What was your first lead? Please describe.


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Trad climber
Toshi's Station, picking up power converters.
Dec 2, 2012 - 08:11pm PT
some 5.6 at Potter's rock. my partner was more scared for me than I was. first multi pitch, Sea of Tranquility 5.7 on Herring Creek Dome. it started to snow, climbed by someone's bail anchor of 2 micronuts (that got sent to the Philipines!) and quickly made it to the top before it started to dump (it didn't) still love that climb!

Jebus H Bomz

Reno, Nuh VAAAA duh
Dec 2, 2012 - 08:15pm PT
"Ahhhh. . . just put it in. . . if it falls out, put it back in!"

The definitive line of the thread. I have to use that on the next person I mentor.

It's surprising how fast some people pick up gear placement through a bit of following. I had a friend do this solid 5.7 in Arizona (read: a 5.9 elsewhere) as his first lead. I led on his gear afterwards (afraid to trust his first TR anchor), and his placements were all solid. Good thing, since his first lead was also his first upside down whipper! Luckily it was an overhanging climb, with no danger where he fell (an AZ 5.7 indeed). What a first lead!

Bill Mc Kirgan

Trad climber
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Dec 2, 2012 - 09:09pm PT
First trad lead was The Bone (5.5) at Devils Lake. It was highly recommended as a first by friends at the CMC and was fun until I got to the ledge with a roof about 4 feet above it. I crawled on my hands and knees a bit at that point until finding the chimney exit to the right.

Piece of cake on top rope, but as a first lead it gave me plenty to think about.

Trad climber
Joshua Tree
Dec 2, 2012 - 11:02pm PT
Mike's books in a pair of Vans, on an old static line we found in someones garage. 1989

Social climber
So Cal
Dec 2, 2012 - 11:30pm PT
The Trough at Big Rock, although since it was all bolts that wasn't considered a "real" lead.

Angels Fright, Tahquitz with a 120 ft Gold Line tied in with a bowline on a coil, a half dozen or so pitons, a Bell Telephone lineman's hammer with the handle sawed down and a parachute cord keeper sling.


Mt. Mahoganys are your friends!
Al Fylak

Mountain climber
Rochester Hills, MI
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:09am PT
Wandering Tortoise .. Turtle Rock .. JTree .. 1980.
Not much pro (big hexes), but easy climbing.
I remember thinking, "This leading stuff is not so bad".
As I slowly worked up the grades to 5.9, I found out otherwise!
Al Fylak

Mountain climber
Rochester Hills, MI
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:15am PT
I also remember soloing The Trough at Tahquitz around 1984.
Easy fun climb, until I got off route to the left onto some 5.6/7.
Fortunately, I trailed a rope and was able to set up some funky psycho self-belay. Not sure it would have really helped in case of a fall, but it gave me the courage to continue up.

Big Wall climber
san jose, ca
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:21am PT
eKat that is rad!!! and funny haha.

My first gear lead was swan slab gully 5.6 3 pitches woohoo!!!

actually that was my first valley gear lead....
My first gear lead was at castle rock on that 5.6 corner to the right of the waterfall. All I had for pro was stoppers haha
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Dec 3, 2012 - 09:06am PT
Just found a slab in the New River VA and started leading up it, with goldline rope, and about 5 carabiners and 3-4 nuts clipped to the belt loops my my jeans. I also had a machete in a holster on a biner, not sure why but I expected to have to chop through plants at some point. The route actually had a small technical part with a roof, where I sunk one of my stoppers. As I made the move, I remember seeing the machete upside down and ready to slide out of the holster and down onto my belayer and his girlfriend. Luckily this didn't happen and the climb was a great success, probably went at about 5.4.

Trad climber
Dec 3, 2012 - 09:18am PT
Funny how you sell yourself short until somebody MAKES you do something, eh?


Or until you have no choice. Hillarious story Kat; trial by fire, who says no to the Bird?

Trad climber
fort garland, colo
Dec 3, 2012 - 10:12am PT
Whitney-Gilman ridge on Cannon cliff in NH '77
I had to convince my partner it was a 300' 5.4 .. it's a bit longer than thatand about 4 grades harder.

Titons, hexes and a couple of slings,, finished in the dark w/o headlamps of course

Trad climber
Where the Hoback and the mighty Snake River meet
Dec 3, 2012 - 10:42am PT
Interesting how many first leads were at Mission Gorge.
I think mine was too, but it could have been in Eldorado Canyon.
Anyway, the first lead I remember was some chimney at Mission Gorge with no obvious pro. 5.6? I was getting tired looking for pro, and it was short, so I just gunned for the top. Soloed the rope up. Getting up there, I had a moment of panic because I had to set up a belay on a couple of not-so-great looking bolts. I didn't want to f*#k that up, so it took me a bit. Probably longer than the climb did. My SO and his brother were pretty quiet as they came up. Couldn't believe I did it with no pro. They had been making bets about me backng off of it. Showed them. They wouldn't lead it.

But I grew up on Rumson Dr. in Santee and used to play around on the boulders there all the time. All by myself in sneakers.

First *real* lead was Walk On The Wild Side in Josh. LOVED it!

This is a fun thread with some, no all, great stories.
EKat, love that one.

Trad climber
BackInTheDitch BackInTheDirt BackInTheDay
Dec 3, 2012 - 11:56am PT
Or until you have no choice. Hillarious story Kat; trial by fire, who says no to the Bird?


In retrospect, it was pretty funny. . . at the time, it was thought provoking, to say the least.

There was always this air of silent respect while climbing with him.

No screaming for help.



No boasting.

Just STFU and climb.

I can't begin to tell you all the "defining" moments connected with this very day; silently exploding from my soul!

Jim was the perfect mentor, gentleman, confidant. I was one lucky little girl!

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Dec 3, 2012 - 12:28pm PT
June 1972, my first granite lead, East Slab 5.4/5 - The Dome - Boulder Canyon. Old blue Royal Robbins I bought from my mentor. Placed stoppers only, most of them probably weren't too good.

East Slab - The Dome - 1972
East Slab - The Dome - 1972
Credit: ydpl8s

My first sedimentary lead was about a week earlier Calypso 5.6 - Wind Tower - Eldo. Seemed pretty easy, not nearly as slippery as it is nowadays.
Stewart Johnson

lake forest
Dec 3, 2012 - 10:17pm PT
professor falls 1984
professor falls 1984

Dec 3, 2012 - 10:30pm PT
Fingertip Traverse. Tahquitz Rock. 1847.


Social climber
Right outside of Delacroix
Dec 3, 2012 - 11:39pm PT
Eschar. 5.4 on trashcan rock in jtree. A little tricky for the grade

One of my early leads. I still like that climb. Karpkwitz was another early lead. Trash Can is an interesting place.

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:18am PT
By 'lead', what is meant is real stuff I guess! Around the age of 10, my first high boulder was the Roche Hercule east side 'voie normale'. That's an 8 m tall boulder in the Fontainebleau forest (France) where I spent my childhood.

OK, this topic is about 'first leads', but here is a descripton of my first lead fall (ca. 1970, aged 15), copied from a post I once sent on an other site: "My first lead fall was at the Saussois cliffs (France). After a full day of climbing I was quite pumped, but we started up l'Echelle (the ladder, ca 5c), one of the rare multipiches at Saussois. I was leading the second pitch, and had made too much rope drag along the traverse as I started up the final corner. Nothing difficult, but I hadn't been hydrating properly, and cramps started setting into my hands. We used just single (steel) biners, and I remember my fingers not being able to let go of the biner door (ha,ha). I was tugging at the rope so as to place it in the biner, holding the rope with my teeth in order to reach at it once more (everyone does that now and then). While pulling, it must have been a foot that slipped, and I flew. Unfortunately I didn't curse or shout, and the first yank came on my front teeth, which broke. Next I pendled and finally hung below an overhang. The adrenaline must have done its job and I soon got back on the line, now relaxed, and not too shaky. Wasn't much of a fall (ca 30 feet) but I do recall it. BTW, the routes were protected with in place pitons, and we had no harnesses (just a broad, belt type thing, which made you realize about your ribs)."

My first 'real' multipitch lead took place on the limestone face of 'La Pelle' (Diois > SaoŻ synclinal > Trois Becs), somewhere between Lyon and Marseille, in the French Prealps.
photo not found
Missing photo ID#276830
It must have been 1971. The climb (maybe the 'voie de la Tour' ?) was ca. 150 m tall at grade V, and the rope length must have been 40 m, though it might even still have been 30 m, I do not recall. Climbed with my mentor's girl friend and led all pitches though I first thought we would be exchanging leads, ha. She said I was doing well and should just go on.


Mountain climber
San Diego, CA
Dec 4, 2012 - 11:03am PT
Mine was "Turkey Chute" at Mission Gorge, using all cams. I did some other sport leads that day as well.

Dec 4, 2012 - 11:28am PT
I did my first lead in terrible headpointing style (on a 5.9 no less :P) at Seneca Rocks in WV. It was the first, super short pitch of Marshall's Madness. Maybe 40 feet at the most? When I mock-led it the trip before, I fell on top rope before I had my first piece of mock gear in, meaning if I was on lead I'd have been crumpled on the ground in a broken pile.

I always seem to climb so much better on lead that on TR.. And by better I mean with more precision, focus, economy of movement. Even though I can definitely climb harder stuff on top-rope.

Love this climbing thing.
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