Written by James Cooper
Last Updated

Once you are an experienced climber who is confident using traditional climbing equipment you can move onto lead climbing which gives you much more freedom and challenges as you can find a new way to climb for yourself.

You need to be able to clip quickdraws, be able to build and clean your own anchors and be confident with lead belaying before you even think about doing a lead climb. It is not an activity to be taken lightly.

 

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If you fall during a lead climb, it will be a harder and longer fall than you are used to so it’s crucial to get all the skills you need before you attempt to try a lead climb on your own. The best way is to undertake some expert training and then practice the skills safely over and over again.

Lead climbing is when a rope goes straight from the climber to the belayer and as he or she ascends the climb, the lead climber then attaches the rope to either fixed bolts or pieces of traditional equipment that are removable.

In top-rope climbing it’s different as the rope travels up the face and is anchored at the top, then it falls back to the climber below. A lead climber has to climb above the last bolt or equipment the rope is attached to, in order to progress.

 

 

If he or she were to fall before clipping the rope into the next available bolt then they will fall twice as far. So if they are three feet above a bolt, they would fall down six feet, which is why lead climbing is a lot more challenging.

Here are some key tips on how to lead climb:

 

 

Do Some Proper Training First

It’s vital that you have all of the key skills needed before you even think about doing a lead climb so take some lessons from experts and practice all the skills in a safe environment first, until you can do them all naturally.

 

Are You Ready For This?

Lead climbing is much more risky and frightening than top-roping, so it’s imperative that you are in the right frame of mind before you try to do a lead climb. Make sure your head is in the right place and don’t be pushed into it by your climbing friends.

If you are not in the right frame of mind then don’t do it as it will be far too risky and you might end up freezing halfway up the climb. You need to be sure you are ready and have all the skills and mindset to attempt a lead climb.

 

 

Try a Practice Lead Climb

A great way to try out your skills and get confident safely is to run a practice lead climb. So use a top rope to climb for safety, but have another rope with you that you can then practice clipping into place as you ascend.

If you were to fall, then the top rope provides that added security but you get to practice all the key practical skills you need to be good at as a lead climber.

 

Choose an Easy Route

For your very first lead climb choose an easy route so you can focus on your skills and what you need to do, without worrying too much. You need to feel stable, confident and in control so lower your expectations for the route compared with what you might usually climb.

 

Learn How to Control Your Fall

It might sound strange but practicing how to fall in a controlled environment is a great way to boost your confidence and your skill at falling. Being comfortable when taking a fall and having confidence in your belayer, will make a real difference to your lead climb.

Try practicing falling at straight forward low-risk spots so that you and your belayer know what to expect and how to control the risk if you were to fall.

 

Buy the Right Equipment

As a lead climber, you need to build on the equipment you already have for top-roping. You might be able to borrow most of the gear if you are starting out lead climbing at a climbing gym, however, for outdoors you will need your own.

You are likely to need quickdraws, equipment for building an anchor, and removable gear including nuts. You need to have the right equipment to be able to build an anchor right at the top of the climb.

 

Conclusion

Lead climbing provides regular climbers with an extra challenge and thrill but it’s not without its own risks so make sure you are fully trained, experienced, and confident before you even think about doing a lead climb. Practice in safe environments until you are ready to go out there and conquer.

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