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-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. Climbers who are interested in taking their skills to the next level after this course should look into our 4-day Multi-Pitch Skills Course offered in Red Rock, NV and Leavenworth, WA.

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


The Learn to Lead course 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

Curriculum & 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) locations include:

  • Red Rock Canyon, NV - located just minutes outside the city of Las Vegas.
  • Joshua Tree National Park - approximately an hour away from Palm Springs, CA and right next to the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, CA. The climbing at Joshua Tree is very high quality, and because of its legendary parallel-sided cracks it is ideal for people who want to learn to lead climb on granite walls like those of Yosemite.
  • Moab, UT - near both Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in southeast Utah.


Summer (April - September) locations include:

  • Leavenworth, WA - about forty minutes from Wenatchee or three hours from Seattle on the east side of Washington's mountains.
  • Squamish, BC - located one hour north of Vancouver, BC.
  • Boulder, CO - roughly 45 min outside of Denver, CO in the front range mountains.
  • Mammoth Lakes, CA - located in the eastern Sierra, forty minutes north of Bishop, CA, and three hours south of Reno, NV.


Course Itinerary and Curriculum

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 11:30am 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 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-pitch leading practice


Day Four:

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

Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership



Leavenworth, WA

  • June 9 - 12, 2024
  • June 23 - 26, 2024
  • July 7 - 10, 2024
  • July 21 - 24, 2024

Squamish, BC*

  • Aug. 4 - 7, 2024
  • Aug. 18 - 21, 2024
  • Sept. 1 - 4, 2024
  • Sept. 15 - 18, 2024
  • Oct. 3 - 6, 2024

All participants in Squamish-based courses must first rendezvous at the AAI Offices in Bellingham and the group must cross the border together. We can not meet climbers in Squamish. 

Red Rock, NV

  • Oct. 11 - 14, 2024
  • Nov. 8 - 11, 2024 - Women's Only
  • Dec. 13 - 16, 2024
  • Jan. 10 - 13, 2025
  • Feb. 7 - 10, 2025
  • Mar. 21 - 24, 2025
  • Apr. 11 - 14, 2025

Joshua Tree, CA

  • Nov. 25 - 28, 2024
  • Feb. 14 - 17, 2025

Boulder, CO

  • Sept. 5 - 8, 2024

Mammoth Lakes, CA

  • Sept. 19 - 21, 2024

Moab, UT

  • Oct. 18 - 21, 2024
  • Apr. 18 - 21, 2025




  • May 11 - May 14, 2024
  • May 25 - May 28, 2025
  • June 08 - June 11, 2025
  • June 22 - June 25, 2025
  • July 06 - July 09, 2025
  • July 20 - July 23, 2025
  • Aug 03 - 06, 2025
  • Aug 17 - Aug 20, 2025
  • Aug 31 - Sept 03, 2025
  • Sept 14 - Sept 17, 2025
  • Oct 02 - Oct 05, 2025

Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership



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

Max Ratio - 4:1 (Climber:Guide)

Capacity - 8

Minimum Enrollment - 3


A note on enrollment:

Confirming the 4-day 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. 


Rock Climbing Course Series:

Below is the progression for our rock climbing course series:

  1. Outdoor Rock Climbing Intensive Introduction
  2. Learn to Lead
  3. Technical Self Rescue for Climbers
  4. Multi-Pitch Skills Course

Climbers have a number of potential options for their continuing education, including, but not limited to, the Aid and Big Wall Climbing course and Private Guiding.


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.


Cost Inclusions and Exclusions:

Inclusions: Included in the course cost is group technical climbing equipment, climbing permits, and the guide fee.

Exclusions: Not included in the course cost is all personal clothing and climbing gear, gratuities to guide, transportation, lodging/camping fees, meals while on the course, or travel insurance.

Learn to Lead - Trad Rock Climbing Leadership

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