What was your first lead? Please describe.


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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
Dallas, Texas
Dec 3, 2012 - 11:47am PT
at a climbing gym, it was a 5.9... plastics holds, no takes... exposure was insane !!!

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 1982
professor falls 1982
Credit: Stewart Johnson
Riley Wyna

Trad climber
A crack near you
Dec 3, 2012 - 10:27pm 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

Just climbed here for the first time - rope solo and then toprope solo of about 6 independent lines up to 5.8...great piece of rock.
Love Boulder Canyon...love it

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.

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Dec 4, 2012 - 12:12pm PT
Riley, did you do The Owl? The committing move to the chicken heads, the short handcrack, the little roof with the head jam at the top, that was my first 5.7 lead, lots of interesting moves on that one.

Mountain climber
La Mancha
Dec 4, 2012 - 12:26pm PT
The Flue at JTree. I think it goes at 5.6 and is a right leaning crack/traverse. I had just gone big on a shiny new rack and was anxious to show my friends how cool I was, having been climbing for a whole 5 months or so.

I launched off and placed a bunch of nuts about every 3 to 4 feet. About 20 feet from the top I realized that I was pretty much out of gear and would have to balls it out to the top. Shith just got serious...

My belayer, who was fond of giving "penalty slack" and letting you free fall for about 5 feet when lowering, just happened to flick the rope right then and I watched all my placements zipper out to the one just below me. Of course all the pieces zipped down the rope and hit her, causing her to drop the rope.

Freaking out, I ended up finishing the route, but I then spent the rest of the weekend learning how to properly place gear...

Trad climber
Salt Lake City
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:36pm PT
African Flake Big Rock. I think I sh#t myself. Early 80's. First multipitch-Uneventful, Tahquitz.
Andy Fielding

Trad climber
Dec 4, 2012 - 03:01pm PT
Diamond Crack, Froggatt Edge, Peak District, UK. It was 1976, I was 15. The route is only 25' long and HS 4b (5.6). I think that was my entire rack right there on my Whillans harness.

First lead 1976
First lead 1976
Credit: Andy Fielding

Trad climber
Mancos, CO
May 17, 2013 - 10:39am PT

You only get to lose your virginity once so it's gonna be memorable!

Lot's of great stories posted so far.

Soooo, how did you lost your cherry?

Trad climber
vagabond movin on
May 17, 2013 - 12:10pm PT
E.O. Lieback 5.5 @ Vedauwoo. Perfect 1st trad experience back in '94.

Trad climber
Concord, CA
May 17, 2013 - 12:31pm PT
All five pitches of the nutcracker, I was terrified
G Zeus

Trad climber
Tucson, AZ
May 17, 2013 - 01:29pm PT
Table Mountain, near Sonora, Ca. Something on Welcome Wall. Maybe Keebler's Revenge?

A guy at work said he knew how to climb and I wanted to, so I bought some gear and off we went. I didn't know that he really didn't know what he thought he knew.

There was already a bail biner a couple bolts up. He got that far, bailed, and pulled the rope. Then it was my turn. I tied in, placed a draw or two and clipped them, then headed up toward the hard stuff.

That's when actual climbers walked past and said something like, "Hey, do you know you're climbing on a static rope?" I was, but I didn't know static rope from a hole in the ground (which is where I'd probably be right now if I had fallen). They just kept walking. I know I can't rely on anybody to make the world safe for me but, they. just. kept. walking. Too busy to save a life, I guess.

I bailed without falling and we moved on to The Grotto where other actual climbers filled me in on dynamic vs. static rope. I never climbed with that guy again. I did, however, devour Basic Rockcraft, How to Rock Climb, Climbing Anchors, and Freedom of the Hills.

I met Before-Christ Go-B that day and we became climbing partners.

Sidesaddle at The Grotto is what I consider my first lead; the aforementioned was a close brush with death.

Social climber
Joshua Tree
May 17, 2013 - 01:48pm PT
Some 5.7 or 5.8 fingercrack at Sunset, TN. My rack was a set of stoppers and hexes. Got 15' up, placed a nut, got 40' up, started shaking, sewing machine, pumping out, looking at ground fall. First two nut selections didn't fit...soooo pumped, gottat get the piece in or I deck, finally get a nut placed and clipped, immediately slumped onto it insanely pumped.

Somehow finished the lead, placing about 4 pieces in 80'.
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