Paul made contact via the new look website and said he was very impressed by the informative site and the wealth of experience of Ali Taylor – Chief Instructor and Director of Monsterclimbs. Paul had climbed in the past but had never actually placed any trad gear or led a route but he was very fit and very keen which is always an advantage. They began by fitting the essential PPE and then looked at a trad rack and the numerous ways to arrange it on the harness. The mechanics of gear placement was discussed, as well as the hierarchy of gear and Paul quickly grasped what was meant by a solid nut placement – giving marks for a downward and outward pull.
There were ample opportunities to place gear, build belays and mock belay in ever increasing challenging situations but without the added dimension of being off the ground. By early afternoon Paul was ready for his first lead with a couple of bomber preplaced gear placements to aim for. Once he reached the tree belay and brought Ali up he then built an independent nut and cam belay under Ali’s watchful eye.
He was ready to lead a route on his own gear, set up a belay and bring up a second………. All Paul’s gear was good, the belay was safe but he’d clipped directly into the belay instead of using the rope and wasn’t initially tight on the belay. Belayers often make the mistake of allowing slack in the system which means if the second falls, the belayer will be pulled forward and the belay shock loaded.
Day 2 offered more opportunities to practice his new skills in different climbing environments – longer routes, multi-pitch and more independence. Paul rose to the challenges, his gear was excellent, his climbing technique balanced with good footwork, but occasionally his mind went blank looking for the ‘right answer’ rather than a safe and logical solution. He set up an abseil so the rope was retrievable and safeguarded it with and without a prussik.
His final climb – a technical VS 4b was accomplished with confidence and bomber placements, and his ascent was admired by 2 local climbers, both of whom were clients. They couldn’t quite believe he had only been leading for 2 days – a combination of good instruction, inspiring confidence and self belief, a high level of fitness and motivation and an ability to absorb and implement information.
‘I wanted to say a massive thank you for the fantastic climbing, patience, advice and support over the last few days….. I feel I have learned loads. My head is still buzzing but I have a big smile inside and out! Hope to book you again in the Summer.’ Paul Butler