Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership


A climber starts up Tonto (5.5) in Red Rocks, NV

A climber starts up Tonto (5.5) in Red Rocks, NV.  Jason Martin

For many the thought of being out on the sharp end of the rope sends shivers up the spine. "What if I fall? What if my gear doesn't hold? What if something happens?" Our Introduction to Traditional Rock Leadership course will answer these questions and more. The objective of this program is to introduce climbers to the techniques required for leading single and multi-pitch traditional rock routes while advancing technical and movement skills.

The Introduction to Rock Leadership course addresses each of the components required to safely and successfully lead a traditional rock climb.

Course highlights include:

  • Care and selection of traditional climbing gear
  • Introduction to modern traditional technique
  • Anchor building techniques and management
  • Leader safety in both a single and a multi-pitch environment
  • Technical free climbing movement for a leader


Introduction to Rock Leadership is offered throughout the winter season in Red Rock Canyon, NV and in Joshua Tree National Park, CA. During the summer season this course is offered in Leavenworth, WA and in Squamish, BC.

Course participants are encouraged to bring their own traditional gear. However, if they do not have any, they will be able to use AAI equipment. Helmets, harnesses, and rock shoes are required equipment and are available for rental if needed.

Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership


The curriculum for Learn to Lead varies considerably with the abilities and desires of the group. Our goal is to assess the baseline abilities in the group and build on them as much as possible. Below is a sample curriculum. 

Day One:

Efficient and effective gear placement is a crucial skill to master while learning how to lead.

Efficient and effective gear placement is a crucial skill to master while learning how to lead. Eric Smith

  • Meet your guide at the program area in the morning (8:00am or 11:00am depending on location and date)
  • Selection, use and care of traditional gear
  • Discuss traditional racking techniques
  • Practical applications of both passive and active protection
  • Introduction to traditional anchors for leaders
  • Practical applications of different lead belays
  • Introduction to the autoblocking device
  • Introduction to simple rescue techniques


Day Two:

  • Introduction to multi-directional anchors
  • Introduction to anchor and rope management
  • Introduction to single- and multi-pitch leading procedures


Day Three:

  • Cleaning anchors and rappelling
  • Techniques for rappelling multi-pitch lines
  • Discussion of lead climbing strategies, both physical and mental
  • Guided example of a short multi-pitch line
  • Mock single- and multi-pitch leading practice


Day Four:

  • Discussion of falling, fall factors, and how they apply to the leader
  • Continued mock leading practice
  • Optional falling practice on gear and/or bolted anchors
  • Optional student-led climbs in single-pitch setting


A note on enrollment:

Confirming this course at the regular cost and length requires at least 3 registrants.  With two participants, we can run the course as a 3 day itinerary without changing the pricing; with just one individual we will consider this a 'private course' and charge private rates. 

Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership

Dates and Locations

The Learn to Lead course is offered year round in a variety of locations around the Western United States and Canada.

Winter: October – April

  • Red Rock Canyon, NV
  • Moab, UT
  • Joshua Tree National Park, CA


Summer: April – September

  • Leavenworth, WA
  • Mount Erie, WA
  • Squamish, BC
  • Eldorado Canyon, CO
  • Mammoth Lakes, CA


Red Rock Canyon is located just minutes outside the city of Las Vegas, NV.

Joshua Tree National Park is approximately an hour away from Palm Springs, CA and right next to the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, CA.

Leavenworth, WA is about forty minutes from Wenatchee or three hours from Seattle on the east side of Washington's mountains.

Mount Erie is an hour and a half north of Seattle, near Anacortes, WA.

Squamish is two hours north of Bellingham, WA and one hour north of Vancouver, BC.

Eldorado Canyon is a mere half hour drive from the city of Boulder, CO.

Mammoth Lakes is in the eastern Sierra, fourty minutes north of Bishop, CA, and three hours south of Reno, NV.


Eldorado Canyon, CO

  • April 25 - 28, 2017
  • May 26 - 29, 2017 (Memorial Day Weekend)
  • June 5 - 8, 2017
  • June 14 - 17, 2017
  • June 19 - 22, 2017
  • July 4 - 7, 2017 
  • July 11 - 14, 2017
  • August 15 - 18, 2017 (Filling)
  • September 6 - 9, 2017
  • September 12 - 15, 2017

More dates available on a private basis. Call for details.


Red Rock, NV

More dates available on a private basis. Call for details.


Joshua Tree, CA

  • Oct 20 - 23, 2017
  • Nov 13 - 16, 2017
  • Jan 15 - 18, 2018
  • March 05 - 08, 2018

More dates available on a private basis. Call for details.


Leavenworth, WA

  • May 14 - 17, 2017 - FULL
  • May 28 - 31, 2017 - FULL
  • June 11 -  14, 2017
  • June 25 -  28, 2017 
  • July 9 -  12, 2017 
  • July 23 -  26, 2017
  • August 6 -  9, 2017 
  • August 20 -  23, 2017


Squamish, BC

  • May 19 - 22, 2017 
  • June 16 - 19, 2017 
  • August 25 - 28, 2017 


Mammoth Lakes, CA

  • May 26 - 29, 2017 - FULL
  • June 16 - 19, 2017  - 1 spot left!
  • July 25 -  28, 2017 (filling)
  • September 1 - 4, 2017
  • September 28 - Oct 1, 2017


Moab, Utah

  • April 4 - 7, 2017 (filling)

More dates available on a private basis. Call for details. 


Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership

Cost and Details


Max Ratio - 4:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 8

Minimum Enrollment - 2 

Private Courses

A private Learn to Lead course can be arranged with the location, length, and dates of your choice.  Though the group course is generally preferable for learning, a customized course can be superior for some climbers.  The cost for a private course is determined by the private rate for the location.



Participants should be able to follow 5.8 (indoors or outdoors) and have some experience in outdoor top-roped climbing.


Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership

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