

Find a good mentor you can trust and just be stoked. Also I highly recommend doing as much reading as you can about traditional climbing

Db5504 · · Shippensburg, PA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 950

Thanks! And in regards to reading up, that's the reason I have a b+ in History class haha

Jay Eggleston · · Denver · Joined Feb 2003 · Points: 18,315

Find someone you can follow a lot.

Healyje · · PDX · Joined Jan 2006 · Points: 456

This...

Jay Eggleston wrote:Find someone you can follow a lot.
Charlie S · · Ogden, UT · Joined Aug 2007 · Points: 1,733

Climb well below your limit. Practice placing gear at ground level. Weight it, pull it in opposite directions.

As previously mentioned, get a mentor. Or someone who trad climbs at your sport limit and is willing to show you how it works. Bribe them with food. Or gas money.

Build anchors on your porch, your fireplace mantel, slung off of tree branches, chairs, other rocks, any place where you can practice and get comfortable without the consequences of a poorly built anchor.

Figure out a racking system and KEEP IT.

Gunkiemike · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 2,795

Follow a competent leader on a few dozen multipitch trad routes. Grade in unimportant. See how the gear works as a system, and get up close and personal with hundreds of passive and active placements of all kinds.

Then go sew up a 5.2 with your mentor critiquing every part of the process.

Ryan M Moore · · Philadelphia, PA · Joined Oct 2014 · Points: 35

In addition to all of the above, aid climbing on a top rope belay helps get in mileage and experience with gear placements with instant feedback.

Db5504 · · Shippensburg, PA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 950

Any suggestions on a good rack (if possible in the $100-$150 range)?

jason.cre · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 10
Db5504 wrote:Any suggestions on a good rack (if possible in the $100-$150 range)?
Hmmmmm. A set of nuts and a pink tricam i supposed.
rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525
Db5504 wrote:Any suggestions on a good rack (if possible in the $100-$150 range)?
Don't buy a rack...yet. First put in some time to become a competent and reliable second on multipitch trad. When you are done with that apprenticeship you'll know what you want to buy as a rack.

Finding a competent mentor to follow is the best idea, but how to you judge "competent?" Nowadays, I think a day or two with a certified guide is the best way to get started.
Magpie79 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 0
Benjamin Chapman wrote:Db5504...place gear early and often. Your 1st piece should be multi-directional. Use slings to extend placements, liberally. When you're looking at a runout use the old Tony Yaniro practice of doubling up with two pieces of gear before the runout. Wear a helmet. Close the system...the leader and belayer tie in to the rope. Be safe out there.
Great advice. I would also add having a nonverbal communication system for when you are out of sight/hearing of your partner. For instance, three rope tugs for off belay and two for on belay. I also assemble the belay system before I pull up the rope, so my partner knows that they will be on belay within 15 seconds of the rope coming tight (with the accompanying rope tugs, of course).

On multi pitch with a walk off, bring small approach shoes so you don't have to walk off in your climbing shoes, which to me seem three sizes too tight after your feet have swelled. I swear my toenails grow about 1/4 inch each multi pitch!

Protect your second on traverses! They will thank you for it.
Jeff McLeod · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 45

In all this following/cleaning you're going to be doing...to learn how to trad...

Pay attention as you clean. See how the protection works, notice how it sits and how it got to where it is. Also...

Remember, the onus of replacing the gear if it gets stuck is always on the follower, even if the mystery of who caused the stuckage is unclear. If you are cleaning, and you can't get something out, you bought it.

Bill Lawry · · New Mexico · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 1,615

Use the money to buy chips and salsa or whatever post-climb refreshments preferred by folks you can follow for a season on multi-pitch. Everyone with your level of experience will gain WAY more in return with repeat climbs seconding.

The trick is finding someone who is competent. I am guessing that a guide may be too expensive so you wilL need to be single minded in seeking out good folks.

Magpie79 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2011 · Points: 0
Jeff McLeod wrote:Also... Remember, the onus of replacing the gear if it gets stuck is always on the follower, even if the mystery of who caused the stuckage is unclear. If you are cleaning, and you can't get something out, you bought it.
I disagree that the onus is ALWAYS on the follower to pay for stuck gear. While many times it is a follower's fault for not retrieving gear, there are times when it is not the second's fault to be unable to remove gear:

Cams can be impossible to remove if the leader got gripped and over cammed it, or if the leader failed to sling the cam and it walked into a flaring crack and fell out of reach. If the leader whipped on a stopper and it wedged tight, that little piece of metal just saved your life, so consider that cheap insurance.

Climbing is a partnership. Both partners are responsible for the system moving smoothly. Communicate your expectations with a new partner before you climb.
B.S. Luther · · Yorba Linda, CA · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 65

Freedom of the Hills and John Long's climbing anchors book. Even if you find a mentor, it's good to a solid source for the fundamentals.

Jeremy Bauman · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 740

Db5504

This E-Book is cheap and can supplement other forms of instruction amazon.com/101-Rock-Climbin…

The advice in this thread is all great and I especially second rgold's advice to hire a guide, you'll learn a ton and won't need to question what you're learning. It's a great way to build a foundation.

Another small piece of advice: keep it simple. Focus on learning the basics really well before you start getting uber creative with your anchors and placements. Do your research and climb routes that protect easily, have good belay stances, and are easy to descend. No need to make things complicated when you're getting started!

When I first started trad climbing, I made everything way too complicated. Today, I keep it simple and use a cordolette master point anchor for 90% of all my anchors. While eventually you'll need to diversify your skills, for now, focus on learning the skills and techniques that will work well for 90% of all climbing scenarios. Then branch out.

Mathias · · Loveland, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 306

I've been leading trad for about 10 months. I still feel I have a lot to learn but I've picked up all sorts of useful stuff from this forum, and from my mentor, who has been and still is very supportive. There are routes I think I should be able to lead, that I will following instead because I'm unsure about availability of placements, quality of placements, and just generally getting in my head. To me, it's a very different mindset from clipping bolts, which I suspect is probably true for most people. I also did less following than is often recommended, and bought a rack pretty early on, starting with passive pro and then cams.

So my advice (for what it's worth), is to start easy and slow. Find a more experienced leader whom you thoroughly trust to follow. They'll likely give you easy leads on occasion and will push you where it's safe, but hopefully won't push you too hard. Start with a set of nuts and practice setting them on the ground whenever you can. Do research about passive and active pro before you buy. Ask for feedback on your pro when you can. Read the 'How to get a second date' thread, if you haven't done so already. Ask all the "stupid" questions you like, because you'll get useful answers from at least a few people.

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310

.... where do you live?

This could make all the difference in the world in how you go about becoming a climber.

If Florida.... go take a trip and hire a guide.

In So California/ Boulder/Denver/ New Paltz.... its easier.

To become a good partner/follower... have your belay skills honed, nothing pumps up a leader more than knowing that the belayer is right there, mentally.

Gear, needed? Get a really good cleaning tool, the kind with a place to tap on with your hand. Get another cleaning tool.... sometimes to really get that cam to move-you hit with one while pulling on the buried trigger...

Figure out how to go on Aid on to another piece you place, so you don't need to hang on the lead rope, while you get down to business with stuck gear.

Learn how to climb quickly and multitask when your resting for a moment.... get to the belay with your gear racked and ready to hand over. .... but do climb fast, do your resting while you belay.

Smile and crack jokes.... this is the most fun you can have with your pants on, remember there is no place that you would rather be right now.

Robert Cort · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2009 · Points: 800

Couple of things not mentioned yet...

If you want to practice leading safely, you could try a psuedo lead - that is set up a top rope then lead the route, placing gear while on TR. Assuming you have an experienced partner, they can follow and critique the placements.

If you have a sport route near you that also takes gear (yeah, I know, ugh), you could try to lead it on gear, but you can clip bolts if you get wigged out fiddling w/ gear.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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