Do you remember your first lead?


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Trad climber
portland, or
Oct 12, 2018 - 03:42pm PT
Joe Healy will appreciate this. As a teenager, beginning to climb in 1970, I followed a few leads at Broughton's Bluff (Lewis & Clark State Park, near Troutdale, OR). Then, I conned my high school buddy, who was one year older and taller than me, to try the Standard SE Corner of Beacon Rock, then a 5.6 (now a 5.7). I led the whole thing, no falls. My buddy could follow anything I could lead, but he never led. I offered, but he never took advantage of the opportunity. I guess he was smarter than me! Most of the time he beat me at chess. He could also do the Rubik's cube in less than two minutes consistently. Oh, and he became a member of MENSA.
David Knopp

Trad climber
Oct 12, 2018 - 05:44pm PT
Duchess right in Indian Cove, at J Tree. It's maybe 30 feet high and i had a full rack, doubles of cams to #3, two sets of stoppers. Damned if i didn't try to place all that gear, mostly from fear. Took me about an hour. My wife was belaying me, i swear she was staring off in the distance trying not to laugh too loudly. She has always been a better climber than me...

Oct 12, 2018 - 06:01pm PT
Absolutely - with first partner Peter Malarkey. We walked up to the Four Horsemen formation at Smith Rock on a hot summer day, no one else around, I thought the crack with the overhang at the beginning looked pretty cool. Friday's jinx, described in the first Watts guide as follows:

"This sinister route put half a dozen people in the hospital during the '80s. Oddly, the rock is solid and the protection reasonable, but for unknown reasons gear-ripping falls are a common occurrence on the first pitch."

...I got a nut in the first roof about eight feet off the ground, a hex in about 15 feet later , but the hex fell out. I'm not sure I remember the rest, other than I resolved to learn about routes more before I did them.

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
Oct 13, 2018 - 04:32am PT
No, I donít

Trad climber
Oct 13, 2018 - 09:09pm PT
Some hammering was involved, a rope that wouldn't have held...alone...only one fatality that way...managed to drop the hammer... watched it drop in a plumb line down the headwall, ricochet off the slab below and crash trough the trees. The climbing was the easy part.

Trad climber
Oct 13, 2018 - 11:34pm PT
only one fatality that way

I like that. Thoughtful. Haha!


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Oct 14, 2018 - 02:16am PT
1974 in Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois. A 5.8 under the watchful eye of one Greg Bailey.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Oct 14, 2018 - 10:53am PT
First lead
Early-mid 70s
About 15 years old
Some unknown choss crag in New England
Yellow polypropylene rope
Hey, the leader doesn't fall, so you just need a top-rope for the second, right?

My desire to start leading preceded my ability to pay for 120 feet of Goldline.

Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Oct 14, 2018 - 01:10pm PT
^^^ LOL, great post!
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
Oct 14, 2018 - 05:54pm PT
All the nuts fell out behind me-lars

Trad climber
Joshua Tree
Oct 15, 2018 - 03:44pm PT
All the nuts fell out behind me

Classic. I was so scared of useing nuts when I first started (being in the age of SLCD's and all) but i've learned to properly set them and love them over time.

the last bivy
Oct 15, 2018 - 05:40pm PT
I do because I took a 3 day lead class with Tom Carter at Bela (RIP) and Mimi's ( cheers to you) ASI in 2002 or 2003 something like that. Couldn't have been a better experience. Tom insisted his class lead with all sorts of passive gear and all sorts of cams. Awesome. I learned so much. Very first lead was at Grouse Slab at Donner with Tom's coaching starting on Insidious Crack to Jelly roll to the other trad leads around the feature. I'm glad I learned from such a pro. We talked about skiing the entire time.

Social climber
Location: It's a MisterE
Oct 15, 2018 - 07:23pm PT
Mount Verstovia out of Sitka on mushrooms with my friend Ted in 1986.

We were not climbers, but eschewed the trail and soloed up a sketchy route on the west face - replete with lichen, moss and slick tennis shoes.

I only say it was a "lead" because I kept having to urge Ted on - it became more difficult the higher (both mentally & geographically) we got.

5.6X BW3:


Trad climber
Yacolt, WA
Oct 16, 2018 - 06:51pm PT
Seared in my mind

Wiessner Crack at the Main Cliff of Ragged. 5.3. The ground was badly eroded at the base. Did some funky move to get on the crack. Promptly fell off slicing my finger open. Now it was very clear that this is serious. Got back up and laced the crack earning my name. Leading made climbing all new again and made easy climbs suddenly fascinating.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Oct 18, 2018 - 03:14pm PT
It was some sort of a sport crag by Auburn or something similar. Near Sacramento. At that point my only climbing experience was from friend taking me out on my first multipitch climb at the Lovers Leap. Some 3 pitch 5.8 near bears reach. East wall or east face? He was the only leader with 3 followers. #noobshit
After that we went out to top rope at Cosumnes River gorge. Was owned by dinkum crack. And I think another friend took me to top rope in the gym once. So 3 days of climbing ever prior to the lead?
Anyway, same friend took us to that sport crag and gave me some draws. Said to clip draws into bolts and rope into draws and I was off. After 5 or so bolts I got pumped to hell, my body started to shake and I took my first leader fall on my first lead. Don't really remember how long was the fall but I finished the route after hanging. Lol that went better than my first mountain climb a year prior. Story short, Mount Shasta in early July. No sleeping pad, unrated sleeping bag, no crampons/ice axe. Cotton shirt, snowboarding jacket, a sandwitch, running shoes and a few apples. No water from Lake Helen to the top. That was my first camping trip ever. God that was horrible and dangerous. Don't trust your boxing coach with mountain climbing logistics.

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Nov 5, 2018 - 05:51pm PT
Got back up and laced the crack earning my name

Well done seamstress. Hahaha

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Nov 5, 2018 - 06:45pm PT
Speaking of abject ignorance... did anyone else whip on their first lead??

I saved that thrill for my third, Cascading Crystal Kaleidoscope at the gunks. I traversed out from the corner and started to move up. I'd never been pumped climbing before and it took me totally by surprise. I came off while I was desperately trying to fit an old Clog hex into the crack. Exciting fall.

Trad climber
Fair Oaks
Nov 5, 2018 - 08:19pm PT
My first lead was Upper Right Ski Track on Intersection Rock in Joshua Tree.

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Nov 5, 2018 - 08:52pm PT
Angel's Fright (5.4) at Tahquitz. We had 120' of some weird soft (!) 3/8" goldline, cost $13 at the hardware store. Couple of pitons, 3 army steel biners (one for each piton, that must be right, eh?), probably 2 shoulder length runners one of which for the "rack". Hammers swiped from our fathers' toolboxes, preferably ball peen to minimize discomfort and shredding of the back pocket they were put into. Basically 30s kind of kit. I led the whole thing, we sat behind trees for belay anchors. Placed exactly one pin, at the crux overlap, having zero clue whether it would hold a fall.

But we didn't care, the idea of falling was so remote that it wasn't scary in the least, just a huge lot of fun. In true California fashion, we burned a giant splif on top to celebrate, then wondered how do you get down?

First leader fall was a few months later, off Never Never Land (10a) in the Gunks, climbing in semi-tight hiking boots (Pivettas or similar). Zinged off a pebble stretching to try to clip the spinner bolt that existed at that time. Fortunately, this was on somebody else's actual climbing rope, not the funky goldline-ish stuff. Undaunted, I got right back on and fired the pitch, with a second round of excitement when my boot split along the whole length of the eyelets and almost fell right off my foot in the middle of the hand traverse. Great days!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Nov 5, 2018 - 09:11pm PT
You move from not remembering the name of your first grade teacher to not remembering your first lead and on...horror of not remembering who you first had sex with. With any luck, you may remember to bring the trash out tomorrow.
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