It is when you are fumbling to clip the rope into the quickdraw, while all the strength is leached from your arms, that the difference between top roping and lead climbing really becomes apparent.
Emma, Dan and Ross need experience of lead climbing to be able to do the Climbing Wall Award (CWA) and were also keen to learn for its own sake. For Buster, who was assisting with the teaching, it was the last chance to practice before his competition the next day.
We started out with a talk through of techniques and explained the differences between top and lead climbing, both for the climber and the belayer. It is important to clip the quickdraw the right way and learn to do it efficiently, from a comfortable position. We talked about looking for and using rests and what to do at the top of the climb.
Everyone climbed a route trying to use the techniques they had learned. Without the security of having a rope above you, fear of falling can creep in, this makes you grip onto the holds tighter resulting in fatigue – the dreaded pump.
The next exercise was designed to reduce the fear of falling – by falling. Although this all seems counter intuitive, it is only when you realise that falling does not actually hurt that you can start to lead climb with confidence.
The session lasted the whole afternoon (we had the wall to ourselves – which was great) and it seemed to go very well. Now people just need to practice.