So one of the many things I did this summer was learn how to lead climb properly. My good friend Alex and I decided that since we both do a lot of out door climbing it would be a good idea to become officially lead certified. That means that we had to take three classes at the gym and then finally a test. The class was very informative and the test was pretty easy to pass as long as you stay cool and take it slow. The problem that I ran into while just starting to lead was that you can no longer climb the grades you once were able to on top rope. On top rope you only have to worry about going up, if you fall, your belayer will catch you. While leading you have to worry about finding a good position, holding it, clipping in and taking big falls. You don’t realized how tiring it is until your hanging in an uncomfortable position trying to clip in with one hand. Then if your arms or legs give out and you don’t get the rope in the clip your taking a possible 15 foot fall. If you do get the clip and you fall you will only fall half of that. It can get pretty scary and when you first start out pump comes on quick while trying to hold your position to clip. That’s why when you first start you might get set back a few grades. On top rope, or auto belay in the gym I can climb usually anything between 5.10 and 5.12 right off the couch. When I first started lead climbing I struggled with 5.7’s and 5.8’s. I think now I’m comfortable leading at 5.9 but thinking about doing a 5.10 or higher scares me. It will take some more practice until I can get to where I am on top rope. But I know as long as I keep practicing and pushing myself it will happen. I may even attempt to lead a 5.11 in the gym next time I go with Alex to belay me. I probably won’t make it but you never know unless you try, you’ll never get better or learn to climb higher grades unless you attempt them. When I first started leading I never once thought that it was going to set me back a few grades. I thought that because I could climb a 5.11 on top rope then I could on lead. I didn’t realize I was wrong until the first lead class.
Belaying is a bit different too since it pretty much backwards. Instead of taking slack you’re feeding the rope through giving the slack to the climber. It took a few classes to actually get used to it. It was pretty weird to me and it does feel uncomfortable and first. There is a lot to keep in mind as the belayer like how much slack to give, when to take it, where to stand and when to take a soft or a hard catch. But practice makes perfect and even after I passed the test I still feel like I am always learning something new about it. There is just so much beta to go around that no matter what type of climbing you are doing you are always learning something new about the sport. I guess you can say it always keeps you on your toes. I would recommend learning how to lead if you plan on doing a lot of outdoor climbing and if you take climbing seriously. If you are only going to climb in the gym for fun and maybe set up a top rope a few times a year then it’s not something you need to learn how to do right away. Learning does take time and I have spent more times in the gym during the week then I ever have in the past while learning how to lead so it does become time consuming. My advice would be if you’re going to do it take your time, study and don’t get frustrated. It will come as long as you keep going.