August 7, 2016 | My first trad/gear Lead | Holdless Horror
I have been the follower for many years, and I have been looking for that opportunity to get on the sharp end of a trad climb. There had been a lot of factors holding me back; building a gear anchor, understanding came placements, nuts, etc. You know… the important stuff! In the last year I started paying a LOT more attention each time I was responsible for cleaning a climb, and I started messing around while we sipped our “after climbing beers” by placing gear.
Funny enough, I feel like I had a bit of a break through, and started to feel more confident after the Flash Foxy festival in February. I took the “Trad for Beginners” and reviewed a lot, with a group of great ladies. An unexpected moment during the session was Katie Lambert showed a few of us how set an anchor without a cordelette. I didn’t even know you could do that at the time. Sounded like a good skill to have, but I never thought I would use it!
I was in a totally different head space compared to my first lead, or so I thought. I felt ready + steady during the approach, and was still good as I started to gear up. It wasn’t until I put my helmet on, and the rack that my fear was quite obvious! That breathing thing is key. I kept it together, confirmed that I still wanted to go for it, and after I made it to the first belay ledge I calmed down. I looked back, and had to laugh at myself a little. It was fine. Heck, I had tons of jams, and my feet on the face almost the whole time (slab is my jam).
Oh hello weird stemmy crack. The description on Mountain Project is true, and I listened. No need to get sucked into the crack other than to place pro. Bring that #4 friends. I saved that sucker for about two-thirds up (see: right above her head), where I made a transition onto the left face, and up and over. The pitch wasn’t bad in the end, but it had some very funky little moves. However, I survived and was stoked for the next pitch.
I was starting to feel a bit tired, but pressed on and this is where I went wrong! Hubs, and I have our system, since we have always climbed with one leader. This was still the case today, the leader being myself, but we forgot something… confirming that I had a cordelette. This pitch was money, so fun, good gear and an opportunity to sew-it-up. I made it the full rope length (don’t do that), I should have stopped about 15-20 ft shorter. I couldn’t find placements for what little gear I had left, so lesson also learned. I worked through it, found a ledge and starting building my anchor. Her comes the fun part. I freaked out on myself! I realized I had messed up. I panicked. Considered yelling for my brother-in-law, who had just topped out another climb, but didn’t. I eventually calmed down. Took some really deep breaths, remembered I could work with just the rope, and did just that. I was still in shock that I remembered how to tie everything. Eventually I brought up hubs. Once I could see him all I could say was that “I fucked up,” and tears rolled down my face. I was so mad at myself. I couldn’t help it. I thought failed. How was I to be trusted in the future. Then the best words came out of hubs mouth, “it was my mistake too, shake it off, and I’m pretty impressed with this set-up.”
Those words took a few minutes to set it, and then he insisted I finish leading the climb. He wanted to see me finish! Luckily, it was an easy jaunt through some fifth class. I think I only placed three pieces. You can move smoothly, and a piece as you move over a bulge near the end is a good call. Then boom.. we topped out!
My observations + feelings: The climb was awesome! I can’t believe I led all 4 pitches! Why did I pick a multi-pitch route for my first trad lead… who knows? But, it was worth it! Thank you Hubs for the big hug, and congrats at the top. Always remember to breathe. I love my TC Pros. Lastly, always check with your partner about who has what gear!!!
Here’s a fun fact: This lead occurred 1 yr + 2 days after my first lead on Zee Tree.