What was your first lead? Please describe.


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Social climber
flagstaff arizona
Nov 1, 2011 - 12:37am PT
Galwas Crack @ Mission Gorge (San Diego). Dirty 5.9 crack with hexes! I hadn't even bought nuts yet (but I did own one cam, a #4 Camalot, that may have been used).

Jesus Nutnob your first lead was Galwas Crack!? That's pretty proud n' burly!

Trad climber
Starlite, California
Nov 1, 2011 - 01:23am PT

The first leads I recall: 1st pitch of Portent in the Pinnacles; the 2nd pitch of Munginella together with the 1st and 3rd of of Selanginella, when my partner and I ran them together to approximate a Grade III. Swinging leads on Fairview Regular, I drew the 2nd pitch, a rattly 5.8 hands, or fist (don't remember which). Cams hadn't been invented yet, so the only piece of my parsed rack was this large hex, which fell out of the crack every time I moved up; I'd snag the thing and try and get it to stick above me. In this manner, I somehow managed to get to the small pine at the stance, spent in mind and body.

1st 5.10 lead was the well named Head Rush on Lembart. Once on top we had to throw down a TR to some Brits, whose leader had become gripped out on the top bolt of Werner's.

I'd say it took me about 10 years of apprenticeship to come into his own as the Leader. I trolled thru Camp 4 one Sunday, looking for a day partner, whom I eventually met as a nice young woman from North Carolina, and basically walked her up Grack Marginal on the east side of the Apron, realizing, apparently, that I seemed to climb with a lot more focus on Lead than on a TR. Things had suddenly clicked!

From that day of the epiphany forward, I literally became a Lead Hog, and was to end up leading every pitch of every climb I made.

My guess is that if you can put it together on lead, move effectively, and get your gear, but still feel a bit anxious, you're not quite there yet. If you can't wait to getu up there and place your first piece, and feel completely at home in your environment, you've arrived. It's just one of those things. No one has to tell you you're a Leader - you just know it.

Gym climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:02am PT
Portent for bolts, and I can't remember my first gear lead. Knapsack Crack, Pop Bottle, Grack, and Munginella were early ones, though.

Boulder climber
San Jose, CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:09am PT
My first "lead" was a two-bolt thing on Shady Rock (Castle Rock State Park) called Slot Nos back in 1996. It was 5.9 at the time and is now considered 5.8.

My first real lead was Coyote Ugly at Pinnacles (5.9, 150' with 4 bolts and a cam placement). Now that was spicy for a first full-pitch lead in 1997.

Boulder climber
I'm James Brown, Bi-atch!
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:23am PT
do you still get a dozen donuts for your first lead like the ol days?

or is everybody strung out on luke warm PBR from somebody's crusty artesian sleeping bag?

what was the last thin you threw up from j box?

what did it look like coming out?

greenish brown, or mild yellow?

ever drop a deuce in somebody's bird bath?


Social climber
Mill Valley, CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 10:40am PT
Cathedral Peak. I had followed it the year before and knew the placements were good. Many sweaty palm moves later, I sat on the summit pedestal not sure whether to laugh or cry. No idea if any of the placements were good since we never tested them but it sure was an eye opener.

seth kovar

Reno, NV
Nov 1, 2011 - 10:58am PT
The Perfect Lie Back is @ Woodfords

Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:05am PT
My first complete lead (I had a couple of 1/2 leads where I wussed out on the way up) was "The Owl" at Mission Gorge - 1975.

From the City That Dreams
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:06am PT
Criminey, seth, that was your first lead?

Gym climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:08am PT
Honestly, it was my first real lead.

Late 70's. We poured out of the school vans onto the dirt parking lot. I was given a few ropes, a rack of stoppers and hexes, and 3 or 4 "students" from our class. I was told to go take these folks up East Wall at the Leap. Marty Garrison was in charge of the class and Lars Holbeck was the other "teacher." What a hoot.

Hey, I'd read both of Royal's books. I was solid (although I did get lost on the traverse).

Ice climber
the ford VT
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:12am PT
First lead was that little mixed thing with three bolts in the amphitheater of hyalite.
I hooked all the bolts, and hung from my leashe, but made it out to the ice. When I went to place my first screw I dropped the only screw I was carrying and had to run it out to the anchor, (dead log).
It took forever, my belayer froze and I did it in super poor style but I finished it and I was a lead climber! then slowly I went down to leading ice that season, trad that spring and finally sport later the following summer.

Trad climber
Lander, WY
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:16am PT
I think it was Great Northern on Lower Index Town Wall in WA in 1971. Pretty cool stuff. Really decided that climbing was IT when led the Canary Route on Castle Rock in Leavenworth the next year. Pretty stout sh#t for me in those days but I felt so good after wards I knew I was hooked.

Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:26am PT
Hey, I'd read both of Royal's books. I was solid


Big Wall climber
A Token of My Extreme
Nov 1, 2011 - 11:26am PT
HA HA HA!!! Great stories here.

My first lead(s) all blend together. Myself (n00b 1) and n00bs 2,3 & 4 had a big ass expedition to Red Wall, Moscow Crack, 5.6 @ Smith Rocks in 76?

We hauled monstrous packs full of heavy old skool camping gear into the canyon and bivied under a monster Ponderosa that is still there.

We got up in the pre-dawn and struggled to the base. n00b 2, who was the "experienced" member and had a real pair of Shoenards, got about 8 feet up the first pitch and backed off.

n00bs 3 & 4 were not the least bit interested in taking over the sharp end duties. That was a LOT of pre-climb effort to be spanked away 8 feet off the ground!!

I ended up leading all 3 pitches with my funky old mountaineering boots, Swiss seat with too big leg loops sliding down and a couple not big enough hexes rattling out of the wide parts. Oh the sweet horror.....

It took us most of the day to get 4 n00bs up the thing, but I was pretty pleased with myself, and so were my semi-bold partners. I'm still impressed we survived it.

We had ARRIVED!!

Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom
Nov 1, 2011 - 12:06pm PT
Some crumbly thing in Wyoming.

I think a little poo came out.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 12:10pm PT
Not sure but it might have been a big choss pile behind Desert Hot Springs.
I took my obsequious and gullible younger brothers up with Grandma's clothes
line. I would climb to a big ledge and stand there giving them a hip belay.
I'd bring one up, untie him, and toss the rope back down to the next believer.
I was 13 and they were 9. The blind leading the blinder.
I don't recall that we went to Mass the next day but we clearly should have.

Trad climber
Green Mountains, Vermont
Nov 1, 2011 - 12:54pm PT
Absolute first time on lead and placing gear was some chossy chunk a nuthin' 5.whatever in the Blue Hills Reservation outside metropolitan Boston. My eyes were opened in more than one way that day.

My mentor and I are walking in through the woods on the approach to the chosspile and guys are scampering out of our way as they're pulling their pants up. Me whispering, "What the hell are all these guys doing out here???"

Gotta love learning to climb in the urban jungle.

First actual lead was some 5.6 or 5.7 at Den Rocks in Lawrence, Mass. Stolen car capital of Mass. The approach involved climbing over burned out hulks of abandoned cars. The guide book used the graffiti on the wall as reference points, "Follow the crack to the right of the f@#k".

But shortly thereafter I got my license and a job at REI and my escape to the mountains was realized.
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 1, 2011 - 01:03pm PT
Reilly, sounds like confession after Mass might have been a good thing as well.

Merced, CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 01:03pm PT
My first lead was in the gym, at "Stonehenge" in Modesto. Not too memorable except right after that I started getting tendinitis in my elbow, probably from fumbling with the clips while totally gripped.

My first trad lead was a while later, the chimney pitch (p2?) of the Great White Book in Tuolumne. Most people stay at the edge of the chimney with their feet on the slab and shoulder against the flake and just walk up. I got in deep with my back to the slab and squeeze chimney'ed that thing in what was probably a 45-minute-long lead. Incidentally, the first piece of pro I ever placed was a #6 Camalot.

Trad climber
Anchorage, AK
Nov 1, 2011 - 01:47pm PT
The first attempt was Atlas Shrugs at the Pinnacles, I had no idea who Jim Beyer was, nor that perhaps one of his routes would be a poor choice for a noob. The old piton, bolt and cam I placed seemed great and I managed to get about 1/2 way up the first pitch. Then looking upwards I was greated with the where do I go now sensation, and no pro visible for the next 30 feet. The 100+ temps and lack of pro melted any sense of boldness. Technically the 5.9 should have been within my reach, but I was over my head for a first lead.

Then we skulked back to the monolith. My guide book was the old white one sans topos. I managed to get to get on POD and made it to the second bolt, but it seemed hard, and it was @ 5.10d. Pretty disconcerting to have bailed off two routes on my first attempt at leading, but I was not deterred, not yet. Piecing together a small rack was tough enough, and I was not about to leave a quick draw to bail off of. So somehow I managed the nerve to make it back to the second clip, then traverse right over to subterranean tango, and worked my way up to the top of the monolith. To those not familiar with the Pinnacles, Subteranian starts in a cave below the start of pod, so I'd gone from maybe 15' off the deck on the second clip, to somewhere around 40' off the deck for the third clip, with a pendulum and possible grounder if I blew it.

So I guess my first lead was the Post Orgasmic Tango.
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