Traditional climbing offers the chance to scale large formations, to take a set of gear and climb to the top without the need of another party establishing the route. It is one of the most exciting types of climbing- summits, self reliance and huge formations. Trad climbing can be very intimidating though. There’s a lot involved and when many experienced climbers start placing gear they feel like they’re learning how to rock climb all over again. The climbing requires a significant amount of technique and finding adequate protection gear can be challenging. There are a few things you can do to make the transition to trad easier.
Find a good route
Many traditional routes have run outs, difficult moves and hard to place gear. Do a bit of research and find a route with straightforward placements and climbing within your limits. Leading 5.10 sport may rarely translates well to 5.10 traditional routes. Set the bar low and move up.
Practice the gear on toprope
This tactic stays true for routes of all grades. Bay area rock star, Walker Emerson climbed Flight of the Challenger, a 5.12c in Squamish, but practiced placing the gear on toprope first. He fiddled with the cams, deciding where he would need the small gear and where he should save the bigger pieces. After he dialed out all the gear placements on toprope, he lead the route.
Climb with an experienced partner
Learning from a veteran trad climber makes and enormous difference. They can help you make the decision between using a cam or placing a stopper. They can evaluate your gear placements. If things go array, they can also escape the belay and provide instruction on how to retreat safely.
Wear the correct type of shoes. Bouldering and sport climbing shoes are significantly different than trad shoes. Your feet will be happier and you’ll be able to climb better with appropriate footwear. Minimize the amount of gear dangling from your harness. Keep the experience as simple as possible. Climb in the shade on hot sunny days to maximize friction. Head to the sun only if it’s cold outside.
Trad climbing can be scary. There’s a ton of new things to learn- the gear, the climbing, the anchors, etc. Be relaxed and have fun. It will make things go way smoother.