DL trad: where did you learn to lead?


Original Post
Patrick · · Chicago, Il · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Long story short, I've got back in to climbing recently and have been cruising up to the lake most sundays for the last few months. I'm super interested in leading up there but trad lead is in no way similar to sport in a gym. How did you start out? I've been asking around in gyms here in Chicago and I now know a dozen sport climbers so that hasn't been helpful. I've also been gaining a lot of confidence in what I have as a rack so far setting TR anchors on D'arcy, sometimes, elephant rocks, and something over by Cleo/Wiesner. Just curious how to make the transition

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

1) Read and educate yourself to the best of your ability...do not settle here. Educate yourself.

2) Find someone you know has been leading trad for a while and knows what the fuck they are doing beyond any reasonable doubt.

3) Kiss their ass to teach you.

4) Check anything and everything they do. Cross check it with what you learned.

5) Check everything you learned.

6) Make sure you know exactly what you are doing before you get into a spot that you don't know what to do.

6) Lead trad.

Patrick · · Chicago, Il · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

Nice list, firm and to the point. So far the reading has been my method of choice. I pretty much have the majority of Fredom of the Hills memorized by now and try to hunt through forums and manufacturers web pages as frequently as possible. My "climbing partners" are super fresh and in no way do I trust them enough yet to start an attempt to lead. I'm really trying to assemble resources.

Q-man · · Calumet, CO · Joined Jul 2013 · Points: 230

I started sport climbing. Within 6 months I had a basic passive rack of stoppers and hexs, plus 2 or 3 cams. I carried that rack all over The Red until I met the right trad crew.
I started climbing with them, cleaning their gear while taking a top rope ride. I practiced placing gear on the ground. Then came the day I asked my partner, "If I lead this will you clean it?" The rest is history; I've climbed trad every since.
Find the right person(people),absorb the info and technique like a sponge, stay safe, and have a great time!

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

With a new trad leader I generally take a few steps, after they have educated themselves about placements and anchors including directional s factor falls etc etc etc.

I lead an easy G rated route set up a top rope and clean on my way down. I give them my full triple + rack and tell them to place the whole thing on the way up. ( I live in CT so its not like we have strait splitters) I hand them a second rope to "mock lead" while on toprope. I then have them "mock lead" and clove hitch their lead rope at the anchor. I clean on top rope leaving the shitty pieces in the rock. I then give them everything I cleaned and tell them to re lead and fix the poorly placed pieces (of course a decent percentage of the time the piece is bad because of where it was placed and not how. Rinse and repeat for multiple routes multiple times sometimes for multiple days.

I'm not a guide and i'm not a big fan of teaching people. I found this to be one of the best ways to get someone placing correctly with confidence. I found this also helps because the persons first leads will be the climbs that they have been placing gear on multiple times.

I feel your best asset will be a person who has experience and willing to take you through something similar to this.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

Just to add.

I do not expect the person to literally place the entire rack on the way up. I have had too many green leaders think its cool to place a piece every six feet on top rope wasting my time and pissing me off.

When you have someone willing to teach you take full advantage of the situation. pull their rope, flake it for them, coil it for them. Bring food and snacks and beers for them. Make them want to teach you.

I've dropped (as in stopped climbing with lol ) many a new partners that were learning when, the first time I took them to the gunks they huffed and puffed about me telling them to coil and or stack my rope after leading and taking them up multiple pitches.

I promise someone that is coiling the rope after a climb when I don't even have to tell them to will get so much more out of me than someone that needs to be told, very much like work and life.

Tylerpratt · · Litchfield, Connecticut · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

Finally,

Basically man, I'm telling you to put yourself outthere and be outgoing to meet someone willing to teach you (or group of people). Q-Man did it well. Be outgoing and talk to people.

Brian Carver · · Boulder, Co · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 30

Some of the easier 5.4's and 5.5's are scarier leads than the 5.6-5.8's due to the fact that you can deck on a ledge at any point.

If I were to do it all over again I would have done more mock leading on toprope.

Alex Zucca · · University Heights · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 285

If you can't get anyone to go out with you and teach for a given weekend, still go out and practice by placing gear as you climb on your TR rig. Think to yourself, would I feel comfortable on the sharp end on this? You have the added safety and lots of time to find placements while "mock leading" on TR. Place more gear than necessary also, the more you try to place, the more you will learn about how to place.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25
BCarver wrote:Some of the easier 5.4's and 5.5's are scarier leads than the 5.6-5.8's due to the fact that you can deck on a ledge at any point. If I were to do it all over again I would have done more mock leading on toprope.
+1 on everything BCarver said. I didn't have the luxury of climbing with experienced trad climbers when I started. Mock lead on TR and bounce on your gear to get comfortable with your placements. You will know when you're ready for the sharp end. Dialing in the movement and gear on a route on TR to prep for the lead is a common practice at the lake. Just make sure you always have 2 good pieces between you and the ground and make sure you are confident in what you are doing.

Edit: Of course, climbing with an experienced partner is best if you can find one.
James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,042

Learn from an experienced mentor or hire a professional to teach you.

Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25
James M Schroeder wrote:Learn from an experienced mentor or hire a professional to teach you.
Since he's humble and doesn't plug himself, I'll do it for him. James is your guy if you want to hire a guide!
James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,042
Seth Jones wrote: Since he's humble and doesn't plug himself, I'll do it for him. James is your guy if you want to hire a guide!
Thanks Seth, but I am merely one of several qualified instructors in the area, and congrats on Birch Tree Crack.
Burt Lindquist · · Madison, WI · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 3,155

Mock leading on TR is a great way to learn the skills. Place a lot of pieces of all types and kinds and situations to get used to whatever the rock can throw at you. You get a good pump at the same time so you get the physical workout too..

Shane Steele · · Grand Marais, MN · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 235

Of course, and it's been said, the best way to learn is to follow an experienced leader (if you can't make that happen at DL then you need to be more outgoing!). You're going to learn different lessons from different people so think about the kind of habits you want modeled for you. Sewn up routes or long run outs? I second the advice of bouncing on practice gear while on top rope. You can really learn a lot about your placements this way!

Andy Hansen · · Longmont, Colorado · Joined Sep 2009 · Points: 2,303
James M Schroeder wrote:Learn from an experienced mentor or hire a professional to teach you.
I will echo these sentiments. Hiring a guide is the way to go. And not just any guide; James has AMGA credentials to his name (correct?) and can offer valuable insights to best modern practices. This is something you may not get from an "experienced mentor" who may be experienced in the climbing standard of yore and might perpetuate poor practices unknowingly.
Patrick · · Chicago, Il · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

So much to respond to.Tylerpratt, thanks for the insight. a lot of what you said has been what I've been thinking to do, nice to have that repeated to me.

BCarver, you are probably right, most of the climbs i have done so far have been pretty ledgy. that giant ledge at the start of Easy Overhang we did on Thursday is coming to mind.

Seth, also something I thought about. Maybe a good idea to pick up doubles in what i have for hexes. Seems like I've needed to use some of my larger ones to set up top rope anchors where i have been so far. Out of shear curiosity given your name and location, did you play hockey for the Jaguars?

James, this has been something on my mind heavily. I thought I'd test the waters and see if anyone wanted to meet up first and then use that resource when I had to. Interested in further information if thats something you would like to provide.

James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,042
Andy Hansen wrote: I will echo these sentiments. Hiring a guide is the way to go. And not just any guide; James has AMGA credentials to his name (correct?) and can offer valuable insights to best modern practices. This is something you may not get from an "experienced mentor" who may be experienced in the climbing standard of yore and might perpetuate poor practices unknowingly.
Yes, I'm one of several AMGA Single Pitch Instructors in the area - additionally, there are a few folks with certifications from other guiding organizations (PCGI and/or PCIA). Andy, who is considerably more credentialed than me, brings up an excellent point. Most certified instructors worth their salt will have a well-structured lesson plan that is based on modern standards and knowledge. Aside from that, many certified instructors consider themselves educators and take pride and being effective teachers.

In the end, the choice isn't binary and you'll continue to add more knowledge over the length of your career, some the hard way, some from mentors, partners and friends, and maybe, some from professionals.
James Schroeder · · Sauk County, WI · Joined May 2002 · Points: 3,042
Pat-agonia wrote:James, this has been something on my mind heavily. I thought I'd test the waters and see if anyone wanted to meet up first and then use that resource when I had to. Interested in further information if thats something you would like to provide.
Pat,

I work for Devil's Lake Climbing Guides - many of our instructors have AMGA credentials. There are several other guide services that operate in the park, with (or without) certifications from various guiding organizations. A simple Google search would help you find them all.
Seth Jones · · New Lenox, IL · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 25
Pat-agonia wrote: Out of shear curiosity given your name and location, did you play hockey for the Jaguars?
Yeah, I played Jaguars hockey when I was a kid! Did we skate together???
Patrick · · Chicago, Il · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

James,
Excellent, I've been on that page a few times and will look into getting something going. I would imagine that seeking a guide with AMGA credentials is worth it. Not to say that guides without don't know anything or are less qualified.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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