Advice for leading more efficiently (quickly)

Hello Wonderful NLMC Brain

I’m feeling pretty psyched for the start of the new climbing season and would like to focus on developing my trad leading this year. In previous seasons I’ve led VS quite solidly and there’s going to be some work needed at the start of this season to get back there…

But I feel I’m quite slow at times (poor seconds). Apart from practise, practise, practise… does anyone have any advice?


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Do you have the same slowness leading sport or seconding? I.e. is the slowness about the climbing or is it more related to placing gear and route finding? I think a lot does come down to practice, but certainly for gear, thinking about what gear you are likely to need and where you might find gear placements and racking appropriately is the best advice I can think of, but some places are easier than others to place gear. Leading at the wall/on sport may make you climb the moves more confidently and quickly.

Hi Manchi

I’ll happily talk climbing as that is all I can do until my shoulder is a bit better.

There are loads of tactics to cut down on the faff factor, both whilst climbing, and more easily, in between the climbing bits which is where a lot of time goes. A lot of it comes down to who you are climbing with and their systems and preferences, and that is where the level of understanding that comes from a good partnership is invaluable.

The non-climbing time can be cut down by planning ahead - do you know what routes you want to do, how to find them on the crag? This is worth a couple of routes extra a day! And then it’s about pitching in so that both of you are always busy. You rack up, i’ll sort the ropes. At the top, you sort the rack, i’ll do the ropes. On a multi-pitch belay, get the spare gear clipped to the belay or a harness so that it is accessible for the change over. Suss out the next pitch for the leader while they are gearing up.

As for climbing more quickly, pick routes which have good gear and place the right amount to be safe, and then get on with the moves. Everyone’s got their pace, but guarantee we all prevaricate and put in more gear when it looks hard or scary. When your gear is good enough, spot the next rest or crucial bit of gear and go for it with a healthy dose of commitment and don’t stop* 'til you’re there. Expect that it may be hard or scary, and when it is, accept that this is part of the challenge. It’s what makes climbing such a fun and rewarding pastime.

Break down the route to little sections like this and plug away. Put the anxieties and nearly-off-there moments behind you as they pass (they can’t get you now), and try not to succumb to completion anxiety (I’ve nearly done it, need to slow down and be careful here!). Best to try and stay in your little bubble until you realise you’ve arrived at the belay.

good luck!

*within reason, obviously. Sometimes a tactical retreat and reassessment is the smart way!


Comprehensive replies. I especially agree with Max’s points on organisation. Turning up with everything in place really helps. That includes everything from planning which routes you want to do and in a rough order to having all your kit agreed with your climbing partner and being efficient about everything that is not climbing.

It can feel like a lot of work and busying around and being so organised, and maybe not what you want to do on your weekend or holiday, but for me I feel more liberated from the stresses associated with the day, leaving more capacity (and time) for the actual climbing. It’s so much more relaxing to be waiting for your partner to finish packing their bag than it is to be watched packing yours whilst your partner looks on.

@jrtomlins, I’m definitely slow because of the latter reason (being on lead, placing gear & route finding), so @Max_A thanks for the spot-on advice! Definitely need to try harder when it comes to making sure I have routes in mind before arriving at the crag and the head space thing is probably something most climbers wrestle with…

@khalidqasrawi, thanks for chipping in too. Getting organised is something I need to apply to my climbing trips.

Cheers all & hope your shoulder gets better soon Max!