Monday, August 15, 2016

Lead Climbing

Climbing at the gym where there are dozens upon dozens of top rope routes and boulder problems gives me no real urgency in learning to lead. However, climbing outside does. For this reason, I took the Learn to Lead class at Vertical Endeavors in the fall of 2015. There are several options in the Chicagoland area for lead classes, including but not limited to:

  • Vertical Endeavors - Sport Lead ($45 non-members/$30 members)This class is offered on Mondays from 7-10 pm. Call the gym to register. You must be able to climb at least a 5.9 and be belay certified before taking the class. Bring your own belay device. We used our ATC.
    • Pros: Large (free) parking lot, inexpensive, shortest amount of time
    • Cons: Located in the suburbs (car required), late on a school night
  • Brooklyn Boulders - Learn to Lead ($149)This is a set of two classes, 3 hours per class. You must be able to climb at least a 5.9 and be belay certified before taking the class. I have never taken the course myself, but I believe you do not have to bring your own belay device. BKB uses Grigri 2s on their ropes. Once you are lead certified, you can check out a rope for free but must use your own belay device.
    • Pros: In the city, accessible by CTA
    • Cons: Expensive, no parking lot (pay to park or limited free street parking), time commitment, tends to be crowded
  • First Ascent (Avondale) - Learn to Lead ($120 non-members/$85 members)Classes either meet for two three-hour sessions on weekdays or one intensive four-hour session (with a half hour break) on weekends. You must be able to climb at least a 5.9 and be belay certified before taking the class. I have never taken the course myself, but based on the price alone, I would venture to say it is a better value than BKB.
    • Pros: Accessible by CTA, large (free) parking lot,
    • Cons: Expensive, time commitment

REI has plenty of gear, but I am partial to Moosejaw with it's quirky sales ads and frequent promotions. Also, BKB members get 15% off certain items, so remember to tell the associate before paying for your purchase. 


It is important to note that most, if not all, stores will not let you return a rope after purchase. This is for safety reasons. So, be sure that you know what type you want: static v. dynamic; single v. half v. twin; non-dry v. dry core... The list goes on. REI does a great job at explaining your options here


Most gyms already have quickdraws on their lead routes. However, if you're leading outside, you will want to have your own set. We played around with a few at Moosejaw and were instantly drawn to the smoothness of the Petzl Spirit Express.

You just want to squeeze it!
We watched lots of YouTube videos comparing solid gate versus wire gate biners. The decision came down to how it felt. I would recommend touching and handling any sort of climbing gear, especially carabiners on quickdraws, before making a purchase.


Is your climbing shirt full of holes or pit stains? Get a new one. Check out the link below for the shirt I designed. 

For outdoor climbing or hiking in the warmer months, I highly recommend Marmot's PCT pant. They are stretchy, fitted and well constructed. I love the zippered pocket and the button/velcro combination at the waist. 

Marmot PCT Pants - Women's
There is a Men's version. I assume it is just as good, but don't take my word for it!


I am still rocking my La Sportiva Katana Laces. If you have any favorites, please comment below! 

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