Lead the Way!

Friday, January 18, 2019 - By: Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20; Photo by Mike Minckler

If you consider climbing up a vertical rock wall with a rope securely attached to your harness, running through an anchor at the top of the wall, and falling tightly back to your belay partner not enough of a challenge, then lead climbing is the next step for you! Last week, members of Brentwood’s new rock climbing program had the option to learn to both climb and belay in this new style; it proved to be “a wonderful, if terrifying, experience” observed Zoe T, Hope ‘19. 

For those who may not know, lead climbing is a style of rock climbing where, instead of having their belay rope attached to an anchor at the top of the route, the climber takes the rope up with them as they climb, clipping it into pre-set anchors as they go. Now, this may not sound significantly more difficult than top roping, however it gives way to many other challenges, and I can assure you that it is easier said than done! 

First, it involves having a looser belay rope, to give the climber slack with which to clip in, resulting in higher-risk climbing with bigger falls - more than twice the distance from your last anchor. Second, it requires climbers to often hang from just one arm, while they use the other to manipulate the rope into the carabiner correctly, which requires both technique and strength. Last, it brings the mental aspect of climbing to a new peak, as it forces climbers to trust themselves, their partner, and the equipement, faced with bigger risks should mistakes be made. The benefits of lead climbing include that it provides a new challenge, and is used in outdoor scenarios where the route is inaccessible from above, preventing a top rope anchor from being set. 

On the first day of the course, climbers, some of whom have only been climbing since November, challenged themselves physically, mentally, and technically as we learned to belay, properly clip, and navigate the safety concerns of lead climbing. On the second day, we got some more practise, then took both climbing and belaying tests, including a nerve-wracking surprise fall, to become certified lead climbers! 

“As climbers, we are always looking for new ways to challenge ourselves, and the lead course was the perfect opportunity to test our skills” reflected Amelia H, Allard ‘20. For some of the climbers, the next step in their continual improvement will be taking a Climbing Gym Instructor Level 1 course in February. Thank you to Mr. Norman and Ms Murray for their continual support and encouragement in rock climbing, and for providing us with this incredible opportunity! 

Sarah R, Mackenzie ‘20 

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