Take the Lead: Lead Climbing for Beginners

So, I’m super stoked because I’ve just started lead climbing indoors. This is a monumental occasion for me because just 4 short months ago I was still taking falls on 5.7s in the gym. Now that I feel more competent and comfortable with my climbing, I’m ready to take it to the next level for several reasons.

First, I want more control over my climbing. Several of my climbing buddies have told me that lead climbing gives you a sense of freedom as you put hand to rock. Furthermore, I want to be able to do more challenging routes both indoors and outdoors. Most importantly, it’s just flippin’ cool and the sexy mountain men will be über impressed like whoa! As such, please allow me to share with you some of the tips and tricks to lead climbing.

Find a Teacher
You could always pay money and take a class at a gym, but it’s more fun to let your friends teach you. Not to mention, it makes them feel important. Ask two or three of your expert climbing buddies to show you the basics of lead climbing. Have them to join you in the gym and, once they’re comfortable that you won’t kill yourself, ask them to belay for you while you lead outdoors.

Double Rope that Shit
Since my friends have seen me take falls off deadman anchors while canyoneering and have watched me trip up mountains, for my first lesson in lead climbing, they insisted that I rope-up to a top rope in the gym while also roping-up with the lead rope. One friend belayed me on top-rope, the other on lead. This way, if I took a fall it wouldn’t be a very dramatic one and I wouldn’t crash into the gym floor if I happened to miss a clip.

Take a Fall
Once you’re lead climbing 5.8s-5.9s confidentially (and once you’re certified with your gym), purposefully take a fall. Let your belay partner know that it’s coming, sit back, and let go. Falling while lead climbing is a whole other ball-game since you fall much further, typically swing, and often bounce off the wall. Prepare yourself for it mentally and remember that, if you observed all safety precautions and your belayer is competent, you’re not gonna hit the ground.

Practice Makes Perfect
Now that I’ve started lead climbing indoors, I’ve set goals for myself before I’m gonna attempt it outdoors. This is a good way to get comfortable taking falls and feel competent with clipping in. I also recommend clocking as much time lead-belaying and you do lead climbing. This will help you to understand the entire process more fully and can build trust between you and your belay partner(s)…assuming you want to trust your belayer ( I prefer to just let strangers on the street belay me…more of a thrill).

That being said, take a leap, take a fall, and take the lead!