What was your first lead? Please describe.


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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.

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.

Mountain climber
GOP Convention
Nov 1, 2011 - 05:26pm PT
The Trough at Big Rock, 5.4?, all bolts, it was a hot day, the holds were slick and my mentor was threatening to kill me if I didn't lead it. 1974.

The evil one

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.....
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