Time to get outside!
Get climbing outside with The Climbing Experience trip to the peak district! We’re offering a two-day introduction to trad climbing course, which will equip you with all the skill and knowledge you’ll need to get started.
On this course, you’ll learn about gear placement, knot tying and rigging techniques, lead belaying, seconding techniques, guidebook use and abseiling. Read on below to find out more about the course content!
What is Trad climbing?
Traditional (or trad) climbing, is a style of rock climbing in which a lead climber places all the gear required to protect against falls. This means carrying up a load of metal and fabric gear and searching for suitable cracks and crevasses, weaknesses in the rock, in which to place temporary protection. And all the while the leader is also having to climb the route!
1. What are “gear placements”?
As alluded to above, gear placements are what protects trad climbers in the case of a fall. Placing gear on a route limits the size of a leader’s fall. Gear/Protection/Pro can come in many shapes and sizes, but the two most common types in contemporary trad are Nuts and Cams
Nuts are a form of passive protection. They are generally a small chunk of metal on a wire loop. The piece of metal is wedged into a slot in the rock so that it sits passively but will lock in place under the directional load of a fall. A quickdraw (two carabiners connected at either end of a loop of webbing) is used to attach to the nut placement – one carabiner is clipped to the nut’s wire loop, the other has the leader’s rope running through it. Nuts are often also referred to as Rocks, Chocks, or Stoppers.
Cams are a form of active protection (which essentially means it has moving parts), and are more correctly called Camming Devices. A cam’s head consists of lobes which retract when a trigger on the device is pulled. This reduces the size of the cam’s head so that it can be placed inside a crack. As the trigger is released, the lobes open again, expanding the size of the head and therefore locking it in place inside the crack. The cam then has a quickdraw or carabiner attached to it for the rope to run through as above. Cams are often referred to as Friends.
2. What is ‘lead belaying’
Belaying is the act of holding a climber’s rope in order to catch them in the event of a fall. Lead belaying is the act of belaying a lead climber. This differs from the top rope belaying found on Southern Sandstone. Instead of simply taking in slack, a lead belayer must pay out slack as a lead climber ascends. This is because the leader ascends dragging the rope up with them as they climb. Leading also requires more attentive belaying, particularly when trad climbing since good knowledge of a leader’s position in relation to their gear placements is needed.
3. What is ‘seconding’?
Seconding is the act of following a leader up a climb. The Lead Belayer normally becomes the Second. Once the leader has reached the top of a pitch, they will rig an anchor to secure themselves (as well as the second for the event of a fall). The leader then belays the second. The second’s job is to climb the route removing the gear placements as they climb. This is called ‘cleaning’ a route.
4. Knot tying & Rigging techniques
When climbing numerous different knots are used to attach a rope and other fabric (cord, webbing, slings, etc.). The most common knot used to ‘tie in’ (attach the climbing rope to a climber’s harness) is a double-figure of 8 knot. A variety of different knots are used when rigging anchors.
Rigging techniques refers to different methods of rope work. Generally, one of the key elements of rigging when trad climbing is the building of anchors. Anchors are a rig set up, where gear placements are positioned with a rope tethered between them and the climber, and prevent climbers falling off the cliffside. Anchors are set up either at the top of single pitch climbs or in between pitches (at belay ledges/stations) on multi-pitch climbs.
5. Guidebook use
Guidebooks offer climbers information on climbs at a given crag. They generally include ‘topos’, pictures/diagrams depicting the line of a route at a crag. Most modern guidebooks will tell you what climbs there are, their names, their difficulty grade and offer a short description of the routes. They’re super useful, although they do often (outrightly) lie!
Abseiling is often used to “clean”, or to get back down to the ground after climbing a trad route. Whilst abseiling, a loop of cord called a prusik is wrapped around the fixed rope to create a friction hitch. This can slide up and down the rope, however, when weighted the prusik locks in place on the rope. This acts as a back-up break, helping a climber control their abseil descent or preventing them from falling if they should let go of the rope for some reason
Our introduction to trad climbing course is run in association with Stu from the Peak Climbing School
“Stu is a great instructor. He breaks things down into a set of simple, easy to understand steps in a safe and fun environment. He is knowledgeable, experienced and knows the local crags like the back of his hand so he can always find the best places to go.”