The fear of falling is something a lot of people struggle with and I am no exception. It took me 3 years to finally trust myself with leading sport. Finally, on a club trip to New River, I found a fun, overhanging 5.11a that pushed me to climb until exhaustion. I eventually sent it, but not before taking a few big, clean whippers. Since then, I’ve sent a few harder 5.11s but it’s especially nice to have had the courage to try some even harder stuff (even a 5.12!). Pushing yourself to the point of taking a fall is hard to do, especially when you’re in the habit of hanging around the draw so the fall isn’t as big.
It is incredibly different when you don’t have any bolts or draws and you’re relying totally on your own ability to protect yourself. I don’t want to say that I was terrified, but I was pretty nervous. Before getting on the wall, my friend who is well versed in the area of trad climbing, gave me a quick guide to gear placement. And granted, the route was a 5.4 named “It’s a Way of Life”, so there wasn’t an immense feeling of possible death. The quick guide was helpful, but I still felt uncertain of where to find good placements and whether or not my gear would hold.
Regardless, I tied in and began. Since it was an easy route, there were tons of foot holds so locking off and reaching for gear was not necessary (thank goodness). If I saw a crack, I would try one cam at a time because I learned I’m not a good judge of picking the right size. I’d place it in the crack and give it a couple of tugs to see if it would hold my weight. Feeling that it was sub par, but acceptable for a beginner, I’d move on until I was high enough that I felt it was probably a good idea to place a new piece. At times, I would take out some nuts and try to fit those in but I managed to only make one bomber nut placement that I felt comfortable with. When I got to the chains, I felt like I had truly accomplished something! And in 4 years of climbing, it’s nice to find something brand new to try.
Overall, I thought it was awesome. Since it was an easy route, I was only scared a few times when the feet weren’t so good or if it was taking me awhile to find the right piece. Generally, I felt confident in my placements even though they probably weren’t the best. I tried not to second guess myself too much because I knew that would just lead to a mental block which is not very helpful when you’re stranded 30ft up. I placed gear to the best of my ability and I continued with the ascent!
Leading trad is fun, but make sure to start out on an easier climb – it’s going to take you awhile to find the right piece! I will be getting on some more *easy* trad, and who knows where that will take me.
climb on xx