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Separate lead belaying and climbing certifications


Original Post
amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20

How many climbing gyms have separate certifications for lead climbing and lead belaying?


Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 83

Earth Treks says they do but in practice I have only seen people do both at the same time. 

Andrew Krajnik · · Plainfield, IL · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 277

Vertical Endeavors apparently does, but I've never seen it; everyone that I've ever seen lead-belaying also lead-climbs.

Josh Gates · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

Delaware Rock Gym did offer a one-off test for lead belaying without climbing for my wife.

Mark Verosky · · Columbus, Ohio · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 20

Vertical Adventures in Columbus does. Lead belay is the joke but for the lead climbing cert they put you on a grippy route (5.9 overhang at their gym), and you have to redpoint it, if you fall or have slack taken in you fail. It gets a lot of inexpierenced people to fail but then again causes people to fail when otherwise they can lead safe but don't have endurance.

Franck Vee · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 30

I'm in Quebec and most gym do that - seperate for lead & TR. You do need a certification to climb at all (just not for bouldering). Some recognize other gym's certifs and will shorten the checks if you present it though...

Jake Jones · · Richmond, VA · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 1,480

Mine does.  Primarily for parents belaying kids.  Think Kai Lightner and his mom.

Seth Cohen · · Concord, NH · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 50

Every gym should. I think it's really stupid to force both to be done at the same time. I could think of a million situations where one person leads but the other person doesn't want to.

kit camp · · Portland, OR · Joined Dec 2009 · Points: 0

Mesa Rim in San Diego did/does. My wife belays me on lead, but does not lead herself. Makes sense to me. Why do you have to be able to lead to be a good belayer?

Jack Servedio · · Raleigh,NC · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 35

TRC in NC does - I've seen plenty of entirely non-climbing moms and dads lead belaying their kids.

RandyLee · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined May 2016 · Points: 5

Stone summit in Atlanta, Rockreation and Sender One LA. Sender even makes their belay cert device specific - I can belay with an ATC right now, but would have to take the test again using a grigri if I wanted to belay with one. 

It it sounds pretty common to have separate tests.

Gavin Towey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0

I disagree with the split. Between the two I think lead belaying is actually more important to ensure someone knows their stuff because it's their job to keep the climber safe.  And it's almost essential to lead climb to have that understanding of how to belay properly.  I can agree that there should be a few exceptions like for non-climbing parents who are supporting the competitive career of their teenage children, but in general you gotta climb to belay well.

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 125
Gavin Towey wrote:

I disagree with the split. Between the two I think lead belaying is actually more important to ensure someone knows their stuff because it's their job to keep the climber safe.  And it's almost essential to lead climb to have that understanding of how to belay properly.  I can agree that there should be a few exceptions like for non-climbing parents who are supporting the competitive career of their teenage children, but in general you gotta climb to belay well.

My mainstay gyms do both certifications together, and I have climbed at Mesa Rim in San Diego that certifies them separately.  The reason I was given is that the gym want climbers of a minimum ability before they are certified to lead, while they still may be able to belay safely.  I was there with a friend and I passed the both. while he only passed the belay test.  He wasn't used to the longer, overhanging routes, and was not strong enough to finish the test route before resting, so the gym did not give him the lead card.

In some ways, I think the gyms look at this as a way to get people into classes.  At my gym, you can take the lead test an easier route if you take the class in the gym, while you have to test on a slightly harder route if you already know how to lead.  If they really wanted to test folks, they would certify you for each device you use while belaying.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Gavin Towey wrote:

I disagree with the split. Between the two I think lead belaying is actually more important to ensure someone knows their stuff because it's their job to keep the climber safe.  And it's almost essential to lead climb to have that understanding of how to belay properly.  I can agree that there should be a few exceptions like for non-climbing parents who are supporting the competitive career of their teenage children, but in general you gotta climb to belay well.

Not quite sure I understand the point you are trying to make. You seem to agree that lead belay certification is really important. But why would a person who does not lead climb need lead climbing certification? Statement that I hear from some is - it makes you a better lead belayer if you lead climb, but I just don't understand the logic behind that.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,240

I think most gyms have separated this now, if not they should for the obvious reasons stated above.

Why do you ask?

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Tradiban wrote:

Why do you ask?

My wife does not lead climb, but lead belays outside and in a gym, VA Columbus, OH,  that allows for split certifications. Planet Rock in Ann Arbor, MI, has no split, we have no desire to go there. We know another climbing couple in a similar situation, although that person lead climbs, but not at the level required by PR to pass lead climbing test.
A new climbing gym is scheduled to open in 2018 near Cleveland, OH, we are trying to estimate probability of them having split certifications - hence a mini survey.

Jim Turner · · Lakewood, CO · Joined Jun 2012 · Points: 290

Gyms in Denver do them separate.  But they will be quick to tell you that they DO NOT CERTIFY.  You pass their test or not, but it is not a certification.

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 250
amarius wrote:

My wife does not lead climb, but lead belays outside and in a gym, VA Columbus, OH,  that allows for split certifications. Planet Rock in Ann Arbor, MI, has no split, we have no desire to go there. We know another climbing couple in a similar situation, although that person lead climbs, but not at the level required by PR to pass lead climbing test.
A new climbing gym is scheduled to open in 2018 near Cleveland, OH, we are trying to estimate probability of them having split certifications - hence a mini survey.

Since the SR started with the kids getting into climbing, their early exposure was to the idea of kids' team, kids getting into climbing without parents necessarily being climbers, too. So I'm willing to bet they would be allowing for lead belay certifications separate from lead climbing certifications. And unlike Planet Rock, if this is going to be your local gym, you could probably be a lot more vocal about it if they don't allow it...

But really, the trend everywhere is to allow split certifications, because there are more and more parents belaying their little ninja mutant climbing team progeny, and more people in general who do not want to lead. 

Tim Neumann · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 40

A little off topic on the side: I live in Germany and went to quite few gyms in different parts of the country. Never have I come across a climbing venue in which you have to get certified to do squat. It seems so strange to me that you have to redpoint an overhanging route for them to let you lead or that you are only allowed to use certain belay device you are certified on. (Do they go around and check if your ATC is not in fact a Smart? Do people get a color coded bracelet of sort of they are only allowed to top rope? I genuinely don't know.)

I'm not disputing the merit of the certification system (that apparently seems to be the standard for many stateside gyms). I just find it somewhat strange having never heard of this before. Ironically the idea to have to have special permissions/certifications to do anything sounds super German. I guess most people here would ask the guy behind the counter to quit messing with them if they were asked to show their leading certification before climbing and go some place else.

(Again, not trying to discuss the pros and cons of this, just some cultural exchange) 

Lena chita · · Cleveland, OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 250
Tim Neumann wrote:

A little off topic on the side: I live in Germany and went to quite few gyms in different parts of the country. Never have I come across a climbing venue in which you have to get certified to do squat. It seems so strange to me that you have to redpoint an overhanging route for them to let you lead or that you are only allowed to use certain belay device you are certified on. (Do they go around and check if your ATC is not in fact a Smart? Do people get a color coded bracelet of sort of they are only allowed to top rope? I genuinely don't know.)

I'm not disputing the merit of the certification system (that apparently seems to be the standard for many stateside gyms). I just find it somewhat strange having never heard of this before. Ironically the idea to have to have special permissions/certifications to do anything sounds super German. I guess most people here would ask the guy behind the counter to quit messing with them if they were asked to show their leading certification before climbing and go some place else.

(Again, not trying to discuss the pros and cons of this, just some cultural exchange) 

I do dislike the term "certified", and I wish the gyms were using some other term. But going with it for a moment, No gym "certifies" you on a specific device, but not others. You are either "belay-certified", or not, with whatever belay device you choose to use, out of the devices that a specific gym allows.
As to color-coded bracelets-- it is not quite that, but similar. You get a different-color card, or you get a card with some shape shaded out, that you are supposed to hang on your harness, so the gym employees can see at a glance that you are allowed to lead/lead belay, or not.

It obviously comes from the American tendency to sue everyone for everything... 

David Gibbs · · Ottawa, ON · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 6
Lena chita wrote:

 But going with it for a moment, No gym "certifies" you on a specific device, but not others. You are either "belay-certified", or not, with whatever belay device you choose to use, out of the devices that a specific gym allows.
 

One of my local gyms (Altitude) seperates the belay certification by device -- ATC or Grigri and by lead/TR.  The belay-tag they give you is a different color for lead vs TR belay, and it has an a line for ATC and Grigri, and one (or both) will be circled before the laminate the card to show which device you are certified to use in their gym.

I have been caught out lead-belaying with a Grigri when my tag only showed ATC and told to not do that unless I want to test with the Grigri -- but they (annoyingly) charge for the test, so I am not going to bother.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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