So, no matter which type of lead climbing you plan to undertake (or maybe both!) you’ll be hitting the crag armed with the right information. For people who are new to rock climbing, top rope will almost certainly be where their journey begins. There are three main methods of extending your protection to prevent that. You can extend your protection using either a couple of quickdraws clipped together (now do you see why it’s a good idea to always bring a few more quickdraws than you think you’ll need).
All-round quickdraws tend to be designed with a wire-gate ‘biner on the bottom , a solid-gate ‘biner on the top , and a medium-width dogbone (pull-able but not too bulky). This talkhockeyradio combination can be used for both trad and sport climbing, and it balances performance with affordability. Wire-gate carabiners have a notch where the gate sits when closed, and which snags on bolts and on the rope. At worst, it’s highly frustrating and can make cleaning certain routes, like overhanging routes where you really have to pull on the draw to unclip it, very hard work.
Get a better idea of grades from guidebooks or online sources before assuming something it easy or straightforward based on grade alone. As far as we can tell there are eleven different grading systems for free climbing alone, that doesn’t include bouldering, ice and mixed climbing. Trad Climbing tends to stick to the YDS – Yosemite Decimal System – for Trad and Sport, and the UK uses British Trad Grades. UIAA grades are used mainly in Germany and around Europe for trad, though there are country-specific grading systems about.
The other important skill is anchor cleaning, which allows you to retrieve all of your draws and return to the ground safely once your party has finished climbing a route. Your lead climber will clip one end of their sport draw into the first bolt on the wall and then put the end of the rope tied to their harness into the other end of the draw. Sport climbing most closely resembles what you see on the lead wall at your gym.
Then along came sport climbing, and there had to be a way to distinguish the two, hence the introduction of the terminology trad climbing and sport climbing. Unlike trad, sport climbing is not limited to a specific rock face or certain features. It’s also allowed climbers to push the boundaries of possibility and attempt free climbing routes with minimal trad gear placements. The majority of trad climbers carry both regular draws (a.k.a. “alpine” draws) and quickdraws. Regular draws can be extended to greater lengths, whereas quick draws are always the same short size.
Many trad climbs actually have bolted anchors specifically meant so that lowering is safe. In some areas bolt aren’t OK, but having long-term pegs or pitons that are threaded with some slings or cord that are left. Trees are classic for having anchors that are just a sling or two with an old carabiner around it for a lower-off point. Despite their name, alpine quickdraws aren’t just for alpine climbing.
Oh, and you’ll be doing all of this while you’re carrying a heavier trad climbing rack at the same time. Lead climbing simply refers to the first climber (i.e., the “leader”) tying in to a rope at the bottom of a cliff and ascending while clipping into gear as he or she gains altitude. Whether the leader is clipping sturdy bolts or removable protection, this is all referred to as lead climbing. When climbing on a top rope, the rope is already attached to an anchor at the top of the route, so there is virtually zero risk of taking a dangerous fall. Trad climbing and sport climbing are both forms of lead climbing.