Trad lead climbing is a tricky game balancing the pure physical climbing with the need to stop and handle a whole host of paraphernalia to protect the route appropriately. As with many things in life, it pays to be organised. Follow these eight tips to lead trad better on the sharp end of the rope, writes James Thacker, IFMGA Mountain Guide.
- Check the fundamentals. Before setting off on any lead it is worthwhile to have a routine. Banish any worries about knots and the rope by checking after tying in and ensuring the rope is flaked out to avoid any obstructions when paying out. You don’t want to interrupt your big lead as your mate untangles the rope.
- Clean your boots. We love investing in the latest rock shoe technology to aid our vertical progress. But don’t make the mistake of setting off with grass and sheep poo on the bottom of them. Give boots a good clean so that they are free from grit and other nasties, and even “squeak” and warm the rubber with you hands before stepping off the deck.
- Break it down. How often have you looked up to see an enormous task? Break it down into stages, and look for rests. When you climb upwards try and reward yourself when you complete a stage however long it takes. You can then think of a route or project in positive terms even if you don’t get up it first time. “I climbed all but one section”, rather than “I failed”…!
- Be organised. Have a system to organise all your gear on your harness, in extremis you want to be able to find that crucial bit of gear. Items like your belay plate and screw gate karabiners are unlikely to be required mid pitch o stash them at the back of your harness out of the way. A useful exercise is to be able to find your kit with your eyes closed, a good one to try at ground level.
- Anticipate Rests. Try and anticipate where you might be able to get a hands off rest, or even place protection from a restful position. Remember that sometimes it might make sense to be tactical and reverse a few moves to get a good rest before launching into the crux. It’s not cheating to stack the odds in your favour.
- Choose your battle. When stepping up a grade chose routes that inspire you but also suit your style. If you like technical vertical walls, go for these routes rather than trying to break into the next grade on a massively overhanging roof. The likes of which you have probably avoided in the past.
- Choose your partner. Faith in your partner is essential, not only in their technical ability but in the knowledge that they will give you a nice tight rope when required or quickly pay out the slack to anticipate that tricky clip. Having a good relationship with your partner is imperative and knowing that they will also encourage you to go for it when required is essential. Finally, it’s also handy if they know when to remain silent allowing you to concentrate your thoughts towards the crux.
8. Customise your kit. Have a good look at the route ahead and try and customise your kit accordingly. Rarely, does it make sense to carry a full rack for all occasions allowing you to save some weight. A full rack of large cams isn’t going to help you on a small peg scarred finger crack either, so double up on the wires instead and maximise your protection possibilities.
For more top climbing tips (and for your own tailored experience of trad climbing) contact James Thacker at Off Piste Performance.