When to Start Lead Climbing?
I’m pretty new to climbing, just started in January 2016. I’m climbing 10a-bs, sometimes 10c, and was thinking of learning to lead climb. Should I wait a little longer, or just go for it? I hear different things from different people, and there are quite a few who say I should be comfortable climbing 11s before learning to lead. Your advice would be very much appreciated!
Hi Gillian, I think that whenever you feel ready to start trying to lead, you should give it a try, but be calculated about it. No matter what level you’re toproping, I would recommend stepping it way down with the routes you choose to lead. For example, if you feel really comfortable toproping 10a, look for 5.6s and 5.7s for your first lead attempts. There is a lot going on with leading in terms of managing the gear (whether quickdraws or rack), the rope, the clips and where to stop and rest–as well as the potential of taking falls, so make sure you are on terrain that is really comfortable for you to climb. In my clinics, we do practice leads (with a rope above) for exactly this reason, so the leader can focus on all the technical elements without the extra pressure of taking whippers on gear that may not be perfect (yet). My advice is to look at the big picture and try to reduce some of the unknowns for yourself–it may not be convenient or practical to do practice leads, but you can step down the difficulty of the climbing and that will help free you up to focus on the new elements of leading.
Remember to make sure you have a belayer you know and trust, and always make sure there’s a knot in the end of your lead rope before you leave the ground!