In competition climbing, Lead involves athletes attempting to climb as high as they can on a wall measuring more than 15m in height within six minutes. The climbers use safety ropes and clip the rope to quickdraws along the route.
Lead climbing involves athletes attempting to climb as high as they can on a wall measuring more than 15m in height within six minutes. Within the USA Climbing competition structure, competitors in categories Youth B through Elite will compete in Lead. Competitors in the Youth D and C categories along with Paraclimbing will compete in Top Rope.
In lead, climbers use safety ropes and clip the rope to quickdraws (equipment that allows the rope to run freely while leading) along the route. When a climber attaches their rope to the top quickdraw, they have completed the climb. If a climber falls, the height (hold number) attained is recorded. There are no re-climbs. If two or more athletes complete the climb or reach exactly the same height, the fastest to do so is declared the winner.
This is a demanding whole-body activity and dynamic climbing techniques are greatly important. Often, to prevent athletes from gaining an advantage from watching others scaling the bouldering and lead climbing walls before them, each climber is kept away from the climbing wall in “isolation” before their turn and given just a few minutes to examine the wall and routes prior to starting.
Routesetters will score the route and assign points to handholds. Typically, a handhold will be worth one point, so the scoreboard will reflect the highest scored handhold reached by each competitor. For example, a competitor who reaches handhold number 35 before falling would score 10 more points than one who fell at hold 25. The best result would be to reach the top of the wall.
Much of the challenge in lead climbing will come from problem-solving and sustained hard movement that lead climbing entails. Lead routes often feature geometric volumes intermixed with features that have outdoor aesthetics—such as stalactites, bulges, prominent arêtes (outside corners), and headwalls. Finding places to clip the rope into the quickdraws (see—Glossary) while working over and around such features provides an added challenge.
Content courtesy of John Burgman, Climbing Magazine
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