5 Lead Climbing Basics

Any aspiring climber should know these 5 lead climbing basics. Lead climbing is exactly what it sounds like. There is one person who is in the lead, that sets the gear on the climbing rock for the protection of the climbers behind them. Lead climbers have a very hard and technical job to do, it is also more dangerous for them. Since they are the ones setting the gear into place, they have no protection for themselves between placing the rope.

Lead climbing is done in sections for multi pitch climbs, or to put up a top rope for shorter sport climbs. After the lead climber places the rope, the next person to climb will remove the extenders on their way up. It is important for each climber to understand their roles in advance. Rock climbing can be a very dangerous and very rewarding experience.

  1. Learn How to Place Extenders: Extenders are two carabiners with a rope of a certain length holding them together. One carabiner is attached to a bolt on the face of the rock and the other is attached to the lead climbers rope. If an extender is place improperly the rope can simply slip out and cause a falling climber to get injured. Improper placement can also cause "rope drag". This can lessen the life of the gear and the rope because of the amount of unintended friction.
  2. Place Protection During the Ascent: It seems like common sense, but it needs to be said. The only proper way to lead climb is to place the protection during the ascent. It cannot be properly done while descending, and the second climber will not be able to set the protection they will need to make the climb. If they fall they will be relying on the fact that the lead climber put everything where it was supposed to be regardless of whether or not it is a top belay or bottom belay.
  3. Stay Calm and Focused: Climbing requires not only physical strength, it requires thinking too. There can be situations where a climber needs to improvise and they will need to be calm and focused to do that so that nobody gets hurt. If a lead climber makes a mistake it can cause injury to themselves and/or the people on the ground.
  4. Have the Gear Ready: Look at the route before beginning the climb. A different amount of gear will be needed for each individual climb. Having the gear prepared in advance will ensure that the lead climber isn't carrying too much weight or not enough protection.
  5. Don't Over Climb: This is especially true for beginners learning how to lead climb. Over doing it can lead to injury and potentially fatal mistakes. If the lead climber gets to tired to finish placing the safety gear they should find a way to rest and/or get back down.

It can take months or even years before a climber might be ready to take the lead. Lead climbing is a big responsibility and should be taken seriously. A regular training routing is recommended to help a potential lead climber to build the strength and necessary skills to follow through with the first lead.

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