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By Kevin Brooks Henry
From Iowa City, IA
Jan 21, 2010
close up
Ok, am 14 years old and would like to start lead climbing. My belayer a.k.a dad, thinks I should take a course on trad climbing before i can lead. I have read lots of books and have practiced placing anchors behind our house. Now, I have only been climbing since september and the hardest I've climbed is 5.8+. This all being TR in a gym. So, is it too soon for me to think about leading? And is my dad right that I should take a course and receive instruction? or should I just get out there and try an easy lead on a less-than-vertical face?

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By saxfiend
Administrator
From Decatur, GA
Jan 21, 2010
Relaxing at the P1 belay of Fruit Loops at Rumblin...
Kevin Brooks Henry wrote:
Ok, am 14 years old and would like to start lead climbing. My belayer a.k.a dad, thinks I should take a course on trad climbing before i can lead.

Hi Kevin -- glad to hear you so enthused about leading trad!

If you're hoping for someone here to tell you to go ahead and disobey what your father has said, I think you're going to be disappointed. Even if I disagreed with him (and I don't), I wouldn't contradict what he told you.

So -- I think your Dad is on the right track. Take a lead climbing course, or get an experienced trad leader to take you on as an "apprentice." If your Dad is a trad leader, that would be perfect.

Good luck and have fun!

JL

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By Monomaniac
Administrator
From Morrison, CO
Jan 21, 2010
Insurrection, 5.14c.  Photo Adam Sanders.
Kevin,

I think your Dad is right. You need someone with experience to inspect your work and tell you that you're doing it right, or correct you if you are not. Your life is in the balance after all. Hire a guide for one day, and tell him that you think you are ready to start leading on your own, but you need someone to check your work and tell you if you need more instruction or not.

I went through the same thing when I was about your age. I didn't learn anyuthing from the guide that I hadn't already learned from John Long, but it was good to have someone there in the flesh to double check my placements. It also helped convince my parents that I was ready to go it alone.

Good luck!

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By Crag Dweller
From New York, NY
Jan 21, 2010
My navigator keeps me from getting lost
One of the best ways to learn how to place gear is to follow someone experienced and clean his/her placements.

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By Jake D.
From Northeast
Jan 21, 2010
Crag Dweller wrote:
One of the best ways to learn how to place gear is to follow someone experienced and clean his/her placements.


I kinda disagree. I tried that method and it never really stuck with me. I prefer to lead stuff below warm up level and plug as much gear as i possibly can find and have them critique it. For this kid doing it on TR would probably be advisable since he has not done any outdoor climbing anyway.

I just think this way forces YOU to find the placements and then place the gear correctly. And it makes you do it while under fatigue and gets you thinking about stances.. i can pull out gear mid crux, one arm one foot on but i'm not usually going to try to plug a piece like that.

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By Derek W
Jan 21, 2010
First summit of First Flatiron
Jake D. wrote:
I kinda disagree. I tried that method and it never really stuck with me. I prefer to lead stuff below warm up level and plug as much gear as i possibly can find and have them critique it. For this kid doing it on TR would probably be advisable since he has not done any outdoor climbing anyway. I just think this way forces YOU to find the placements and then place the gear correctly. And it makes you do it while under fatigue and gets you thinking about stances.. i can pull out gear mid crux, one arm one foot on but i'm not usually going to try to plug a piece like that.


I think a lot of people forget to analyze the placements when they first start climbing outside anyway. They are focused one the climb and not getting your gear stuck they forget to think, "was this a good placement?" etc. I think its invaluable to get out there and second, but I think a guide/instructor is a great idea. I'm hiring one this spring to help me too.

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By J.J
Jan 21, 2010
How do you aquire this stuff at 14?!(I just saw your other post) It doesn't sound like your dad climbs at all... That's insane. If you've never climbed outdoors before I would definetely start toproping outside and then do some sport leads before trad leading. You need to get used to the feel of being above your last piece of protection before committing to a trad lead IMHO.

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By Jake D.
From Northeast
Jan 21, 2010
Wehling wrote:
I think a lot of people forget to analyze the placements when they first start climbing outside anyway. They are focused one the climb and not getting your gear stuck they forget to think, "was this a good placement?" etc. I think its invaluable to get out there and second, but I think a guide/instructor is a great idea. I'm hiring one this spring to help me too.


that too.. the "getting it out" bit gets in the way of your brain seeing what the placement would be. That's why i think it worked better for me to just start leading stuff below my warm up level and having someone tell me about them. I learned a bunch this year from my first friend telling me that i continually would use 1 cam size too big. Then my second partner taught me to use my fingers to size up cam placements before grabbing for a piece. I also told both of them to check out my stuff to see if there was anything to improve.

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By Abram Herman
From Golden, CO
Jan 21, 2010
Viking helmet cover, yep.
JJ Brunner wrote:
If you've never climbed outdoors before I would definetely start toproping outside and then do some sport leads before trad leading. You need to get used to the feel of being above your last piece of protection before committing to a trad lead IMHO.


+1!! My thoughts exactly.

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By grant.rudd
From boulder, CO
Jan 21, 2010
me at the p4 belay
Step 1a: start leading in the gym. figure out how to clip, being comfortable with the whipper, not having the security of a TR, getting your dad familiar with lead belay. learn the basics with the autobelay and squishy floors. maybe take a class on this too. i took one at BRC for $40.

Step 1b: Toprope outside. the grades dont translate from the gym to outdoors, especially with trad. (i lead 12's indoors, and am currently icing a finger from a failed "easy 12a" attempt.) no tape, albeit you can tell on most routes with all the chalk, inobvious feet, things like that contribute to the outside experince.

If trad is the way you want to go, and want to skip the whole sport thing, thats cool. i did it (well 1 sport lead before my first trad lead) and although i had a steep learning curve, i wouldnt have done it any other way. Before i started multipitch though, i took a class from Bob Culp and had him check my gear and give me tips. the more knowledge the better. i would say definetely get some 1 on 1 time with an experienced climber going over placements, and start leading easy, but only after your placements are given the go ahead by someone that knows what they are talking about.

Take your time, and you will learn (hopefully not the hard way!) i think this is the greatest sport, but it can be dangerous if you rush into it without proper instruction.

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By Paul Shultz
From Hudson, Ma
Jan 21, 2010
Me!
Hey there Kevin,
I applaud your enthusiasm, but I really suggest you do some sport climbing in the gym first and see how you feel. If you like that and want to start to learn to lead, find an AMGA guide service in your area and either see if they have a rock skills program or hire one of their guides to taking you out and you can get the swing of things.

Learning to lead is an apprenticeship. You first follow and learn all kinds of fun stuff, then you learn to lead from a knowledgeable partner, someone who can follow your early leads and critique what you do.

One thing I do have to say as well, you're at a good spot grade wise, but if you've only ever climbed inside, get on some real rock, even if it's just top roping.

Good luck, be safe, and wear a helmet!

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By John Maguire
From Boulder, CO
Jan 21, 2010
Bastille Crack Final Pitch
I'd say find someone who is a very solid trad leader and follow them for a while. Really look hard into how they place gear and some of the strategies they look for in doing so.

I tried to start leading too early and wish I had followed my own advice here better. I managed to get by without any real injuries but I sure did get uncomfortable a little bit too often.

I don't necessarily think a lead course is necessary as long as you find a suitable mentor. Your first experiences outdoors should be following though and not leading.

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By AnthonyM
Jan 21, 2010
Maroon Bells-Bell Cord Couloir
I agree with John-Follow, follow, follow. Seeing where an experienced climber places gear and how they do it, as well as some instruction is a great way to learn. Eventually your first trad-lead ought to be on something very easy. Its different when you need to pick both the piece and the place while climbing. Start following an experienced climber and see what happens. I agree with your dad. I took a college level class on trad placements and I am very thankful that I did. Especially in rare situations... Just try to be patient and you'll get there!

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By Jason Wiggins
From Draper, UT
Jan 21, 2010
Hey Kevin,

My first lead was a trad lead many years ago. I am still very proud of this. If this is what you want to do, stick with your goal. I am confident you will not be disappointed. Your Dad is one of the few people on this earth that truly gives a shit about you so listen to him before listening to anyone on this website including me. You cannot go wrong with taking a course. Your practice will certainly put you ahead so do not discount it. If pop is willing to spring for a course I would recommend some one-on-one coaching with an AMGA guide. Maybe your dad will join you? I am certain you will learn a lot.

Good luck!

Jason

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By Jim Gloeckler
From Denver, Colo.
Jan 22, 2010
Kevin,

I learned almost everything from Royal Robbins books Basic Rockcraft and Advanced Rockcraft. That was many years ago when sport routes were not around yet per say. Anyhow those books are old for today's standards but still have a bunch of valuable information in them! I suggest you go with what most folks say here, and find a guide for a few climbs if you are going outdoors. You can always take a lead class at your rock gym for sport climbing. Learn trad at a slow pace difficulty wise, and always learn about the route before doing it. Then when you get to the 5.9 level, try to do varied type of climbs to get the best overall experience, slabs, thin cracks, roofs etc. Just be careful to start out, because you have 20 years before you really peak in performance since climbing is so experience oriented. Have fun.

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By koreo
From Denver, CO
Jan 22, 2010
sloping
The one thing I've learned about climbing, is that sometimes you just have to dive in head first into something new. The risks are great, but the rewards are so much sweeter. Life is boring if you're not willing to take some chances. Just my personal perspective, but then again i'm a little crazy.

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