Having taught Paddy and Dave to sport lead climb earlier in the year, Ali knew it would only
be a matter of time before they wanted more. Sport lead climbing can be very exciting, but you are limited where you climb by the areas that have bolted routes. Trad climbing on the otherhand has no limits, except your own ability.
The venue was Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean. Their first task was to get to grips with the type of gear available; natural gear – threads and spikes, nuts, hex’s and camming devices, how to use them and how to recover them. Paddy and Dave seemed to be doing really well, scoring each other on their placements for both a downward and an outward pull until Ali said ‘Ok, now do it with only one hand’. The next step was to create belays by joining pieces of gear using slings to create a central point or by using just the rope itself for a more dynamic belay.
The group then discussed racking up; how to arrange gear on their harness. There is no hard and fast rule here, it’s just a matter of personal choice, but it has to be logical to the leader, and must be the same each time so that gear can be accessed without having to look for it. Their first lead climb was ‘Golden Fleece’ and Ali placed a few choice pieces for them to aim for, but enabled them to place as much gear as they could to fill in the gaps. Placing gear uses up lots of energy, so there is a fine line between keeping safe and maintaining strength. Their next task was to set up belays at the top of the climb and bring the second up, a
style of belaying alien to both of them. They had practised on the ground beforehand, but at the top of the cliff with a live climber on the end of the rope needed a lot more speed and dexterity.
Day 2 dawned to a very wet crag indeed, climbing was impossible. The morning was spent teaching Paddy and Dave how to set-up abseils and how to use Prussiks to ascend and descend the rope, ensuring that back-ups were in place at all times
A low level traverse gave Paddy and Dave the perfect opportunity to put into practice all they had learnt, without compromising their safety, and develop their gear placements, belay construction and belaying the second. Ali even threw in a bit of improvised rescue to add
to their tool box as they were progressing so well, and both men learnt to escape from the system should the leader be knocked unconscious or get into serious trouble.
Finally the crag dried sufficiently to allow them to do Trundlebum Rex, where Paddy and Dave climbed independantly and Ali was on hand to assist should they need it.
Paddy and Dave worked hard to achieve a high level of competence over the 2 day course. Their constant questioning and practising of techniques enabled them to achieve their independance.(They even practised overnight at their B & B!!!). So thats a rack of Cam’s for Christmas then!