Diary of a Trad Leading Newbie: Part 1

Me up top, building an anchor.

Me up top, building an anchor.

Yesterday, I led my second pitch of trad, ever. For those who don’t know, traditional climbing means that you place your own protection as you go. Placing gear in cracks that will catch you if you fall. It’s cool because any piece of rock with a crack can be protected, and nothing is leftover once you’re finished.

The thing about leading trad, though, is it can be pretty scary.

I’m in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area this week, outside of Las Vegas. A rock climbers’ mecca. Easy to moderate trad is one of the specialties here. My big goal for the week was/is to get more trad leads under my belt. I knew that meant pushing myself, and I knew that it would be a week of growth.

I led that climb yesterday. I whimpered, I fumbled for gear, I lowered on my gear and started again from the bottom. I made it up, built an anchor out of gear, and brought up my second on it. It was scary, it was mentally tough, but I did it. It took a while and a bit of encouragement, but I did it.

That was yesterday. And then there was today. Our group moved to a crag with low-grade trad climbs. I led first. 5 feet above my first piece, the panic set in. That was the end of that lead. I downclimbed and swapped leads with Seth.

Frustration. Anger. Disappointment. I followed that route and only climbed one more for the day. My head was wrecked. Everything felt scary. I sat in the sun and took photos.

Back in the condo tonight I talked with my husband about it. He told me that today wasn’t a failure. It’s just part of the process. I needed that reminder.

Tomorrow Seth and Paul head off to climb Solar Slab, a long route that will take them most of the day. The other three of us will be heading out for some more single pitch trad. And tomorrow I’ll rack up and do what I can to get a few more trad leads under my belt. All part of the process.

—- Read Part 2 of this post here

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4 thoughts on “Diary of a Trad Leading Newbie: Part 1

  1. Kat

    I’m so excited for you! I understand the disappointment. And it is part of the process. I do so hope we get to climb together some day!

  2. Sarah

    I can relate to that feeling when you bail on a lead and it wrecks havoc with your head space. You’re right though, I think it is part of the learning process: learning what you feel comfortable with, what’s too much and when you get overwhelmed, having some perspective on how bailing will feel. I know sometimes it’s the best call for me but other times I’ll feel awesome if I push through it. Not always easy, though, knowing which scenario it is!

    1. Elizabeth Post author

      It’s always nice to know that others experience the same thing. Bailing was the right thing to do that day, but the previous day I pushed through. You’re right, that sometimes it’s hard to make that distinction. Thanks for reading, Sarah!

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