Field trip: Introduction to Single Pitch Trad

Workshop - Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

Introduction to placing traditional gear in a single pitch crack climbing environment

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Fri, Apr 2, 2021
  • Seattle Climbing
  • Avalanche Safety
  • Rock Climb
  • Adults
  • Moderate

Seattle Program Center  6-9pm


 This course is designed to teach the skills required to lead climb single-pitch trad routes. Students will be given time and education to safely and efficiently place gear and develop new climbing skills that will help the break into a new type of climbing.

Skills Covered

* Proper and efficient trad gear placement techniques

* Proper gear spacing

* Leading single-pitch climbs on trad gear

* Knowledge of fall factors

Graduation Criteria

* Safely lead 2 single-pitch trad routes 5.5 or above


* Sport climbing course or equivalent

o Ability to lead on bolts up to 5.7

o Ability to rappel safely

o Able to build a top-rope anchor on bolts

Summary of Activities

* 1 evening kickoff session

* 2 evenings for skills review

* 2 weekend days of outdoor mock leading on trad gear

* 1 weekend day of outdoor leading on trad gear

Session 1: Kickoff

Duration One weekday evening (~2 hours)

Location Program center

o Basic skills required: Sport leading, lead belaying, cleaning and rappelling, top rope anchor building

o Safety-first. Always.

4. Gear talk

o Pro: Different kinds, difference between brands

o Shoes: Shoe talk

§ soft slippers, board lasted, crack shoes, laced vs. velcro, etc. – and what types of climbing they are suited for. What to look for in an “all day” shoe?

o Slings: Pros/cons between different materials

o Cordelettes: Size vs portability

5. Skills prep

6. Logistics

o Campsites

o How to sign up for fieldtrips

7. Questions


Session 2: Skills Review

Duration 2 weekday nights (2-3 hours each)

Location Program center * South wall for clean and rappel * Plaza and basalt columns for crack climbing * Basement and south plaza for gear placement

Split students into 2 groups. Each group will do one of the stations and rotating to the other on the next night.

1. Gear placement and intro to anchor building

2. Clean and rappel and climbing skills (Students here can be further split into 2 sub-groups rotating internally on the same night)

Station 1: Cleaning and rappelling, climbing Skills

Clean and Rappel sub-station

Location: South Plaza Outside Wall

1. Review how to cleaning an anchor

2. Emphasize the importance of arriving at, and memorizing, a personal “standard”

· Order of actions you perform when cleaning and rappelling to avoid having to figure things out under adverse conditions (think after dark, in the rain, while shivering)

3. Discuss the need for 2 points of attachment to be secure

· Discuss the pros and cons of using 2 personal slings vs. 1 personal and the rope with a clove hitch

4. Discuss various kinds of “middle markers” on the rope

· Include the fact that some resemble newer end markers, and the importance of not confusing them.

5. Discuss the importance of weighting the rope when rappelling, before you remove your personal slings

6. Discuss how to coil the rope properly to ensure it falls smoothly and without getting caught in itself

7. Go over how to throw the rope when setting up a rappel, including:

· Ways to prevent the rope from tangling in the air – consider throwing the rope in 2 separate coils (the secured coil first)

· Where to aim, are there trees, is it windy?

· The importance of yelling, “Rope!” before you throw it

· The option of simply lowering the rope without having to throw it, in some situations.

8. Go over techniques for rappelling past the lip of a roof

9. Go over considerations for long free rappels – gloves, two-handed braking, how to rest/stop, if necessary

10. Go over the technique for “sit & spin” rappelling – where the anchor point is below your stance/ledge


Climbing skills sub-station

Location: Basalt columns, basement slabs, indoor climbing wall

1. Slab technique:  location new slab wall N Plaza

* Discuss and demonstrate proper weight distribution and balance, footwork, crimping techniques

* Have students practice on the various slabs

2. Crack technique:

* Demonstrate and have students make their own tape gloves

* Discuss footwork and hand/finger placements for climbing various sizes of cracks

o finger locks

o hand jams

o finger stack

o ring locks, etc.

* Have students practice on the various cracks indoors and on the columns

 Station 2: Gear placement and intro to anchor building

Location: Basement, south plaza

1. Discuss and demonstrate gear placements in cracks

a. crack sizes

b. type of rock (smooth or rough)

c. varying width vs. parallel sided

d. flared cracks

e. cam walking

f. direction of stem - horizontal vs. vertical gear placements

2. Demonstrate the use of a directional first piece to protect subsequent placements from being dislodged

3. Discuss zippering gear

4. Discuss fall factor and how it changes as a pitch gets led, and how this affects both the leader and the belayer

5. Discuss ground fall and gear placement intervals to avoid it – gear placements should be closer together lower on the pitch – no matter what the difficulty of the actual climbing

6. Demonstrate building of 3 point anchors using gear

7. Discuss the options for physical conditioning to become a better climber

 Session 3: Mock-leading FT

Duration 2 weekend days

Location Tieton – Royal Columns Leavenworth – Mountaineers Dome, Clamshell, Trundle Dome

* Students pair up and work in teams of two with one instructor:

o One student climbs (on top rope) and mocks leads, trailing a second rope as the mock lead rope. Once at the anchor, the student anchors in with 2 points and sets up a second top rope with the mock lead rope. The instructor will then climb up on that rope to the anchors, or the instructor could climb before the student and wait up top while the student mock leads. Once at the top, both student and instructor will convert the top ropes to rappels, and rappel off separate ropes. On the way down, the instructor will check and critique the student’s gear placement.

o The other student on the ground will practice building anchors, or practice crack climbing on a top rope route.

* Expectations at the end of the weekend:

o Students will be able to place good gear – choosing the right size and the right spot

o Students will know a good placement from a bad placement

o Understanding of gear spacing

o Understanding of gear extension

o Crack climbing skills

o Initial anchor building skills

Session 4: Leading FT

Duration 1 weekend day

Location Tieton – Royal Columns Leavenworth – Mountaineers Dome, Clamshell, Trundle Dome

* Per instructors’ assessment from the previous FT and the student’s comfort level, students will either continue to mock lead or lead for real.

* Instructors need to take note of which students end up leading and how well they do. Since this is a progression to other climbing modules, students will be given a pass/fail for this course.

* Expectations:

o Students lead at least 2 routes by the end of the day


Mountaineers Seattle Program Center

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

Student Gear List

1. Climbing helmet

2. Rock climbing shoes

3. Harness

4. 1 personal anchor (Metolius) + locking carabiner

5. 6 single alpine slings

6. 2 double alpine slings

7. 1 triple alpine sling

8. 18 standard-sized non-locking carabiners (2 per sling)

9. 6 locking carabiners (in addition to the one in #4)

10. One set of standard-sized cams

· One cam each matching the following Black Diamond sizes: .3, .4, .5, .75, 1, 2, 3

11. 7 carabiners – one for each cam

· Do not need to be full sized

· Getting carabiners that match the color of your cams will be helpful

12. One set of nuts

13. 1 carabiner to rack the nuts

14. Nut tool

15. 20’ cordelette - 5mm tech cord

16. 2 rolls of climbing/gym tape

Trip Reports