The Rock Skills Learn to Lead Trad course is your ticket to getting on the sharp end. We’ll look at everything you need to know to climb on the wealth of traditionally protected crags we have across the UK and beyond.
By the end of this course you’ll have;
- An enjoyable time climbing on real rock
- Have the skills to lead trad protected routes
- Be ready to move on to a multi-pitch trad climbing course
Below is a rough idea of what we’ll cover, as ever we’re flexible and adapt to different needs and experiences.
- Background and Planning – Choosing suitable venues and routes, how to use guidebooks and mobile devices to find crags and routes, crag etiquette, the importance of the climbing partnership, the work of the mountaineering councils.
- Climbing Skills – Safe and assured movement when leading climbs and optimising natural rests for placing gear.
- Equipment – Ropes and technical equipment for lead climbing, contents of a lead rack and how to carry it, selection and function of gear.
- Technical Skills – Selection and placement of suitable gear to protect leader and second, choosing anchors, effective ropework, attaching to multiple anchors, belaying, holding leader and second falls in a controlled environment and abseiling.
- Environmental Knowledge – The impact of climbers at the crag, ethics, access and environmental considerations for climbers.
- Hazards and Emergency Procedures – Identifying hazards, decision making and managing risk, understanding common injuries, what to do in the event of an incident, managing common problems, how to get help and the role of the Mountain Rescue.
You’ll need a few basic climbing skills to be up to speed for this course and get the most from it. Ideally you’ll have attended the Rock Skills Intermediate course or Rock Skills Learn to Lead Sport course which is a great stepping stone. If you haven’t attended these courses or similar then you should have experience of;
- 20 routes climbed indoors or outside and 20 belays of a fellow climber as a minimum.
- Ideally you’ll already be leading at your indoor wall which will give you more confidence for leading outside.
In short, you’ll need to already be a competent top rope climber and belayer and ideally, have some experience seconding routes outside. If you’re unsure, consider booking on a Rock Skills Intermediate or Rock Skills Learn to Lead Sport course first to build your experience and confidence.
Whilst not a requirement, I recommend learning to lead climb indoors at your local wall as it’s a great way to build skills, experience and confidence before heading outside.
The itinerary below isn't set in stone; by design we're flexible to adapt to the weather and varying experience and the below is an outline.
The Nuts & Bolts of Trad
Course Start 08:30 - introductions and discussion of your aims & aspirations with a free tea or coffee.
Planning Information - looking at weather forecasts, guidebooks, access and venue choice.
Collect & Check Kit - technical equipment handed out (e.g. climbing rack) and personal kit check.
Travel to Crag - we’ll organise lift-shares to reduce impact and ease parking. There’s a great deal of climbing nearby; though we may drive up to 30 mins to escape rainy forecasts.
Outdoor Climbing - walk in to the crag, warm-ups and refresh basic skills. We’ll then start developing the skills required for trad climbing progressively, looking at lead belaying, route finding, gear placements, building belays, belaying from above and communication. Throughout, we will be sure to get plenty of climbing and varied practice of the skills.
Return to Basecamp - return for around 16:00, grab a well-earned brew and review the day.
Theory session - background information on hazards, emergency procedures, history and ethics of trad climbing.
Day Finish - usually we’ll wrap up the day around 16:30.
Getting on the Sharp End
Morning Brief 08:30 - weather brief and plan the day as a group with tea or coffee.
Consolidate Skills - practice newly learned skills, and if you’re feeling prepared and confident, lead your first trad climbs under the watchful of eye of your instructor who will be close-by to give guidance.
Problem Solving and Bailing - skills for backing off routes safely, abseiling, retrieving gear and escaping the system..
Return to Basecamp - return to Basecamp for around 16:00, hand in kit, grab a well-earned brew and review the day.
What Next? - your instructor will discuss a personal development plan and we'll email out post course resources to help you on your trad climbing journey.
Course Finish - usually we’ll wrap up the course around 16:30.
The Rock Skills Learn to Lead Trad course is one of 4 courses in the Mountain Training Rock Skills scheme. By registering you’ll also receive;
- Certificate of Completion
- Accreditation with Mountain Training
- The Rock Skills Scheme handbook
- The BMC New Climbers handbook
- Ongoing access to the Mountain Training Digital Logbook – a great place to record your climbing endeavours – especially if you’re considering pursuing any of the Mountain Training qualifications in the future.
If you would like to be registered with Mountain Training (not obligatory) for the Rock Skills scheme then we’ll also need the Name, Email, Date of Birth and Gender for each participant to be able to add their registration details.
There’s no requirement to register with Mountain Training if you’d prefer to just join the course but you won’t receive the certificate and have the course accredited.
For more generalised questions please visit our FAQs page or for questions specifically relating to the Rock Skills Learn to Lead Trad course see below.
Rock Skills Learn to Lead Trad FAQs
The geography of Snowdonia means that although the mountains themselves can attract their fair share of rain; we have a range of crags outside the national park with unique & differing micro climates. Often, travelling up to 30 minutes North or South can mean climbing in a t shirt vs getting a good soaking!
However, if it's torrential rain we'll head to one of the excellent local indoor climbing walls to escape the worst part of the day inside, before heading outside for at least part of the day; the aim is to climb on real rock. It's a uniquely British temperament to climb in the rain, fun for a short while so we'll plan to minimise this and get back to Basecamp for a well earned brew!
We'll use our specialist local knowledge and years of experience to pick the best place to climb and stay as dry as possible. If the weather is extreme, we'll have a conversation with you about potentially rescheduling though this is rare.
Unfortunately we don't accept under-18s on our open courses. We can however run this course as a private family booking, with dates to suit you and your own dedicated instructor for the course.
We aim to make climbing as inclusive and accessible to people of all abilities. We'll coach good technique, which is more important than physical strength or fitness though obviously these can be helpful; and we'll head to crags with relatively easy climbs.
See the Prerequisites, you should have a little personal experience already and be familiar with climbing grades. You'll want to feel comfortable seconding routes at at around VDiff before attempting to lead them so you have a little "in the bank" so to speak.
We love climbing and want this course to inspire. We've worked with people in their advancing years, severely impaired vision and other disabilities too, so if you have any concerns or special requirements, please drop us a line and we can give you advice. We always strive to accommodate, check out our Inclusivity page for more info.
Climbing is often perceived to be a high risk activity. This is a lead climbing course and definitely has associated risk. You can be assured we'll manage that risk appropriately though as we only use suitably Qualified and Professional Staff, as well as taking Safety seriously. We're very experienced in teaching people lead climbing, we'll develop your skills and give you honest feedback on where you're at so you can decide if you're ready in confidence.