Learning How to Lead Climb – Part 2

It has been a little while since I finished the second part of my lead class and took the lead test. I just passed the test last Friday after the second try. I will explain more about this later in this post. Yesterday, a lot of good things happened. I climbed with my regular Meetup group at Brooklyn Boulders. I got some lead climbing in after helping one of my climbing partners with his lead test. He passed with flying colors. Lucky for him, he didn’t have to take a class to get lead certified at BKB. He is a seasoned climber and has been climbing indoors and outdoors for a long time. So, it was pretty easy for him. The highlight of my day was when I and nine other climbers were featured on Brooklyn Boulders on Instagram because we submitted our climbing photos and videos to win a one month membership for $10. In honor of Brooklyn Boulders 10th birthday, they decided to give away 10 1-month memberships for just $10. I was so happy when BKB chose me. I only had two more passes left in my 10-pack. So, this worked out perfectly. Happy Birthday Brooklyn Boulders!

There is supposed to be a Dyno competition and a big festival next Friday to celebrate their birthday. If you are interested, click here.

First Class Recap

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the first class included learning about quickdraws and how they are made, how to hold and clip into a quickdraw while climbing and the main three things to avoid while lead climbing: Z-clipping, Back clipping and the danger of having the rope behind the leg. To learn more, read the last blog post.

Second Lead Class Recap

When the class returned, it was time to do some practice falls and lead climbing. Of course, we couldn’t do it literally, but we were able to do demo lead climbing and falls with the assistance of our instructor. We did some command drills to practice how to take rope, feed rope and position our hands for a fall. The main focus for this class was learning how to lead belay.

How to Position Yourself and Feed rope out of an ATC

We should feed the rope quickly once we see the leader (climber) reaching to clip the rope, and then take the slack out of the rope after the leader has made his or her clip. During the first three clips, we should keep the rope “tight” because if the leader happens to fall during the first three clips, he or she will not hit the floor.

When feeding a rope with a ATC, the belayer should pull the rope out with his or her left hand. The rope will automatically pull the break hand up (right hand). The break hand should slide down the rope to feed the rope into the ATC again but should never release the rope. As a belayer, one should be close to the wall while belaying to avoid being smacked into the wall if there was a chance of the climber falling. The belayer should never be under the climber during the first three clips as this is considered the red zone. So, it is important to be on the side of the climber. However, I was told that once the climber is pretty far up, it is okay to be “under” the climber while belaying.

Foot stance is also important while belaying. In my opinion, staying with one foot forward is a great way to stay balance and sturdy while belaying. This helps to be in the right position once a fall has taken place.

Unfortunately, we really didn’t get a chance to practice belaying on a grigri as we have to learn this on our own. However, I actually like belaying on a ATC.

Catching a Fall

With a short or long fall, a lead belayer needs to “embrace” the impact by going “up” with the fall. If the belayer is lifted off his or her feet, he or she needs to be facing the wall or the rock. The belayer’s feet should be ready to be placed on the wall or the rock in order to stay stable while catching the fall.

Again, it is necessary to be close to the wall or rock to avoid being smacked into the wall or rock.

The Lead Test

I finished my lead class on the 11th of this month and took my first lead test the week after on a Friday. My partner, at that time, also needed to take the test to be lead certified. If you ever decide to take a lead test, there are three parts to the test: Naming the three common lead climbing mistakes to avoid, completing a lead climbing and belaying test.

The tester wanted us to name the three common mistakes and why we should avoid them. After, depending on who is climbing first, we had to do a lead climbing route, fall twice and then complete the route. This actually took a lot out of me because falling can take a lot out of a person, but I had to finish it.

Once the climbing part of the test was finished, we took the lead belaying test. This included knowing how to position the rope on the ground, tightening a knot at the end of the rope to make sure it is secure, making sure that the rope and the belay device are successful inserted into the carabiner and so on. We also had to show how to feed the rope, take the rope and catch a fall and knowing when to do so.

After taking the first test, I failed. I really thought that I was going to pass but unfortunately, it didn’t go as I planned. The first lead tester was rather strict which was good because he helped me understand what I needed to fix in order to pass the second time. He told me that my technique was there, but I needed to climb a little quicker while clipping and make sure not to be under the climber during the first three clips.

After studying and practicing again, I decided to retake the lead test last week and took it with a different tester. At first, I really thought I was going to fail again because I ended up not finishing the route that had some challenging finger holds (By the way, yesterday I mastered that route). So, the tester gave me another chance by allowing me to choose another route that was not as challenging.

During the test, she told me that I had very good belaying skills, and did a great job falling and clipping. I was elated when she told me that I passed. I didn’t have to complete the route after falling, but I was willing to complete it if she wanted me to.

My Final Thoughts

So, my lead climbing journey was everything that I expected it to be. It’s challenging but fun at the same time. I actually enjoyed falling. I still have to work on my clipping skills. I just might do another clipping technique that other climbers have showed me. My next step is to take the BKB Climbing Workshops: Stop Saying Take: mental Training for Sport Climbing and Sport Anchor + Rappel.

Question of the Day

What was it like when you took your lead test? What advice do you have for those who are interested in lead climbing?

6 thoughts on “Learning How to Lead Climb – Part 2

      1. 8-9 months I’m always practicing too and learning to push my self, with lead for me you have to find a partner you trust to catch you, then try to just climb and don’t think of falling, eventually it gets easier and you take fun whips! I also follow all the safety checks you can, and you can climb/learn from other more experienced climbers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I had someone I trusted, and he trusted me which made me feel confident considering the fact that I am a newbie. He is leaving. So, I need to find another trusted belayer. My tester told me that I had very good belaying technique but I know practice makes perfect. I climb with a group, and I am a bit selective on who will belay me.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s