Do you remember your first lead?


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Trad climber
Oct 11, 2018 - 08:22am PT
My first was a 5.6 at Wasootch slabs. Was also one of my first climbs.
Soon after I graduated to 5.6 on Yamnuska, which is longer but less daring than 5.6 at J Tree

Trad climber
Oct 11, 2018 - 08:36am PT
I was 12 y/o, scrambling along the base at Stoney Point one day; I came across a few Sierra Club R.C.S. guys in mountain boots and wearing helmets, who were sieging a 5.7 route up the main wall. They called me over, saying "hey kid, come here".

At the time, I had yet to tie into a rope, but I wandered over anyway as they looked like harmless old duffers. The leader of the group offered me the end of the rope and asked if I would like to give it a try. I knew how to tie a bowline, so I tied in and took the meager rack they offered. The move that had stopped them in their mountain boots was low down and I cruised through it in my new PAs. I remember vaguely trying to figure out how to use the gear as they called out advice and encouragement, and I somehow managed to get some gear in and made it to the top. I clearly recall placing a tube chock sideways like a giant stopper. Obviously I survived, and from that day on led every climb I did for the next few years.

When I look back now, I realize that nobody would consider offering an unknown 12 y/o the sharp end for many reasons, insurance, liability, etc. and no 12y/o would go near a bunch of strange looking old guys hidden in the rocks, but it was a different time.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Oct 11, 2018 - 09:26am PT
One friend took me top-roping a handful of times, teaching me to make natural anchors with nuts and cams. I bought a #4 Camalot to supplement his rack. I read Freedom of the Hills. I bought my first set of hexes because they were much cheaper than cams.

Then I went out with a different friend, and on-site led the 5.9 Galwas Crack at Mission Gorge (San Diego area). A bit sandy/silty!

I haven't progressed much in the last 23 years.

rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Oct 11, 2018 - 09:40am PT
Goldline rope, a few pins and biners, mountain boots on verglas slab (unknown to us but rated 5.8 in dry conditions) December 1969.

Social climber
The internet
Oct 11, 2018 - 09:54am PT
The guide told me my gear suk'd so we spent the rest of the afternoon on the ground placing gear. I free soloed the thing before leaving for the day. 3 years later I did my first A5 (so rated) El Cap route.

Trad climber
Oct 11, 2018 - 10:29am PT
1980 at Williamson Rock. I was 14 and I had just bought my first kermantle rope, I had been using my dads goldline for top roping prior to this. I had a few hexes and a number 3 stopper I bought at The Granite Stairway in SLO a few weeks earlier and was excited to use it. We climbed the main face of Williamson from the Mushroom Boulder up a gully to a headwall near the top. Anyone who has climbed at Willy knows there are not too many cracks so it was pretty runout at times but I didn't know any better. The last pitch is up a short headwall and that was protected by a star drive bolt and a homemade hanger, possibly one my dad had placed when he climbed there in the late 60's, who knows? I led the final headwall pitch at probably 5.8 and wedged myself in a depression and gave my partner a hip belay up. I probably weighed 120 soaking wet and my partner at least 180, I always made sure I found a big rock to sit behind or some other way to prevent getting yanked off the mountain. I was a fairly new climber and I didn't remember much about anchoring yourself while belaying or maybe I just skipped that part in Basic Rockcraft. Anyway, I survived.

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Oct 11, 2018 - 10:39am PT
A juicy 60m of plastic WI3+ on a perfectly gorgeous day.

Oh, and at least 12 screws.

Didn't lead rock until a few years later.


Trad climber
the middle of CA
Oct 11, 2018 - 10:41am PT
Yes, because it was a 5.8 Tobin Sorensen slab route and I didnít know any better.

Trad climber
Redwood City, CA
Oct 11, 2018 - 10:42am PT
My first lead was Fingertip at Tahquitz. My mentor, Virgil Shields, had led me up a few climbs and then handed me the rack and said it was my turn. I wandered a bit and created an amazing amount of rope drag. Partly because of that, I was a few feet short of the anchor at the top and had to Macgyver things with some slings. I was pretty pumped when I got to the top. Someone I later figured out was Clark Jacobs also topped out after soloing Left Ski Track (I think). He was completely pumped for me finishing my first lead.
Dick Danger

Trad climber
Lakewood, Colorado
Oct 11, 2018 - 11:36am PT
Classic Dihedral 5.7+, Bucksnort Slabs, South Platte area near Pine, CO. Circa 1990.

Mountain climber
Redmond, Oregon
Oct 11, 2018 - 11:46am PT
Yes, and I was scared out of my f'n mind....

Social climber
Desolation Basin, Calif.
Oct 11, 2018 - 11:52am PT
My first lead was Fingertip at Tahquitz. My mentor, Virgil Shields, had led me up a few climbs...

You did more than one route in a day with Virgil? I ain't buyin' it! :-)

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
Oct 11, 2018 - 12:42pm PT
Actual photo of my first lead - late May 1972 - East Slab, The Dome - Boulder Canyon. One of our party ran around the back and took a pic from the top.

Don Paul

Social climber
Washington DC
Oct 11, 2018 - 12:55pm PT
My first lead was with a rack of about 3 stoppers, maybe six biners, a machete, and 150' of gold line I used for caving, on a 5.1 in the new river va. I guess I thought I would be chopping a lot of plants on the route. Almost dropped it on my belayer too, when I pulled over a small roof and it started sliding out of the sheath ...

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 11, 2018 - 01:10pm PT
A machete!? Damn... I've been climbing with the wrong protection for sure!
August West

Trad climber
Where the wind blows strange
Oct 11, 2018 - 01:19pm PT
I don't remember my first lead, but I remember my first fall and that wason a friction route TwoShoes put up at tollhouse.

My first lead was pretty boring. I did laps on the first pitch of Jamcrack on a toprope and then lead it.

My second lead, we had walked up to a climb my partner hadn't done before. There was a short lieback, flake before it mellowed to what looked like easy terrain. My partner said I should lead it, not knowing better, I agreed.

I got my feet ~8 feet off the ground, was struggling mightily, grabbed the biggest stopper off the rack, blindly put it behind the flake and pulled down until it stopped, got a sling on it and clipped the rope, and then, while trying to take a peek to see if it actually looked any good, fell off. Flipped upside down, from the rope behind my leg, and came to a stop with my head a couple feet off the ground.

I didn't finish the lead.

But my placement skills were perfect.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 11, 2018 - 03:27pm PT
The climb you're describing sounds a lot like "Lemon" which is a shitty crack/flake just down from Jamcrack. Was that the one?

That sounds a lot like my second lead too! I was about 15 feet of the deck in Mt. Woodson on some dumb flaring crack and flipped upside too..
Larry Nelson

Social climber
Oct 11, 2018 - 03:56pm PT
"The Ramp" in Mission Gorge, San Diego. 5.7, One hex, two stoppers, one original Friend.

Been awhile, but I remember Galwas Crack as being kinda greasy slick. That's an impressive first lead. Your climbing progress since then probably surpassed mine, heh.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 11, 2018 - 04:51pm PT
Larry Nelson // NutAgain!

Surprised to see so many first leads at Mission Gorge! Im not far, I did some of my first TR's there. Slippery mess that place is..
Matt Sarad

Oct 11, 2018 - 06:16pm PT
I think it was Initiation Crack at the Kern Slabs. I skipped the 10a part and started at the 5.7 part.
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