What was your first lead? Please describe.


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Trad climber
Brea ca.
Nov 1, 2011 - 01:56pm PT
Eschar. 5.4 on trashcan rock in jtree. A little tricky for the grade, and I used every piece on the rack, and had nothing left for the anchor. good times...
Floyd Hayes

Trad climber
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 01:58pm PT
In tennis shoes with an odd assortment of a dozen or so nuts and no chalk bag on Harding Route III 5.7 on Glacier Point Apron, back in 1982. I had never placed gear or set up a belay anchor, only heard how to do it from a friend who took a group of us up Snake Dike III 5.7 (my first climb) a week earlier. I led more than half of the 15 or so pitches (many short) and took a 15' whipper high up on the route. I had rappelled only once before, maybe 40', so I was terrified by the prospect of rappelling 1000' in the dark. Luckily my partner had a headlamp, but I didn't, so after he went first on each of perhaps 15 rappels, I had to set up my figure-8 and clean gear off each bolted rap station in the dark. I swore I would never climb again, but only 5 days later I climbed Royal Arches III 5.6 A2 (as it was rated at the time) and bailed off North Dome--South Face III 5.7.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:01pm PT
A squeeze chimney at Little Table Mountain whose name I never knew. I placed no pro so I assumed it was Class-4. My first chimney lead in the Valley was Church Bowl Chimney, which seemed to me about the same difficulty as that chimeny at Little Table Mountain (except I placed on piece of pro in Church Bowl Chimney). If so, I guess my first lead was easy fifth class.


Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:04pm PT
Floyd, the Harding Route must have been quite an undertaking for a first lead. I, too, fell about 15 feet -- but low on the route when I misjudged where a handhold was. This was in 1970, and we only carried five or six nuts, but maybe 15 pitons. I learned that placing pitons in lieback position -- even if the liebacks aren't hard -- is a nontrivial matter.

Good job!

Floyd Hayes

Trad climber
Hidden Valley Lake, CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 02:19pm PT
I was 20 years old. In retrospect I feel fortunate to have survived! My climbing partner was in his 40s and wore stiff-soled boots, but he had previously climbed a bunch of routes. The worst part was when we got to the top. Roper's guide briefly described a walk-off which we couldn't find in the dark. But fortunately somebody had installed a bunch of bolted rap stations, each with two bolts connected by a chain. We simply looped the rope around the chain, so had a bolt failed I wouldn't be writing this.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Nov 1, 2011 - 03:31pm PT

I've done the "walk-off." It's the old Glacier Point Terrace route, and even it involves a rap or two, in addition to a very easy -- but somewhat exposed -- traverse. When Robbins reviewed Roper's Red Guide, his only real criticism was Roper's description of the Glacier Point Terrace descent route. When we got to the top of the Harding Route, we also noticed rap stations going straight down (and anchors every 75 feet, which would have been right for a doubled rope in those days).

Knowing of Robbins' criticism, and never having climbed Glacier Point Terrace, we were tempted to follow those raps straight down, but we figured we had enough time to look around. It was a good choice. After one rappel, we found the traverse point rather easily -- although we saw raps leading straight down there, too.

When Roper's Green Guide came out, the first place I looked was for the Glacier Point Terrace description. It was essentially the same as in the Red Guide.


Nov 1, 2011 - 03:44pm PT
August of 1954. Soloed the east face of Longs Peak, wandering up chimneys and cracks on the Mills Glacier Buttress, then Little Notch. I was 17 and didn't really know what I was doing. Wore J. C. Higgins work boots and carried along a 50 foot manilla rope about 3/8" diameter. Had to loop it over a knob above me and pull on it to get up a blank section of a dihedral. A priceless experience virtually unobtainable today.

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Nov 1, 2011 - 03:45pm PT
My FIRST SOLO was when I was 4 y/o in Japan,
climbing the rock terrace behind our house.
Unfortunatly I took a header the second time I did it and cracked my skull open.
This pic of the terrace behind our house was taken about a week before
I cracked my skull open.
photo not found
Missing photo ID#149170

My little brother are standing on the 2nd story porch of our house

Trad climber
Boston, MA
Nov 1, 2011 - 04:00pm PT

Thin Air, Cathedral Ledge, NH.

Hook, line, sinker, and bit off half the fishing pole.


Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 04:02pm PT

Wish I could remember!

Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 04:24pm PT
1981 Uriah's Heap (5.7) at, well...Hueco. I had followed Cakewalk (5.6) two days earlier, and had followed Uriah's the day before, so it was my 3rd day climbing. I had 5 pieces of gear in my rack (and was quite proud of it!). My partner, Les and I arrived at the Front Side to see a guy (Donny) at the end of the 1st pitch of Indecent Exposure (5.10), and his second, Gary, falling over and over off the same move about 10 feet up. My partner suggests that I climb something with Gary, then ties in and finishes Indecent Exposure/Tree Route with Donny.

Gary is totally bummed, so I suggest Uriah's. I lead the first pitch and figure he will lead the crux second pitch. At the belay he says he doesn't feel up to it, so I think, "Hey, I'm roped up. What could happen? I'll be fine." So off I go. Two slung potholes later I set my beloved #9 hex and launch off up the diagonal roof crack. By the time I get to the belay stance that #9 is 30 feet below and 20 feet to one side (actual distances are probably shorter). As I set up the belay I hear Les calling from around the corner, asking what we are on. Gary answers. Then Les hollers to ask who's leading. Gary answers again. After a pause Les asks the same question. When he gets the same answer he asks what pitch, and Gary lells back that I have just finished #2. After Gary comes up I start up the last pitch only to find Les and Donny waiting and watching.

After that I was one of the clan.

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Nov 1, 2011 - 04:25pm PT
Oh Steve, you are not that OLD!!!
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 1, 2011 - 05:07pm PT
Steve, I thought your first lead was this summer in the Winds. HaHa. How did your slide show go?

Big Wall climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 05:11pm PT
Some 5.6 in Cosumnes river gorge, the easy thing on upriver end of Buck's Bar Dome. It's a route I could probably have soloed and been less gripped than I was leading the thing.

Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Nov 1, 2011 - 05:40pm PT
Love that photo of Thin Air. The first pitch of Thin Air was my second climb. Alas, not my first lead.

My first lead was Weissner Slab, 5.3, at Ragged Mountain. I charged up without placing a piece and promptly greased off the first high step, and plopped onto the slope. Now I was bleeding, as the Rock Gods demanded.

I remounted the horse that threw me. 2/3 up the slab, there is a short section where pro becomes a little more interesting to place. I was above my last piece and contemplating where should I stop to place the next of my shiney new stoppers. A tiny black snake slithered out of the crack at eye level and scared me to death. Somehow I did not react and stood motionless until the snake moved on. I moved up very quickly to gain the huge ledge above.

Getting off was the next catastrophe. I rigged the rappell and hoped that the rope would come back to me. I needed some help dealing with the friction from that large boulder.

You never forget your first.....

The Granite State.
Nov 1, 2011 - 05:48pm PT
My first sport lead was on a 6a on some scrappy cliff above Kleinne Scheidegg when I was 12 or 13. My first hangdog was there too.

My first gear lead was a .9 at Grouse Slabs on Donner Summit. Can't remember the name, but it is face moves to a short hand crack. I had it dialed and didn't place much gear. My mentor followed and told me that my placements were 50/50 regarding good and junk.

Over half my life climbing, and that lead in CZ sticks with me. My dad and I had no idea what we were doing but went for it anyway. Halfway up, I hear sheep bleating, cowbells ringing, and glaciers calving. It resonated with me and I've been climbing ever since.

Good times, good thread.

Edit, the line at Grouse is Desire. Fitting name I guess.

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe
Nov 1, 2011 - 05:53pm PT
First Trad lead was Surrealistic Pillar (5.7) to Corrugation Corner (5.7) at the Leap. I placed a ton of gear and over-gripped until my hands cramped up and I could barely do the third pitch of Corrugation.

Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 06:18pm PT

Yes, you really can forget your 1st lead. Honestly, I hope that I'm not getting senile. I scared myself back-then so often, I really can't pin it down to one specific climb.

Maybe I really am getting Alzheimer's, ( I had to do a spell check first).

Gym climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 06:27pm PT
the easy thing on upriver end of Buck's Bar Dome

Beginner Cracks


Trad climber
Nov 1, 2011 - 07:36pm PT
About 28-29 years ago in Poland.
It was the final climbing exam organized by High Mountains Club (or something like this). The club was located in Gdansk, some 400 miles from the closest rock. For about half a year we (the students) attended various classes of geology, first aid, survival, knots, climbing history, etc. We practiced climbing on old, decommissioned brick bridges and trees (using their thick bark; some kind of beech). After we finished the climbing course, we had to pass the theory, and show some skills in climbing bridges and trees. The final climbing exam took place in the rock climbing area called Sokoliki, about 15 hours away by train and bus. On the first day, we were roaming free, top roping whatever we could. On the second day, we had to show our leading skills. I dad never led anything before. Since I was quite good top roping, they asked me whether I could lead a pitch of 5.10a or b (can't be sure because we used a different scale). And, of course, I said, yes! I started climbing this ~70 feet mix of face and hand crack rock with about 5 pieces (borrowed). I couldn't place anything for about 1/3 of the rout. Then, I found a placement for my huge hex. OK, I felt quite good about that placement protecting the crux. The crux involved some strenuous move with my right hand above and behind my had. I pulled through, but, to my embarrassment, I saw the hex sliding down the rope to my belayer. I don't remember the rest of the route, but I did finish it and I... passed! Since that, I had a chance to climb in the mountains only a few times. I was very scared to lead anything after that, though.
Now, almost 30 years later, being half the man I used to be, I started climbing again. Still scared of leading...
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