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'Trad Climbing' in the School of Rock


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The looming El Capitan. <br />by Rich Wheater
Your First Big Wall
Solid on 5.9 gear routes? Ready for the greatest adventure of your life? Our step-by-step big wall guide will show you the way. It all started for me back in high school, when I saw a photo of the most awe-inspiring piece of rock I’d ever laid eyes on—the Nameless Tower....
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
The simple life: a portaledge camp on El Cap.  <br />by Kevin Steele/Wonderful Machine
Leading Your First Big Wall
Leading on a big wall is similar to leading on a long day climb, except your rack will be bigger, and you’ll usually be doing a lot more aid climbing. Expect to feel heavy and encumbered—and to use aid on many moves you would usually climb free. Practice basic aid by clea...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
Figure 1: The second removes all the pro as he moves up an aid pitch. Note the daisy and aider setup and the back-ties. <br />by Mike Clelland
Following Your First Big Wall
In wall climbing, the second climber seldom gets put on belay. Instead, when the leader finishes a pitch, he ties the rope to a power point at the anchor, and the second “jugs” the fixed rope with ascenders and aiders. After the leader has tied off the rope, take him off...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
A "docked" (anchored) haul bag showing the Munter/mule hitch that allows you to easily lower out the bag on overhanging or traversing pitches. The docking line is approximately a 30-foot length of 7mm cord. <br />by Mike Clelland
Baggage Handling on Your First Big Wall
The worst part of any long trip is dealing with luggage. Now imagine that instead of carrying your gear in a comfortable pack or on a rolling suitcase, you’re dragging it behind you at the end of a rope. Hauling will likely be the crux of your first wall. If you fail, it ...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
Peanut Ledge of El Cap's Zodiac <br />by Martin Fickweiler
Life on Your First Big Wall
I know some wall climbers—specializing in speed ascents—who brag how they’ve never bivied on a wall. To me, this means missing out on the best part of big-wall climbing. There is nothing like watching the sunset while perched above the world like a kid in a treehouse. But...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
Good nut (left): securely set in a constriction, oriented downward, with full width of both sides touching. Extended with a quickdraw. Bad nut (right): Sides sticking out of crack, set in fractured rock, and not extended. <br />
Nuts 101
When many people start trad climbing, cams become their new best friend. They’re easy to use and contract to fit a variety of crack sizes. But don’t underestimate the benefits of their counterpart: the nut. With no moving parts (hence, “passive protection”), nuts are inex...
Julie Ellison and Dougald MacDonald at Climbing Magazine
by Chris Philpot
The Alpine Quickdraw
You'll often carry several full-length, 24-inch slings on long rock routes or alpine climbs, to reduce rope drag, wrap around horns for protection or belays, or rig belay anchors. But draping multiple slings over your shoulders is cumbersome. The solution? The alpine draw...
Dougald MacDonald at Climbing Magazine
Typical trad route
Big Wall Kit
Depending on the type of pulling down you’re doing, climbing can vary from minimalist to “everything but the kitchen sink,” and big wall climbing is very much the latter. Doing multi-day routes not only requires aid climbing equipment (protection, aiders, ropes, helmet, e...
Julie Ellison at Climbing Magazine
Belaying While Mid-Pitch While Simu-climbing
If you are simul-climbing part of a route because it is technically easy (e.g., 5.4 or 5.5), you still might come across an isolated crux section that is two or three body-lengths and more difficult (e.g., 5.8 or 5.9). That portion might warrant a belay for the leader and...
Scott Bennett at Climbing Magazine
How to haul a bag <br />by Supercorn
Haul Your Pack to Climb Faster and Harder
Simple truth: Attempting to go "light and fast" often means heavy and lame. To avoid the stigma of hauling a bag, many climbers feel the need to have everything clipped right on their harnesses. Water bottles, approach shoes, bullet packs—you name it—jangling o...
Jeff Achey at Climbing Magazine
How to Simul-Rappel
As Ed Viesturs famously said, “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” And sometimes getting down safely means doing it quickly. Simultaneously rappelling, or simul-rapping, is an advanced skill where two climbers descend one rope at the same time (or ...
Liz Drummond at Climbing Magazine
Improvised Rappel Anchor <br />by Chris Philpot
Improvised Rappel Anchors
Getting off a cliff with no fixed anchors or big trees is a skill that every climber should have in his bag of tricks. It’s especially useful to do it with minimal loss of expensive hardware. Here’s one method. Warning: Never compromise safety on rappel anchors. If you n...
Eli Helmuth at Climbing Magazine
by Chris Philpot
Safely Rappel with a Too-short Rope
Do you always know the exact length of every rappel? At some point in your climbing career, you will probably encounter a rappel that is unknown but looks too long for your measly single line. Instead of tossing the rope, crossing your fingers, and getting to the ends of ...
Jeff Ward at Climbing Magazine
How to lower on multi-pitches <br />by Chris Philpot
Save Time and Avoid Stuck Ropes on Descent
Outside of single-pitch sport climbing, lowering isn’t a common practice, and most climbers will choose to rappel anything longer than one pitch. However, descending at maximum efficiency on long routes should include lowering techniques as well as rappelling. Lowering th...
Steve Banks at Climbing Magazine
Pre-rigged rappel setup <br />by Chris Philpot
A Safer Way to Set Up Rappels: Pre-rigging
Are you a climber who thinks double-checking your partner’s harness and knot is a good idea prior to launching up a route? Me too. That’s why I’m always mystified to see so many climbers ignoring such safety checks when coming back down. Imagine you’re at the top of a mu...
Dale Remsberg at Climbing Magazine
Preferred rapelling knots <br />by Chris Philpot
Preferred Knots for Rappelling
As a mountain guide, two questions I’m often asked are: 1) What knot do you use to join two ropes for rappels? and 2) Which knot do you use to tie the end of the ropes for a backup? Preferred rapelling knots by Chris Philpot 1. Joining Ropes The k...
Rob Hess at Climbing Magazine
Fig 1. Friction hitch <br />by Chris Philpot
Ascend a Rope With an Auto-blocking Device
The shadows are growing long across the desert as you rappel off the neo-classic Birdland (5.7+) in Red Rock, Nevada, after a successful ascent. In your haste to beat darkness (and avoid the resulting expensive ticket at the park gate), you forgot to grab the rack off the...
Kurt Hicks at Climbing Magazine
Rappel without a belay device <br />by John McMullen
Rappel Without a Belay Device
You’re lying if you say you’ve never dropped your belay device and watched it go “tink, tink, tink” all the way down to the base of a route. That’s where you want to get, and you just let go of the one piece of gear that will get you there most conveniently. It can happen...
Ian Nicholson at Climbing Magazine
Use a Friction-Hitch When Rappelling
A friction-hitch is popular among climbers who desire maximum control and safety while rappelling. The most common back-up is to link a harness leg loop to the rope with a prusik hitch. Your brake hand holds the friction hitch to keep it from locking while you rap, but i...
Eli Helmuth at Climbing Magazine
Short fixing <br />by Mike Clelland
Short-Fixing
Short-fixing is an experts-only technique that essentially separates a climbing team into two roped soloists via a knot at an anchor, allowing the climbers to move simultaneously. It’s most commonly used on one-day ascents of big walls, or to speed up the process during m...
Russ Facente at Climbing Magazine
Short-hauling Your Climbing Partner
It's been a long day on the rock. If your partner can just finish this pitch quickly, you can be down on the trail before dark. But he’s exhausted, and a crux overhang has stopped him. “Take!” he yells. You give him tension, with your belay device rigged in guide mode off...
Mark Nelson at Climbing Magazine
Rope Commands for Multi-pitch Climbing
Whaaaat?!” is the word most commonly spoken on multi-pitch climbs, where river noise, wind, acoustics, and helmets and stocking caps make it difficult, if not impossible, to use traditional verbal belay signals. If I had $100 for every time I’ve watched a team wasting tim...
Topher Donahue at Climbing Magazine
Figure 3  <br />by Ben Fullerton
Single-Hitch Belay Escape
Keeping it straightforward is a good credo for rescue and almost anything climbing-related, and this particular skill is a good example of how to streamline the act of escaping a belay. It uses minimal steps, equipment, and hitches or knots, especially when compared to mo...
Eli Helmuth at Climbing Magazine
Protect your follower
Protect Your Follower on Traverses
Pitches that traverse sideways can be as dangerous for the follower as for the leader, exposing both climbers to the risk of long, swinging falls. When leading, a climber naturally seeks pro before the crux; after the difficulties, however, he may cruise across easier ter...
Adam Scheer at Climbing Magazine
Walking the rope <br />by Chris Philpot
Get Back on an Overhanging Route After Falling
Walking the rope by Chris Philpot When working his route Le Rêve (5.14d/5.15a) in Arrow Canyon, Nevada, Jonathan Siegrist was forced to skip a clip in the middle of the extremely overhanging crux section, where he fell dozens of times before sending...
Alex BIale and Jonathan Siegrist at Climbing Magazine
The standard flag—the position most climbers learn first.
Five Techniques for Better Footwork
It happens to all of us: You’re 10 feet above your last bolt, over-gripping and breathing erratically, and everything feels “off.” What’s wrong? The tension in your body has caused you to lose your balance. But there are ways to get it back, even when you’re mid-route. Bo...
Amanda Fox at Climbing Magazine
Falling <br />by Jamie Givens
Practice Falls When Climbing
Just because you don’t actually feel afraid to fall does not mean you are completely comfortable falling. It’s the uncertainty that gets us. We know we might fall, so at committing cruxes we hesitate, second-guess, slap lamely for a hold, or simply let go. What we need is...
Arno Ilgner at Climbing Magazine
Friction climbing body position
Slab Climbing Techniques
Friction climbing —holdless slab climbing— can be effortless or desperate, or both at the same time. Strength plays no role; there’s nothing to pull on. Technique and mindset are paramount. Friction climbs typically involve long runouts between the stances where a first a...
Jeff Achey at Climbing Magazine
Phase 1
Climbing and Training for Hard Offwidths
Q: “I have climbed a few offwidths, but I want to do a long, wide crack in the desert. I get worked after 50 feet; how do I train for sustained routes with a heavy rack of gear?" A: Long, vertical offwidths are physically grueling—even with impeccable technique. We’...
Pamela Pack at Climbing Magazine
How to fall safely <br />by Chris Philpot <br />
How to Fall
Falling is essential for advancing as a rock climber. The saying goes, “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying hard enough.” To progress, you need to try moves that are at the edge of your ability—or beyond—and when you try that hard, you will fall. Toprope falls are th...
Dougald MacDonald at Climbing Magazine
Fig 1. forearm stretch massage
How to Rest for Redpoint Attempts
You've just fallen off your project for the fifth time, and now you're back on the ground wondering what to do next. You're still psyched and ready to give it another go, and that forearm burn isn't too bad. But should you rest? If so, how long? Should you keep moving or ...
Dave Wahl at Climbing Magazine
Hand jam in constriction <br />by John McMullen
Hand and Foot Jams for Crack Climbs
Jamming isn’t something you learned by climbing trees as a child. Instead of grabbing normal holds, you wedge body parts into cracks. It’ll take some practice, but once you learn the techniques, cracks become your roads to success on all kinds of rock. And when the crack ...
Jeff Achey at Climbing Magazine
Downclimbing <br />by Mike Tea
Techniques for Downclimbing
Whether it’s backing down a runout lead, navigating a sketchy descent, or merely exercising the unlikely (I will sometimes climb up and down the same route, just for fun!), the ability to downclimb (DC) is a skill worth polishing, especially for budding trad leaders. This...
Mic Fairchild at Climbing Magazine
How to rest before a crux <br />by Mike Clelland
Redpoint Resting
“Just dirt me!” I squawked. Hopelessly hanging 10 feet from the anchor for the umpteenth time, I was nearing tears. A local, who had the route ruthlessly wired, coolly suggested that I “work the rest” more. For me, this “rest” was hardly restful — I’d once managed to comp...
Brittany Griffith at Climbing Magazine
Thumbs up!
Use Your Thumb for Better Rock Climbing
Thumbs up! Climbing holds are like snowflakes—no two are identical—and clever use of the thumbs adds important diversity to your gripping arsenal. Here are four “thumb” techniques that could make the difference during your next tough climb. The thum...
Adam Scheer at Climbing Magazine
Heel Toe Cam <br />
6 Crucial Wide-Crack Techniques
I was barely halfway through a 90-foot route when I used the last of my breath to wheeze “Take!” Blood from my skinned elbows leaked through my shirt, and sweat dripped into my eyes when I realized I simply couldn’t climb anymore. The route was the classic 5.9 offwidth Ch...
Matt Kuehl at Climbing Magazine
How to jug <br />by Supercorn
Transition from Rock to Alpine
Progressing from weekend cragging to long alpine routes can be intimidating for anyone, even strong and competent traditional climbers. While the most valuable knowledge is gleaned from experience, there’s plenty of real-world advice to learn beforehand. Alpinist Scott Be...
Julie Ellison at Climbing Magazine
Alpine anchor
Alpine Anchors
In the mountains or on long rock routes, anchor efficiency can be the difference between a comfortable finish and a forced bivouac. Using a cordelette to equalize an anchor is easy and strong, but it takes a lot of extra time to set up, and even longer to break down. Ther...
Ian Nicholson at Climbing Magazine
Keeping it together by talking <br />by Keith Svihovec
How to Manage an Unplanned Bivy
We left the Black Canyon’s North Rim Campground a little before 9 a.m. — fine if we weren’t climbing Stratosfear (VI 5.11+ R), on the Painted Wall. Come dark, we still had three pitches left, including the crux. We faced a decision: an open bivy at a hanging belay or tric...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
How to Rappel <br />by Ben Fullerton
Learn the Basics of Rappelling
Getting to the top of any route is a success, but it also means one thing: You’re only halfway there. To descend single- and multi-pitch routes, rappelling is an excellent option that gets you down quickly and puts minimal wear on fixed anchors. The process of rappelling ...
Julie Ellison at Climbing Magazine
Take the whip, take the whip!—ooh, but not like that... See mistake number 6.  by Andy Mann
50 Ways to Flail
I’ve been climbing for more than 15 years, and the mistakes I’ve made cover the gamut. My knot came partly untied while I was climbing at Joshua Tree; I’ve threaded my belay device backward; partway up El Capitan, my partner once completely unclipped me from a belay. Wors...
Laura Snider at Climbing Magazine
Use Your Loops Wisely
Attain Speed by Eliminating Gear-Fumbling
Successful and swift trad climbing is all about efficiency. You can’t squander minutes searching for the perfect piece, drain strength by over-gripping while you untangle runners from your cams, or waste energy by lugging up unnecessary weight. Mayan Smith-Gobat knows a t...
Leia Larsen and Mayan Smith-Gobat at Climbing Magazine
Setting up a clean rappel
Prevent Rope Snags During Rappels
Setting up a clean rappel THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing when retreating in a storm is to maintain steady downward progress. Foremost, this means avoiding a stuck rope. As you descend, be mindful of rope-eating blocks or flakes. If you encounter a r...
Mark Synnott at Climbing Magazine
Lengthen Pro for Maximum Safety
Extending gear means clipping a long sling to a piece of protection (bolts or traditional pro), and it is a vital part of learning to lead, especially on long, blocky, or wandering routes. The top two reasons for extending a placement are minimizing rope drag and keeping ...
Julie Ellison at Climbing Magazine
Fig 1. how to remove a cam
How to Clean Cams
Getting humbled in the art of cam-cleaning is a rite of passage for aspiring tradsters. You know the story: The second, a trad-climbing newbie, fiddles with a cam for what seems like eternity before declaring it totally stuck. Welded. Fixed. Beyond saving. The more experi...
Laura Snider at Climbing Magazine
Stacking Ropes on Multi-Pitch Climbs
Stacking Ropes on Multi-Pitch Climbs
Good rope management at belays saves time and headaches. When you belay on a ledge, feed the rope into a small pile, about two feet around, as you take it in. Compact the growing rope pile with your hands or feet to keep it stacking bottom to top, and to keep it from slid...
Ian Nicholson at Climbing Magazine
Training for the Fifty Classic Climbs
Routes like the North Ridge on the Grand Teton require covering a lot of ground with a heavy pack. These—and many other Classics—are not casual outings. We’ve devised a six-week training program—approach, mountaineering, mixed, aid, and free climbing— that will help add a...
Mercedes Pollmeier and Connie Sciolino at Climbing Magazine
How To Build a Trad Anchor
Learn the best way to build a simple, safe, equalized anchor.
Climbing Tech Tips
Protection Layout
How to Build Your First Trad Rack
Trad climbing requires a lot of gear. From cams to carabiners, nuts to nut tools, there are so many options out there that it’s hard to know where to even begin when you make the decision to build your first trad rack. There’s also the question of how much gear you actual...
Andrew Bisharat at Backcountry
Advanced Trad Lead Demo
Learn advanced techniques and gear tips for leading the Joshua Tree classic "Coarse and Buggy" 11a/b.
Climbing Tech Tips
Climbing and Protecting Traverses
Climb traverses safely and see the importance of protecting traverses for the follower.
Climbing Tech Tips
Plan for and Conquer a Crux
Learn how to prepare for a crux and then send it with control.
Climbing Tech Tips
Placing Gear on Lead
See the best positions from which to place gear.
Climbing Tech Tips
Navigating a Roof
Learn where to place gear when leading a roof and why proper placement is important.
Climbing Tech Tips
Basic Hold Types and Grip Techniques
View the different types of handholds and how to position your hands on them for the best grip.
Climbing Tech Tips
Basic Footwork Tips
See the best ways to position your feet on different rock features.
Climbing Tech Tips
Body Mechanics for Climbing
How to position your body to conserve energy and climb smoothly.
Climbing Tech Tips
Being Prepared and Racking Up
Mental checklist for a trad route and how to prep your climbing gear.
Climbing Tech Tips
Make Quickdraws with Long Slings
Watch this demonstration of extending slings and re-clipping long slings to make shorter quickdraws for trad and alpine climbs.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Place Cams
Learn how to place camming devices (cams) in which parts of the rock for best results.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Remove a Stopper or Nut
See how to remove nuts / stoppers, rack them afterwards and not drop your nut tool in the process.
Climbing Tech Tips
What is Traditional Climbing?
This is a description of the basic methods and ethos of traditional or "trad" climbing.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Place a Stopper or Nut
View this demonstration on how to position a nut in rock constrictions, clip in and recognize problems with directionality.
Climbing Tech Tips
Gear and Packing Considerations
In depth discussion about what and how to pack for outdoor climbing excursions.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Belay From Above
See a discussion of the pros and cons of direct and indirect belay methods.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Tie a Munter Hitch
Watch the construction of a Munter Hitch, how to use it to belay through a biner, and finally how to lock it off as a Munter Mule.
Climbing Tech Tips
Make a Butterfly Rope Coil Backpack
Use this method to make a tidy, compact coil of rope for easy transport on your back.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Belay with an Autoblock Device
Watch an explanation of how to use an autoblocking belay device and understand it's benefits for rescue.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Back Up a Rappel
Choose your favorite method to back up a rappel.
Climbing Tech Tips
Escape a Belay Using a Re-Direct
Use this method to tie off a belay to an injured partner and set up a rescue.
Climbing Tech Tips
How to Escape the Belay
Use this method to tie off a belay to an injured partner and set up a rescue.
Climbing Tech Tips
Bunny Ears Step 1
Bunny Ears: The Best Climbing Knot You've Never Heard Of
Whether you’re doing a three-pitch free climb or a 3000-foot big wall, multi-pitch climbing is all about efficiency. Every little time-saving action, every slightly more streamlined step, adds up to saving you precious hours—it’s the difference between climbing the last h...
Andrew Bisharat at Backcountry
Photo Credit: Adam Riser
Climbing Anchors to Avoid
Anchors are extremely important. Whether you’re going up or down, at some point your anchor will be the only thing connecting you and your partner to whatever you’re climbing. Pulling a piece of gear in a lead fall usually just leads to a bigger fall. Anchor failures, on ...
Adam Riser at Backcountry
Nuts 102 Fig 2
Nuts 102
If you're well-versed in nut usage and passed Nuts 101 with flying colors, then these intermediate skills are perfect for you. First, a quick review. Nuts are passive protection devices, meaning their holding power comes from their wedge shapes, cleverly placed in natura...
Jeff Achey at Climbing Magazine