Climbing has been around for centuries, and the sport has evolved. There are now many different types of climbing, but one of the oldest and most traditional is trad climbing. So what is trad climbing? Let’s find out.
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What is Trad Climbing? – Trad Climbing Explained
What is Trad Climbing? Trad climbing is a form of rock climbing that relies on natural features and placed gear (and removable gear) by the climber to ascend a route.
This type of climbing was the original way climbers would scale mountains and cliffs, and it is still used today by many climbers who prefer a more traditional approach.
Trad climbing can be done with a partner or solo, and it often requires more planning and preparation than other types of climbing. Climbers must choose their route carefully, place gear strategically, and be prepared for unforeseen events.
Despite the extra effort required, trad climbing can be an advantageous experience. The accomplishment of reaching the top of a challenging route, using only your strength and skill, is unlike anything else.
Unlike sport climbing, which is replicated on indoor climbing walls, trad climbing is an outdoor pursuit.
And it is also unlike free climbing, as you use gear for safety but not progress.
Why is it Called Trad Climbing Anyway?
The term “trad climbing” is short for “traditional climbing.” This type of climbing was the original way that people would scale mountains and cliffs. It’s called trad climbing because it relies on natural features and gear placed by the climber rather than pre-placed bolts or other artificial anchors.
Some of the defining characteristics of trad climbing include:
- Using gear to protect against falls
- Placing gear as you climb
- Removing gear when you’re done
- Complex routes can be more challenging to protect
This type of climbing can be more challenging than other types, like sport climbing, because you must be extra careful about placing your gear correctly. One wrong move could mean a severe fall.
But many climbers enjoy the challenge and independence that trad climbing offers.
After all, it’s called an “adventure” for a reason!
What Are the Different Types of Trad Climbing?
There are several types of trad rock climbs, each with challenges and rewards.
Face climbing is one of the most popular types of trad climbing. It involves scaling a cliff or wall using natural features like cracks, ledges, and small holds. This type of climbing can be done with a partner or solo, and it often requires more planning and preparation than other types of climbing.
Crack climbing is a type of trad climbing that involves ascending a rock face using cracks for hands – and footholds. A crack climb can be extremely challenging and often requires specialized gear like cams and nuts.
Aid climbing is a type of trad climbing that involves using gear to assist in the ascent. This can include ladders, pitons, or other anchors to help climbers reach difficult sections. Aid climbing is often used on challenging routes and requires a lot of experience and skill.
Bouldering is climbing typically done without ropes or gear. Climbers scale short, challenging routes called “problems.” Bouldering can be done solo or with a partner, often requiring creative problem-solving.
Big Wall Climbing
Big wall climbing is a type of trad climbing that involves ascending very tall cliffs or mountains. This type of climbing requires a lot of experience, and it often takes days or weeks to complete a route. Therefore, big wall climbing is very challenging, both mentally and physically.
Alpine Climbing: Alpine climbing is a type of trad climbing that involves ascending mountains in the Alps. This type of climbing is very challenging and often requires multiple nights on the mountain. Alpine climbing is hazardous, and experienced climbers should only attempt it.
Single and Multi-Pitch Trad Climbing Explained
Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is trad climbing?” let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of trad climbing.
Single-pitch trad climbing is when you climb a route that can be completed in one pitch or rope length. This type of trad climbing is often found on shorter routes or routes that are close to the ground.
Multi-pitch trad climbing is when you climb a route that spans multiple pitches or rope lengths. This type of trad climbing is often found on taller routes or routes that are more difficult to protect.
Multi-pitch trad climbing can be further divided into two categories:
- Simul-climbing: Both climbers move together and place gear as they go.
- Lead climbing: One climber goes first, and the other belay from below. The lead climber will place gear as they climb, which the belayer will use to protect themselves from falls. The lead climber ensures the climbing rope is slack enough for the follower’s safety.
Whether you’re interested in single-pitch or multi-pitch trad climbing, ensure you have the proper skills and gear before attempting a route. It would help if you had appropriate fitness, personal movement awareness, rope management, belay technique, and strategy to succeed at any trad climbing.
Trad climbing can be more challenging than other types of rock climbing, so it’s essential to be prepared.
Why Trad Climb?
There are a few reasons why someone might choose trad climbs over other types of rock climbing.
For some people, it’s simply the preferred style of climbing. They might enjoy the challenge of placing their gear or prefer the more traditional approach to the sport.
Others might choose trad climbing because it offers a greater sense of adventure. With trad climbing, you’re often venturing into more remote and wild areas, where you’re more likely to find new routes.
And finally, some climbers prefer trad because it feels more “pure.” Since you’re relying on your gear and natural features, it can feel like a more traditional way of climbing.
Regardless, trad climbing is a popular and rewarding sport that offers climbers a unique challenge.
What Trad Gear Is Used In Traditional Climbing?
Trad climbing requires a variety of safety equipment to protect oneself from falling. Gear falls within active and passive protection groups. This gear includes:
- Cams (known as “spring-loaded camming devices): Cams are small, spring-loaded devices that expand when placed in a crack. They’re one of the most popular types of protection, as they’re easy to use and can be placed in various positions. And this is the most critical component in most trad racks.
- Nuts: Nuts are small, wedge-shaped devices that are placed in cracks. A Nut tool is often used in conjunction with cams, as they can provide extra protection.
- Hexes: Hexes are large, hexagonal devices that are placed in cracks. They’re not as popular as cams or nuts, as they’re more challenging to place.
- Slings: Slings are long webbing pieces used to create loops or runners. They can be tied directly to protection, or they can be used to create anchor systems.
- Quickdraws: Quickdraws are two pieces of gear connected by a sling. They’re used to clip your rope into protection and can be placed quickly and easily.
- Carabiners: Carabiners are metal loops that are used to connect gear. They come in various shapes and sizes and are an essential piece of trad climbing gear.
- Belay Device: A belay device is a device that’s used to control the rope while belaying. It allows the belayer to catch a climber if they fall safely and provides friction to help with rappelling.
- Harness: A harness is a gear that goes around your waist and legs and is used to attach you to the rope. It’s an essential piece of gear for all climbers, as it’s what keeps you attached to the rope.
In addition to active and passive pro, rock climbers also need other protective gear such as rope, shoes, and a helmet. Make sure you have all the gear before attempting a trad climb.
How To Start Trad Climbing
Now that you know the basics of trad climbing, you might be wondering how to get started. Here are a few tips to help you get started in the world of trad climbing:
- Find a partner: The first step is to find a climbing partner experienced in trad climbing. This person can help teach you the ropes and show you the proper way to place gear.
- Take a class: If you’re new to trad climbing, it’s a good idea to take a class to learn from your fellow climbing community. This will help you understand the basics and get comfortable with the gear.
- Get some experience: Once you have a partner and know the basics, it’s time to get some experience. Get out on the rock and start climbing. The more you climb, the better you’ll become at it.
- Practice, practice, practice: The best way to become a better trad climber is to practice. Get out on the rock wall as much as possible, and try different routes. Experiment with other route-finding methods too.
With time and practice, you’ll become a trad climbing pro. Trad climbing can be a great way to challenge yourself on the rock. Make sure you have the proper skills and gear before attempting a route. And always practice safe climbing.
What is The Best Way To Trad Climb?
The best way to trad climb depends on your individual goals and preferences.
If you’re new to the sport, you might want to start by climbing with a partner. This can help you learn the ropes (literally!) and get a feel for how to place gear. Once you’re more comfortable, you can start soloing or leading routes.
If you’re interested in trad climbing for the challenge, you’ll want to focus on more difficult routes. This might mean venturing into remote areas or opting for longer, multi-pitch routes.
No matter how you choose to trad climb, make sure you do your research and come prepared. The more you know about the route and the gear you’ll need, the more enjoyable and successful your climb will be.
How To Place Protection Gear When Trad Climbing
One of the most important skills in trad climbing is learning how to place protection. This can be challenging, as there are many different ways to put gear.
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Look for cracks: When placing protection, look for cracks in the rock. These cracks will provide the most support for your gear.
- Size matters: Make sure the protection you’re using is the right size for the crack you’re placing it in. If it’s too big or too small, it won’t provide the desired level of protection.
- Test your gear: Before committing to a placement, test your gear to ensure it’s secure. Tug on it, bounce, and try to pull it out. If it feels solid, you’re good to go. Don’t forget to consider different rock types, as these can affect how secure you can get your plants.
- Communicate with your partner: When trad climbing, it’s essential to communicate with your partner. Tell them when you’re placing gear, and ask them to help you test it. This will help keep everyone safe.
- Practice makes perfect: The best way to learn how to place protection is to practice. Get out on the rock, and try different types of placements. With time, you’ll get better at it.
Trad climbing involves a physical and mental challenge to challenge yourself on the rock. Make sure you have the proper skills and gear before attempting a route. And always practice safe climbing.
Where Can You Trad Climb?
There are many places to trad climb, both in the United States and abroad. Some popular destinations include Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Zion National Park. These locations inhabit classic climbs and the world’s most challenging climbs.
There are also numerous cliffs and crags throughout Europe that offer excellent trad climbing opportunities.
No matter where you choose to trad climb, make sure you do your research and come prepared.
The more you know about the route and the gear you’ll need, the more enjoyable and successful your climb will be.
Trad Climbing Grades (the USA + Worldwide)
Trad climbing routes are graded using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS), the most common rating system used in the USA and typically the rest of the world.
This system ranges from 5.0 to 5.15, with 5.0 being the easiest and 5.15 being the hardest.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the trad climbing grades:
- 5.0-5.4: Easy climbs that are suitable for beginners.
- 5.5-5.9: Moderately challenging climbs that require some experience.
- 5.10-5.12: Difficult climbs that experienced climbers should only attempt.
- 5.13-5.15: Challenging climbs only for the most experienced climbers.
When choosing a trad climbing route, make sure you pick one that is within your skill level. Attempting a route that is too difficult can be dangerous.
British Trad Grade System
The British trad climbing grading system is different from the Yosemite Decimal System. The British system uses a letter grade followed by a number. The letter grades range from E (Easy) to XS (Extremely Severe).
The number following the letter grade indicates the difficulty of the climb. For example, an E2 5c climb is easy with some moderate sections.
The British trad grades are named weirdly because they use a different system than the Yosemite Decimal System. If you’re used to the YDS, the British grades can be confusing.
Here’s a quick guide to the British trad grades:
- E1-E3: Easy
- E4-E6: Moderately difficult
- E7-E9: Difficult
- E10 and up: Extremely difficult
When choosing a trad climb, pick one that is within your skill level. Attempting a route that is too difficult can be dangerous.
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Trad Climbing FAQs
Is Trad Climbing More Dangerous?
Trad climbing can be more dangerous than other types of rock climbing, as you’re relying on your gear to protect yourself from falls. This means it’s important to be extra careful when placing gear and to know how to use your gear correctly.
It’s also important to be aware of the potential dangers of trad climbing. These include loose rock, weather conditions, and avalanches. Make sure you’re familiar with the risks before attempting a trad climb.
What Are Leads and Seconds In Trad?
In trad climbing, the lead climber is the one who climbs first and places gear. The second climber follows behind, cleaning the gear as they go.
The lead climber is typically more experienced than the second, as they need to be able to place gear quickly and efficiently. The second climber needs to be proficient at cleaning gear so that they can remove it from the route.
Leading and seconding are both important roles in trad climbing. If you’re new to trad climbing, it’s a good idea to start out as a second before progressing to leading.
What Is Gear Placement?
Gear placement is one of the most important aspects of trad climbing. When placing fixed gear, you’re essentially creating a temporary anchor that will catch you if you fall as you cannot use pre-bolted climbing routes, as this is not within the spirit of trad climbing.
Many different types of gear can be used for trad climbing, including cams, nuts, and tricams. Placing gear correctly is an essential skill for trad climbers. You risk injuring yourself and/or your partner without good gear placements.
If you’re new to trad climbing, it’s a good idea to take a climbing course or get some instruction from an experienced climber. This will help you learn how to place gear properly and safely.
What Is Cleaning Gear?
Cleaning gear is the process of removing gear from a route. This is typically done by the second climber, who follows behind the lead climber.
Cleaning gear is an important part of trad climbing, as it helps to keep the route safe for other climbers. It’s also a good way to practice placing and removing gear.
If you’re new to trad climbing, getting some instruction from an experienced climber is a good idea before attempting to clean gear.
How Do Trad Climbers Get Down?
There are several different ways that trad climbers can get down a route. The most common method is rappelling, which involves using a rope to lower yourself.
Another option is to walk off the route. However, this can be dangerous, as there might not be an easy way down. Make sure you’re familiar with the area before attempting to walk off a route.
Finally, some trad climbers choose to downclimb the route. This can be difficult, as you’ll need to remove gear as you go. Make sure you’re comfortable with the techniques before attempting to downclimb a trad route.
What is an anchor in Trad Climbing?
An anchor is a point of protection that trad climbers use to secure themselves to the rock. Anchors can be placed in cracks, pockets, or other features in the rock.
Trad climbers typically use a variety of different anchors, including cams, nuts, and tricams. Therefore, placing an anchor correctly is an essential skill for trad climbers.
What is belaying in Trad Climbing?
Belaying is the process of managing the rope during a trad climb. The belayer is responsible for holding the rope tight, so the climber can’t fall.
Belaying is an integral part of trad climbing, as it helps to keep the climber safe. It’s also an excellent way to practice managing the rope.
What is “Top Rope” and Can you do it on Trad?
Top rope climbing is a type of rock climbing where the rope runs through an anchor at the top of the route. The belayer is positioned at the bottom of the route, holding the rope tight so the climber can’t fall.
Top rope climbing is an excellent way to practice trad climbing without worrying about placing gear. It’s also a perfect way to get down a route if you don’t want to rappel.
So yes, you can top rope when doing a trad climb.
Can You Trad Climb Indoors?
Yes, you can trad climb indoors at an indoor climbing gym. Indoor trad climbing is a great way to practice your skills in a controlled environment.
To trad climb indoors, you’ll need to use artificial holds instead of gear. This can be challenging, as you’ll need to find your way to secure yourself to the wall.
Is Sport Climbing, Trad Climbing?
Sport climbing is a type of rock climbing that uses bolts for protection. Trad climbing is a type of rock climbing that uses gear for safety.
So, sports climbing is not trad climbing. However, you can use trad gear when you perform a sport climb. This is called mixed climbing.
Mixed climbing is a combination of trad and sports climbs. It’s an excellent way to practice both types of climbing, and it can be a lot of fun for sports climbers.