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First Trad Lead Belay - TR
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Partner oldsalt

May 1, 2006, 5:57 PM
Post #1 of 2 (755 views)

Registered: Jan 19, 2004
Posts: 919

First Trad Lead Belay - TR
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I know, most would prefer to read about someones first trad lead, only I'm posting and I didn't do the lead. I'll keep it brief, but some will identify with it and how I feel about it.

Partner Jimmy and I drove the 10 hours to Table Rock and found the East wall with the great bolted routes closed due to Peregrine Falcons. We hiked practically around the mountain and back without finding anything that looked doable. We went up a pile of scree and Jimmy scrambled to the top to hang a top rope. It was too high.

After more frustration, Jimmy decided to do his first trad lead. He has hired guides and received excellent training in the Gunks and on Looking Glass. I have seconded him when he placed pro between bolts. All he needed was the fire to go out and do it, so he did.

I've lead sport for a year and a half and practiced building anchors and placing pro, but I am not quite ready to take the sharp end. However, I have lead a number of routes outdoors, and several were solo leads. Jimmy, our other partner Tom, and I belay each other in the gym and we have each caught a number of whippers for each other. I said to go for it and I'd catch him.

We went to North Ridge and looked up at the juggy column-like route that goes out of sight pretty quickly. Once rigged, Jimmy started up and spent about 15 minutes placing a nut and a medium cam before going over the bulge and out of my sight. I thought I saw a little leg twitch early on, but he began to move with confidence as he finished placing the cam.

Alone for the next 30 minutes or so, I fed rope when it moved up and waited like someone doing his first belay of a trad leader the rest of the time. Oh yeah, I was someone doing his first belay of a trad leader.

I did a little bit of thinking about how I would be feeling when I do my first trad lead, but I wasn't near one of those wonderful Park Service crappers so I went back to paying attention to Jimmy. I finally heard "Off belay" so I rigged my rope to trail me so we could do a two-rope rap.

Once started, I was really ready to climb. The first placement was the nut, and it was jammed in like it had been hammered there. My own nerves were out of mind by the time I had an elbow in a nearby crack and was working the cable with one hand and my nut tool with the other. I got it and moved up four feet to the cam.

This medium beauty was at the mid-green range and it would have come right out if today had been my 50th time to clean. Instead, I'm cleaning a route that is totally new to me and I'm feeling Jimmy's butterflies now. That sucker was set behind a tiny ridge at the base that wouldn't let go with the trigger all the way compressed. I eventually worried it to the left with the nut tool and it dropped right out.

I can't remember much about the rest of the climb, just that Jimmy had placed about 31 pieces in the 130 feet. Actually, I think it was only 13 pieces, but time slowed for me. The climbing between placements became the way I rested.

Finally at the top, I found that Jimmy was belaying me from two thin aluminum rings on someone's cordelette PLUS two additional pieces that he set because he either didn't want to lose me or he didn't want to rap off the rings. (If you left the cord and rings, gentle reader, thank you very much. They worked quite well.)

(History moment here: He and I were at the top of Peek-A-Boo last Fall when a thunder storm rolled in. Who went down first? Jimmy! There I was, waiting for him to get down while expecting to get toasted at any second. No wonder Jimmy climbs with me.)

Once we were both down, we settled back and grinned at each other. We added our opinions to that of a guy encouraging his friend on White Lightning (or White Light) from our starting ground. Like I can give advice to someone on a 10 when I have clawed my way in a 20' traverse to get off the only 10 I've ever touched - by getting off-route from a 5.6.

The rest of the night as we drove back to Florida we kept shouting "Who's the Man" and grinning at each other.

(Edited for a little more accuracy)


May 1, 2006, 7:06 PM
Post #2 of 2 (755 views)

Registered: Mar 29, 2003
Posts: 5590

Re: First Trad Lead Belay - TR [In reply to]
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You might want to take one of Arno's classes, I think that would help you, and you appear to be ready.

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