How many days does it take to learn to lead a rock climb safely?

Rock Climbing

We are often asked how long it takes to learn to lead a rock climb.  Of course the answer varies massively from person to person and depends on your previous experience, levels of confidence and ability to take in lots of important, new information.  However, we have found that, on average, a five day course offers an excellent introduction to leading and is the best way to ensure you leave feeling confident to start climbing independently. 

Day 1 – Learn to be a competent second.

You will be out rock climbing all day: this will give you, and us, the opportunity to ensure that you can belay, remove gear and tie into the anchors safely. It will also be a great chance to learn more about efficient movement and route finding skills. You will also get the chance to try an abseil so that you know how to safely retreat from a climb if you ever need to. 

Day 2 – Learn to place good gear.

The second day will be based at a single pitch crag where you will be introduced to gear placement: first with your feet firmly on the ground and then whilst climbing a route on a top rope. This will give you the chance to get used to the feeling of the extra weight of the gear hanging from your harness and finding comfortable positions to stop and place gear easily. You will also practise different ways of tying in at the top to make yourself safe. 

Day 3 – Your first lead.

If all is going well so far then this is your chance to get on the sharp end of the rope and attempt your first lead rock climb. You can feel confident and ask questions at any time because you will have the safety of a fully qualified instructor ascending right alongside you on a fixed rope. If at any stage you feel uncomfortable then the instructor can quickly attach you to their system and make you safe. 

 Day 4 – Progress to multi-pitch climbs.

Day four is usually based at a multi-pitch crag and where you can continue to learn more about leading. You will have the chance to practise changeovers and stance management midway on a multi-pitch rock climb.

Day 5 – Learning how to get out of trouble

The final day gives us the opportunity to make sure you are hapy with everything covered so far and to give you some top tips for making a great start on your rock climbing career. You will look at some simple problem solving scenarios such as hoisting, escaping the system and abseiling and finish the day with another lead climb or two.

We think that this five day course gives you a great start to learning to lead rock climb and helps you avoid some of the many pitfalls and bad practise that we see when we are out and about.  If you are already confidently seconding rock climbs then days two and three would make a useful weekend introduction to leading course. Days three and four could be run as a trad leading improvers’ course or we could focus on skills for multi-pitch rock climbing and improvised self-rescue. Our private climbing days are always tailored precisely to your needs so whatever stage you are at we can make sure you get the most out of a learn to lead rock climbing course and come away a more confident and safer climber.

Of course, this is just the beginning of your lead climbing journey, now you need to go out and get lots and lots of experience.  Take it steady to start with, head to easy graded single pitch climbs and have fun.