Lead Climbing Training

Last night (Wednesday April 15) I took Mark, a neighbor, down to Momentum to teach him Lead Climbing. He asked me about it on Sunday at church and I said "sure, I can do that", since I have done it before (teach lead climbing that is).

We talked some about it, and I told him that lead climbing would quickly make his 5.6's outside feel like 10's and he was a bit skeptical of that.

I took him in and found a hanger about 2' up on the short wall of the middle island of routes and had him practice clipping with both hands from both sides of the quickdraw, then had him take the draw up to a hanger about 9' up and boulder up to it and practice clipping and unclipping from about chest height while hanging on holds, then I had him come down a bit so the draw was barely within reach and again, clip both hands both sides.

Then he felt strong and confident so he tied into the toprope and headed off up the black "yinyang" 5.10 there. At the first clip he couldn't do it so he switched to "rainbowing" the route (Angie's nickname for 'any color hold') and made it to the top. I had him clean on the way down and then gave him some helpful advice to help him do it more efficiently (particularly outside where efficiency and protecting yourself from potential injury or loss is very important). He said that leading was a whole different world and that it felt much harder because of the whole one-hand hanging one-hand busily doing a higher motor skills task. Well, not in those words anyway...

I switched him over to the green "Maple Route" a pebbly 5.10 that I really like. He did good enough and made it, but his main focus is bouldering (in which he says he's working V4's at The Quarry in Provo) so he isn't "efficient" - if you only have to go 12' or so, you can waste energy on all kinds of odd contortions, but on a rope, especially multi-pitch, you need to conserve energy and use better technique and I offered some advice on how to better switch hands and feet rather than making cool-looking crossovers and stepping through with full rotation.

I was trying out my ancient LaSportiva Tradmasters since I'll have to take them to Alaska with me next month. They want me to wear rock shoes I can wear wool socks in and I don't really want to buy new shoes, and these are very sturdy and solid outdoor trad shoes.

La Sportiva Men's Tradmaster Climbing Shoe (Spring 2009)
Click for Details or to Purchase at Moosejaw.com

I decided to get on the black 5.8 that Dallin is working, and it wasn't too bad, just odd without pointy toes. Mark said he'd never done a 5.8, which is too bad, since I think the best learning is from doing 5.8's. Even Jeff (gym owner and major FA/routesetter in Utah) says he's bailed from gnarly 5.8's outside. I explained that to Mark and sent him up the red blocky 5.8 on the other side of the Maple Route without Mock Leading (since it's wild enough without trying to lead it).

He did pretty good, got into some much better positions. I had noticed on the Maple Route that he was resistant to stemming and backstepping, so the ultimate route for that is the black 5.9 in the corner by the 5.9 layback crack. I had him Mock Lead (mock lead is when you're on toprope hauling a second rope and quickdraws up so you can clip and clean as you go up and down - the belayer would typically leave a small loop, about 4' of slack, so that you feel at-risk and understand better the feeling of leading) the route. He did good - really good. I gave him a bit of beta here and there "STEM LEFT" or "BACKSTEP REALLY HIGH RIGHT" and he had a few "gripped" moments, which was cool. When he came down he was pretty wasted.

I ran up the purple 5.7 on the short end of the overhanging wall of the middle island (next to the infamous yellow alien-planet 5.11+ that Angie onsited to cause a near fist-fight when someone dissed her as being unsuitable for climbing anything over 5.9 and she pointed out that was ironic coming from a "flailing gumbie" - LOL!

Feeling much more comfortable in old-school shoes and wool socks. Mark mentioned he used to climb in Madrock Phoenix - about the same deal and very popular shoes.

Mad Rock Phoenix Climbing Shoe
Click for Details or to Purchase at Altrec.com

I sent Mark up the mystery 5.x black route I onsited last week, and he didn't use the arete at all (like I did) and did a decent job. I told him then it was late (after 8 PM) and that I had stuff to pick up at REI so he could go boulder and I'd be back later. I told him he'd learned enough for one night and that we'd take him outside for a real lead on a 5.7 before he got psyched to take the lead test at Momentum - an overhanging 5.10a (but really juggy).

When I got back he was working a V3 with some friends and I gave them some cool beta and Mark just barely grabbed the top hold on his final try. We headed home then. Good night!