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## First lead of the day

Post general questions and discuss issues related to climbing.

### First lead of the day

Went rock climbing with my bro Jeremy on Saturday (heading out again here in a few moments too)...

we visited a crag we have both visited many times past. We know the routes, no guide book necessary.

Upon arrival we dump out the contents of our packs and begin the "Sort of Kings."

"Dude, you mind if I lead this one?" I asked Jeremy. His face quickly relaxed upon hearing my question and he nodded.

A common enough exchange, yes? So like, I led the route, yo? Felt pretty solid too, climb climb climb, clip, climb climb climb, clip, etc. Got to the top and lowered off.

Jeremy roped up and followed. He looked solid.

When he got back to the ground he said it felt shaky. Said HE felt shaky.

"You looked FINE!" I asserted, knowing these shaky thoughts were the opening gambit in the 'I changed my mind, I'm not going to lead that next one after all' Grand Back Slide.

And this too is as common as the ropes we climbers use. We talked about it. And its something my mind has to remind my body of, most climbing days.

Many times, all other things being equal, its better to lead your first pitch of the day, then it is to follow it. Leading somehow alters perspective in fundamental ways. It sorta puts a constraint on the whole endeavor, a restraint described mathematically as thirty two feet per second per second. So the leader climbs with a certain style, and more importantly, with a tightly controlled focus. The leader is typically considering the route in small steps, small goals (if I can just make it to that stance...)

Where as the follower, not so constrained by Potential Gravity Stops (hitting the ground) are not so typically focused. The follower's mind is free to wallow in fear and in "I can'ts." The 2nd may climb in a loose style that he might never use otherwise, certainly wouldn't lead that way (lunging, sloppy footed, etc).

We each took another lap on the route, before moving on. I noted it too, following the same route I'd led some 20 minutes earlier, I was struck by it. I climbed it differently, loose, sloppy even. I mixed up my hands on a crux sequence and rather then stepping down and fixing it (the leader's way) I simply powered and lunged through it, latching on to some little ripple of rock and then hauling on it, all off balance. No WAY I would have done that on lead.

After we pulled the rope I could see my companion didn't want to do the next lead. He sat in the shade and wouldn't look at the route. That is strong sign there.

I could have led it and was eyeing the holds and the crux opening sequence to gain the first bolt... I was visualizing, yes? I looked over at Jeremy and decided to see if I could 'positive project' him onto the route.

"Its a straight forward route Jeremy. Not really any harder then the one you just floated."

Like that? I kept on... I piled up all the draws on the boulder next to his perch, one at a time. I said,

"You need about 10 draws for this one buddy." and

"When you lead this thing, you'll see what I mean about leading vs following. Sometimes its easier. You just gotta clip that first bolt, then it will all just flow."

And I could see the age old drama play out across his features, as I watched. His body didn't want to lead the route, his stomach was recalling the feeling of following that first route of the day. It wanted no more part of all THAT.

But his head wanted to lead it. His mind told him he was capable. I merely reminded him so, at a few crucial junctures. I didn't order him onto the route, I just spoke as if it were all a forgone conclusion.

So he led the route, floated it actually, as I knew he would. He lowered off and I thrutched my way up in his wake, my belly churning appropriately. Because its sometimes easier to lead a route, then to follow it... all other things being equal.

Later, Jeremy and I talked about that little Climber's Truth... about how it can be way better to just jump on that first lead of the day. Sorta sets up the mindset for the rest of the venture... a go get em attitude.

Rather than quaking in boots, timidly following a couple of leads, thinking the whole time 'No WAY I could have led this thing! NO WAY!!!"

YES WAY! If you can follow it without falling you can lead it without falling too, only your mind prevents it.

DMT
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Good 'rite. I led some easy stuff but I was never into it much. I acquired some gear, but had to sell it off. Now, it's only JDP/Cathedral/etc. as all I'll do again.
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Thanks DMT....that was really good to read.

Thanks for sharing

Joe White

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I've done only a few leads anywhere. So as a beginner, every lead experience is an uncomfortable mix of internal fears and external skills.

So I've refused some leads, even though I knew the only thing in my way was my own mind.
And I've jumped onto some leads, even though I knew my confidence was merely bravado.

Funny thing is, while I am climbing above my pro, I feel pretty good. Maybe it's because of the focus, but actually it's responsibility, and control of the situation.

As a beginner, I am still fighting my own mind. That's harder to do than anything else.
So I take a longer view: next summer I'll lead "most" of the routes I can climb. And I'll love it!

dan2see

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Thanks Dingus, this is really an interesting post. I really like hearing about the psychology of climbing.

albanberg

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I can SO relate to that. Since I rarely lead, I am an anxiety ridden mess most of the time. I do find when I do go first, I am much better. Problem is, I suck at climbing hard stuff, much less lead.

Moni

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Hooray for blogging about laps at the crag in the general forum.

woodsxc

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Good to hear what I always thought down in text by another climber. I'm fairly new to rock climbing, but having lead a bunch of routes, (all different levels) it is mainly a head game that you have to win to be productive. Sometimes its easier to lead stuff at your limit then it is a new route at a lower rating.

Hotoven

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Thank you for this encouragement!

skier25

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Great post DMT. I have noticed this as well…just this past weekend actually. I'm not sure if I am less scared on lead, but rather so scared that the Fear takes me to another place mentally. Fear is a useful survival mechanism, after all, and should be respected in that sense (climbers understand this better than most). For me, the Fear sets in right when I wake up on a climbing day. It urges me to bail on the climbing trip, or stay on the ground at the base of the climb, or down climb after the first few moves; all the while trying to keep me safe from the threat of falling to my death. But then I make a few more moves and I’m up there, past the point of seemingly safe return with a shitty placement below me, frozen for a minute (or 15) and the Fear gets so intense, so loud that I no longer recognize it. And then it’s gone. It’s as if the Fear went super-sonic. It’s as if it lost its usefulness and said “Alright, I tried…you’re on your own now”. And then you are left with only one quiet and real option…to climb.

It is these lessons with Fear that I find most rewarding about lead climbing.

gregorpatsch

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Damn skippy. Hardest lead first, too. Didn't work today, but usually...
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I love the way you observe things while they go on, and have the words and mind to see what it is, and then put it into writing, in such a way that one sees it.
You're a great writer, Dingus.

Lolli

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