Drew and I have been rock climbing since the beginning of our relationship. It has always been something that we have loved doing together but we have never been able to go out and do it on our own because rock climbing can be extremely dangerous if you don’t know the necessary skills and techniques or have all the appropriate gear. We have always gone with a group (Planet of the Apes) or a guide, but now that is all about to change.
Thanks to Walter – our goofy (and awesome) lead climbing instructor with On Rope Consulting. After 2 full days of lessons, we now know all the skills necessary to be able to lead climb on our own – a goal we had set for 2013 (yes, last year) can now be checked off our list!
Round 1: For our first day of lessons we signed up for ROCK One and met Walter at Malibu Creek State Park to go over all the basics and perfect our belaying and rappelling techniques, which, as you can see, were nothing less than questionable:
Luckily (for Drew), we made vast improvements and were scaling walls (safely) after just 1 day!
Round 2: This past weekend our schedules finally made room for ROCK Two, the final course before being able to lead climb on our own! We recommend going climbing as much as you can with groups and guides before trying to lead climb, it will be much easier for you and your instructor.
That morning we met Walter at 6:30am at the critically acclaimed Riverside Rock Quarry (map), just outside of LA. We parked along Donner Way and walked towards the protruding rock faces of Schoolhouse Rock. We laid out our gear, dusted our hands with chalk and began what was one of the most influential (and fun!) days of our rock climbing careers.
We broke in our climbing shoes (the ballet slippers I never had):
Practiced our (now impressive) rope tying skills:
Learned the importance of teamwork that is crucial for any successful rock climbing adventure:
Met some new (spiky) friends:
After lots of on the ground practice, we were ready for some vertical ROCKcreation. Game face:
Check out Drew making his way to the top and maneuvering with his quick draws – tongue out always seems to help make it easier somehow:
Learning how to lead climb helped us both understand and appreciate the sport so much more than we ever had before. We started to discover the creativity and confidence that one must build within themselves to be able to make their way to the top, as well as the faith one must have in the person down below should any surprises arise.
When we began climbing a few years back, we were much more afraid of the heights involved and didn’t know about any of the gear that we would need. We always wondered how climbers shifted ropes, tied knots and clipped this here and that there, but now, thanks to Walter, we have a whole new door of outside opportunities awaiting. With a solid base of knowledge, we now know how to properly put our gear on, flake a rope, and rack our quick draws and ATC’s. Get ready climbing world ;)
We have a strong appreciation for mother earth and also came to admire (now I know this is going to sound funny) rocks. How perfectly fingers and toes can fit into crevices, how unbelievably gigantic they can be, the incredible formations they come in and most of all, the pure and utter satisfaction that comes from making your way to the top to enjoy the breathtaking views they offer.
We took turns lead climbing every route that was 5.6 and under that day, 6 routes total, a pretty good start I’d say! One hearty day making way for many more to come.
You can learn more about rock climbing basics here, and once you’re ready to lead climb on your own, here’s what we recommend for basic lead gear for you and your partner – we ordered all of ours from BackCountry.com (never buy used climbing gear):
- 2 helmets
- Rock climbing shoes (Drew has “MadRock” and I have “evolves” – get 1 size smaller than your shoe-size)
- 2 harnesses (we both have BlackDiamond)
- 1 Rope: How do you know which rope to buy? - What about a rope bag? – Are you supposed to clean your rope?
- 12 quick draws (we like bent gates)
- 2 locking carabiners (D-shaped or pear)
- 2 belay devices (choose from an ATC, ATC guide or Grigri)
- 2 anchor chords (Brittany prefers the chain style)
And voila! You’re all set to climb on!
We are both amped to get back out on the Rocks and lead our first real climb without assistance. I’m sure there will be more to come on this subject in the near future ;)
We are told that climbing really begins when you start leading routes because it’s just you and the face of the rock. The risk is elevated and falls can occur, but it all can be mitigated with the proper techniques and knowledge of the equipment and sport; this is something that comes along with getting the proper instruction. We would both agree that if you’re going to head outdoors and learn something new, you should definitely get proper training so that you can have a blast and be safe at the same time.