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Tips for going from TR and bouldering to leading on sport/trad

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James Bing · · Boston, MA · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

How does one go from top roping/ bouldering to the other avenues of climbing without being a complete drag on the other people in a group?

Jay Dee · · Summerville, SC · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0

Mentorship with a patient person. Mock leading on toprope with simu rappel to go over placements. Ground level practice. That's how I learned. That and a lot of reading and YouTube. 

Carl Schneider · · Adelaide, South Australia · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Yeah exactly what Jay said.  In my opinion one most definitely needs a mentor for trad climbing, and you certainly need to learn from an experienced for sports climbing too.  Cleaning a route on trad, re-threading at the top of a sports route, correct safe belaying all need to be learnt from someone who knows how and who actually WANTS to teach you how.  Belaying a climber climbing on top rope is 'easier' than belaying a climber climbing a sports route and a leader climbing a trad route.  You also need to hook up with someone who might know the routes (climbed them before) knows which routes might be an easier grade but have poor protection, where the abseils are (or walk offs) etc.

I feel that if I EVER feel I'm a drag to ANYONE when I'm climbing, whatever the form of climbing is, then I don't want to climb with them.  I feel the thing which is very wonderful about climbing is that, generally, climbers respect the effort you're putting in, and your psych, regardless of if your doing a V1 or a V10 or a grade 16 or a grade 26.

BTW of course as you start your trad climbing journey you will probably follow many routes before you even THINK about leading any.  Following and cleaning a route will teach you how the gear was placed, and what gear to use when.  It will also make you familiar with anchors.  Be prepared to drop several grades.  I can do maybe a 23 on TR and close to that on sports (on a good day) but I really only lead up to 15 trad.  For me, trad is not the form of climbing where I want to push myself.

Albi Eds · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 216

Find a Mentor. Read books (Basic TR Anchors, Rappelling, Self Rescue, Accident Reports, Trip Reports, Trad Climbing). Watch videos of setups. Learn self-rescue. All the knots and what they are used for. Tie those knots one hundred times over. Making different type of anchors (gear vs bolts vs natural). Going "in direct" on an anchor. Lead belaying. Think of all the situations you could possibly get yourself in and out of and learning to avoid those. Craggin' and Multipitch Etiquette for your area and others. Once you feel confident and ready, mock lead. Lead some easy stuff. Lead some moderates and just lead lead lead lead on all the rocks everywhere!

Leading is the purest.

John Reeve · · Itinerant · Joined Nov 2018 · Points: 0

With sport, it's simple enough that you can probably learn in short, short order.  Just go do that.

With trad, I think it takes a lot more time to learn.

If it helps, it's not hard to justify why, as a non-leading learning person, you're not a drag.

If you're good, giving, and game, not whiny, know how to belay, highly stoked, pay close attention, and are okay human in general, then that's great.

Most of climbing with other people for me has more to do with how I get along with them... if I can find a person I trust and I like, then I (personally, other people vary on this) don't mind that I'm not pushing grades and am just out crawling up some rock.  If I 'm leading and someone else is mostly following, then I can just pick what I want to climb, and that's nice.  And if I'm dealing with someone who hasn't yet been taught the more annoying way of doing stuff, then I can teach what I prefer (and think is safer).  Plus some folks just like being la sujet supposé savoir and/or like teaching, because that can be really fun.

So, like, I'm all for just going out and leading stuff... I did a lot of that.  I'm all for watching and reading as much as you can get your hands on... I did a lot of that too.  I still am in a process of climbing a lot of trad stuff that's way below my level just so I feel comfortable pushing myself into situations where I'm not 100% positive I'm not going to fall.  Starting out leading 5.4 or something is a reasonable way of getting into trad climbing.

But it's better to learn from other, more experienced folks.

So here's my point: don't feel like just cause you can't lead you shouldn't be going out with folks who are more advanced, because there are plenty of reasons why people might be happy to climb with you.

Roots · · Redmond. OR · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 20

Mentor, books, instruction, but IMO sport first, then trad.

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,070

Sport: you can start by taking a lead belay class st the gym, and practice leading/sport climbing in the gym. Most gyms these days also offer an anchor-cleaning class, and some kind of “gym-to-outdoor” class. With these skills you should have the basics that would help you transition outside, and I do not think you would be a “burden”, assuming that you also do your share in carrying gear, and are generally helpful/positive in your attitude. The rest of the things you need to know are general outdoorsy skills, be it camping, or pooping in the woods.

Assuming you practiced your lead climbing in the gym, there is no reason you couldn’t lead a sport route on your first ever trip outside. Just keep in mind that bolts outside are spaced farther apart, there is no padded gym floor, the routes are not marked by bright colors, the feet are a lot less obvious, there are a lot more “holds” than you will be using, and nobody has “set” the routes to be gym-safe. You should put your ego aside, and pick routes that are WAY below what you climb in the gym. How far below? Well, I know people who climb “5.11” in a gym, and barely lead 5.7 outside, and not ANY 5.7, mind you, just a few here and there. Granted, this may be an extreme example, but there is no downside to picking a route WAY easier then you think you need. You may be fine. Or you may shit your pants. If it was easy, well then, you can go up in difficulty.

While having a more experienced mentor is extremely valuable, many sport climbers these days transition outside with a partner who has no more experience than they do. You could still be ok, just remember to be extra-careful, climb well below your limit, ask questions if you don’t understand something, and proceed slowly.

Trad climbing: you really need that mentor! Doing all the things listed above for sport climbing would be helpful, definitely. You should know how to lead belay, at least! But you would have to do a lot of following/cleaning gear before you would be ready for your first lead. Fortunately, there are trad climbers out there who would be all too happy to lead every pitch, and have someone else second them. And there are short/single pitch trad climbs that are relatively low-commitment with a newbie partner, especially out east.

KJ C · · Boston · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 0

Other options...

Looks like you're in Boston so check out the Boston Appalachian Mountain Club's climbing group.  They hold events and classes.  The schedule for this upcoming year should be up sometime this month. 

I'd also recommend spending some time with a guide if you can afford it.   Mooney Mountain Guides, Synnott Mountain Guides, IMCS and the other guiding services offer 1, 2 and 3 day Learn to Lead classes.

Jordan Pitts · · kansas (the abyss) · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 200

Learn how to build top rope anchors (you can build them and test them on the ground), then, the rest of trad falls into place. Read alot for sure. You dont really need a mentor until you get into long alpine multipitch.

Sport is super easy to learn(basically just how to communicate and clean/setup anchors, tie one knot). Just remember every day you go outside to climb is a chance to learn, no matter how good you get or how bad you fail, always a learning experience.

Francis QC · · Laval · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 160

Don't learn on a multipitch. Period.

Jay Dee · · Summerville, SC · Joined May 2017 · Points: 0
Francis QC wrote: Don't learn on a multipitch. Period.

Why not? 

Matt Himmelstein · · Orange, California · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 167

Don't be a jerk.  That's how you keep from being a drag.  Help carry stuff, bring food/beer, help set up and clean-up, don't complain, don't hangdog, be willing to belay...

We've all been newbies at some point.  Find friends that have compatible climbing abilities but are more experienced and learn from them.  Ask questions offer to help, go over skills on the ground.. I've taken lots of folks outdoors and the ones that are pleasant to be around are always welcome, no matter what the skill level is.  The ones that are not don't get invited back, or I decline if they are already part of the group.

As for the advice not to lean on multipitch, it is spot on.  Multipitch magnifies everything.  If you make a mistake on the ground, well, you are on the ground (as long as you don't mess up belaying).  If you accidentally unclip yourself on multipitch, you can fall and die.  If your partner (or you is injured) rescue is way more complicated.  If you drop gear, it is likely gone.  Now, go ahead and learn multipitch, but have a good basis in single pitch climbing first.

Derek Boocock · · Groningen · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 10

If you're a regular visitor to a climbing wall you'll probably know the quiet periods. Practice leading, but instead of going straight up, do traverses and zig zags. Practice hanging belays, it's really helpful to do it in such a safe environment using the walls bolts or top anchors. Become knowledgeable in setting up belays and how to escape one and learn many other skills by asking the more experienced climbers - you'll rarely find anyone not prepared to help out as climbing is such a great community sport.

Brett Yost · · Bend, Oregon · Joined Apr 2014 · Points: 82

Prior to when there was a differentiation between 'trad' and 'sport', many people would start on 5.3 and just figure it out.  

Lon Harter · · Reno · Joined May 2018 · Points: 324
Jay Dee                 ·         Sep 3, 2019        ·                    Summerville, SC                             · Joined May 2017            · Points: 0               Mentorship with a patient person. Mock leading on toprope with simu rappel to go over placements. Ground level practice. That's how I learned. That and a lot of reading and YouTube.
Jay is %100 exactly right.  There are some excellent suggestion by some others as well.  Sport climbing will be the cheapest to start off with as trad will cost more money to get your rack started.

"From America Alpine institute
5.0-5.6 - Beginner level climber
5.7-5.9 - Intermediate level climber
5.10a-5.11c - Advanced level climber
5.11d-5.13d - Professional climber
5.14a-5.15b - World class climber"

I almost always had friends that climbed a lot harder than me no matter how good I got.
I had the pleasure of climbing with a few world class climbers while  I was according to AMI  leading in the  Professional level range (years ago defiantly not now) and it always amazed me why would these guys want to climb with me?  Why would they ask me to go to the crags with them? No way in hell could I do any of their projects no way could I keep up with them in any aspect of climbing really. But the basic answer would always be the same from all of them "You are fun to be around and you are really safe."   

So learn to be safe first and foremost.  Read every copy of Accidents in North American Mountaineering that you can get your hands on. It will be a good invest of your time.  People want to climb with safe partners they will climb with you even if you are not at their level as long as you are safe and not a jerk.  Find that mentor learn to be safe.
Kelty Godby · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jul 2016 · Points: 364

This article talks you through how to make the transition. Not the only way to make the switch, but good things to think about:…

Yuri Rodea · · San Diego · Joined May 2018 · Points: 35

Be a cute girl. Date a climber

Just speaking from experience 

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 311
Lon Harter wrote: 

"From America Alpine institute
5.0-5.6 - Beginner level climber
5.7-5.9 - Intermediate level climber
5.10a-5.11c - Advanced level climber
5.11d-5.13d - Professional climber
5.14a-5.15b - World class climber"

That list is complete Bull Shit. I have seen that before on an NPS survey about what level climber you are. 

I know people who I would gladly rope up with who are safe, experienced climbers who only climb 5.7.... and I know some who climb 5.12 and I wouldn’t let them belay me on TR. 
Jess saying 
Lon Harter · · Reno · Joined May 2018 · Points: 324

Guy Keesee

That list is complete Bull Shit. I have seen that before on an NPS survey about what level climber you are.
I know people who I would gladly rope up with who are safe, experienced climbers who only climb 5.7.... and I know some who climb 5.12 and I wouldn’t let them belay me on TR.
Jess saying
Guy I do agree that it doesn't take into account if you are a sport climber, trad, ice, or have Big stone exp. Or your safety knowledge for that matter.  It was made a long time ago before they had big influx of Gym climbers going outside and climbing for the first time.  And at that time it was relevant.  My point I was making was even though I was a fairly experienced climber there was no way I could keep up with a climber that was sending 5.14's or one who was in the running for a speed record on El Cap.  But they would asked to go because I was safe and fun to be around.  Don't read too much into it.  It was just a comparison to make the point that you will be asked to go climbing by better climbers if you are safe and fun to be around.  Yes if you look around today you will find posts for 5.12 level sport/gym climbers asking people to take them out on 5.7 trad.  Good for them for realizing that 5.12 gym doesn't transfer over to 5.12 trad.  

That is not what the American Alpine Institute was ranking when they were talking about climbing grades back in the late 80's.  Back then all the sport climbers came from trad climbing and it was the next step in progression. Again keep in mind the time and context of climbing that was happening  when this list by the American Alpine Institute was written. I can see how today it might raze some questions.  And I agree about not letting some one belay you just based on their leading ability as there is so much more that goes into safety and the responsibility of a belayer.
Brian James · · Unknown Hometown · Joined 12 days ago · Points: 0

I took a rock class a couple years ago but haven't done much actual climbing. Maybe three times after.

After a chat where the topic came up I got a casual invite from someone I occasionally work with to go climbing with their group here locally but I can't get over the thought that having the new guy along for TR, when sport and trad are what you'd rather be doing, would just be a drag for them.

This has been a huge mental block in general for me to actually do this regularly. Can't seem to get past it.

Derek Boocock · · Groningen · Joined Sep 2019 · Points: 10

I've just started climbing again after an absence of more than 30 years. Main reason was to try and improve movement in my left knee which doesn't bend beyond 110 degrees - but here's the thing: back in the day I was a JSRCI (joint service rock climbing instructor) and my top level was around UK E6 6b/c or 5.12c ish, plus huge experience in the high mountains even leading my own expedition.

Gues what? - I'm signing on with my climbing partner for a class in trad leading to blow away the cobwebs, because I take being safe ultra seriously and the current gym climbing I'm doing doesn't quite get me the exposure and danger that trad climbing would. Nobody is too good to learn, but for me it's all about safety and I hope even at my old age I can get back to instructing others soon and give something back.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Beginning Climbers
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