Outdoor Leading Checklist

Taking a friend out to teach them to teach them how to climb outdoors because they don’t want to give 60 bucks to their shitty local gym? Here’s a helpful checklist you can print out.

Disclaimer: This checklist is NOT a guide. Find an experienced mentor or hire a professional guide if you have no experience. Climbing is inherently dangerous. You are responsible for your own actions and decisions. By using this checklist you are acknowledging the risks of climbing and further agree to release and discharge me of any and all liability arising from your participation in such activities.

Lead Climbing Checklist:


RED – Pay attention to this or the climber/you will die

Bold—Important tip

Supplies and pre-checks:

  • Tie a stopper knot at the end of the rope (belayer’s side)
  • Helmet
  • Pre-count bolts +2 for quickdraws
  • Anchor materials
  • Rappel device (belay device) + autoblock (prusik)
  • PAS
  • Partner Checks

Rope and Safety Skills: Always practice these knots first before using them!

Screenshot (481)Screenshot (482)Screenshot (483)

Climbing Skills:

  • Quickdraw gate direction:
    1. Gate faces away from direction of travel
    2. Always use bolt side carabiner on the bolt, so edges and burrs won’t cut up the rope
  • Clipping stance and hand position
    • Physics fact: You fall further when you clip from a lower position but pull out more slack vs at waist height with less slack
      • Try to clip from the most stable position, not at the first or last opportunity!Screenshot (484)
  1. When the gate is the other direction of your hand, hold the rope with the palm facing outwards instead (towards you). Tip: Thumb direction always matches gate direction.
  2. Make sure the climber side rope is on the outside edge, and the belayer side rope is by the rock, to prevent (covered further in “Climbing/Leading AVOIDANCES”)
  • How to fall
    1. Don’t push away from the wall
    2. If you have time, tell your partner to “WITNESS ME :O” before you fall
    3. Don’t yell “take” before falling
    4. Bend your knees
  • Ascending a rope:
    1. 2 prusiks, one for movement arrest attached to belay loop, one for your foot to ascend the rope

Screenshot (485)

  • Yell out clipping to communicate you need slack to clipScreenshot (485)
  • Yell out take after you are clipped in and you need to hang on the rope bec
  • ause you’re pooped or reached the top of the climb
  • Use your partners name when communicating!
  • How to bail:
    1. Clip your least favorite (rated) carabiner onto a bolt (make sure to check that it’s solid)
    2. Clip into carabiner with rope and ask for a take
    3. Wrap a prusik onto the opposite rope (closer to the wall, belayer side rope) and attach it using a locking carabiner onto your belay loop as a backup.
    4. Get lowered, shimmying the prusik down and removing quickdraws as you go.



Climbing/Leading Avoidances:

1.) Z-clipping

Screenshot (486)

  • When the bolts are so close together you grab the rope from beneath a connection point (quickdraw) and clip it onto a higher quickdraw.
  • RESULT: extreme rope drag and 2x fall distance starting from the bottom of the Z shape.
  • FIX: by unclipping the rope and reclipping by grabbing the rope from the correct position.

2.) Backclipping

When you clip the rope so that the end attached to your harness (climber side) ends up between the quickdraw and the wall

Screenshot (487)

  • RESULT: higher risk of carabiner gate opening when you fall.
  • FIX: attach a 2nd quickdraw to the wall and clip so the belayer side is against the wall before removing the 1st one.

3.) Grabbing bolts or carabiners

  • When you grab at bolts or carabiners attached to the wall cuz you’re pumped
  • RESULT: Lost fingers
  • FIX: just fall instead, of if you’re really scared, clip your PAS onto the bolt

4.) Pushing away from the wall when falling

  • RESULT: slammed back into the wall
  • FIX: don’t push away from the wall

5.) Falling Rocks

  • Climber dislodges rocks while climbing
  • RESULT: Rocks hit the belayer and he/she dies, therefore releasing the brake on the belay device, inadvertently killing the climber as well
  • FIX: Belayer wears a helmet, uses an assisted-locking belay device, and the climber yells “ROCK!” if they see anything falling, doesn’t matter what it is.

6.) Rope AwarenessScreenshot (488)

  • Foot goes between the wall the and rope, so a fall will result in the leg catching on the rope and flipping the climber
  • RESULT: flipping upside down and cracking your head open
  • FIX: Wear a helmet, and be both aware as a climber and as a belayer to prevent it!

6.) Climbing far beyond comfort zone

  • Climbing is for fun, but if you feel super sketched out don’t push yourself way beyond your comfort zone
  • RESULT: Death/Permanent Maiming
  • FIX: Climb for yourself, no cute girl/guy is going to think you’re cool if you’re dead


Belaying Skills:

  • Once you say “On Belay”, that is a commitment to your climber–hands never leave the device, and full attention is paid to the climber until “Off Belay” is stated.
  • Partner checks
  • Learn the Munter-Mule-Overhand lock-off
    • This technique allows you to lock off the belay device, allowing you to go hands free or to escape the belay device (and attach it to a bolt or another person) and perform a rescue.screenshot-489.png
  1. Spot your climber before they reach the first bolt, and also make sure there is enough slack!
  2. Once your climber clips in, don’t belay from directly underneath them (they’ll fall on you)
  3. Give out slack by:
    1. Pulling up on the climber side while allowing rope to slide through the belay device by tilting the brake strand horizontally and allowing your brake hand to move with the rope (by holding it)
    2. Lock off on the brake side by tilting the brake side downwards again
    3. Slide brake hand down, place other hand back above the belay device to reset
    4. Repeat
    5. Remember you can still take in slack using the Same PBUS method learned from top rope belay
  4. Leave out enough slack that the rope exiting the belay device doesn’t go straight up, but also not so much that it droops down
  5. Be aware of situations (when climber is between 1st and 2nd bolt, between 2nd and 3rd bolt) of groundfall potential
    1. Action: As a belayer, lock off belay device and lean back or even run backwards to prevent a more serious fall
  6. Soft-catch, keep your body loose while belaying, and ride the pull of the rope upwards, only give this catch once groundfall potential is gone (3rd bolt+ usually, but not a hard rule, use your head)
  7. Repeat what your partner says before acting to prevent miscommunication
  8. Step towards the wall and feed slack when you see the climber clipping, or they yell out clipping. Step back and take in extra slack once they are clipped in
  9. Be aware of your partner’s feet, to make sure they don’t step between the wall and the rope.
  10. Let your climber know if the rope passes the mid-point (usually 2 black marks) through the belay device
    1. MEANING: Climber cannot lower directly from the anchor because the wall is taller than half the length of the rope
    2. RESULT: If the end of the rope is not knotted, the rope can slide through the belay device and the Climber will die
  • FIX:
    • Find a walk off at the top
    • Climber goes off belay, belayer free solos easy (downclimbable) terrain to belay from a higher location
    • Climber bails from a single carabiner attached to a (lower) bolt with a prusik backup
    • Belay asks for neighbors to borrow a 2nd rope, Climber goes off belay, belayer ties together two ropes,and lowering resumes
  • Use your partners name when communicating!


Anchor building and Lowering:

1.) Clip into chains or bolt with a quickdraw

2.) Check bolts for rust/looseness

3.) Create the anchor, following SERENE-SA rules





NE-no extension

SA-small angles

4.) Attach PAS with redundant backup (quickdraw, sling, etc…)

5.) Don’t forget to enjoy the view!

6.) If you aren’t the last climber, let your belayer know you are ready to lower, give slack (don’t remove) on your PAS to test the rope, remove the PAS, and lower.

7.) If you are the last climber, and you are LOWERING, go to (A), if RAPPELING, go to (B)

Golden Rules:

  • Once clipped in, check that your weight is on the right piece of gear
  • Never rely on just your hands to hold up something essential (rope)
  • Always have redundancy in your connection to the anchor wall (you’ll be taking apart the anchor sometimes)
  • Don’t unclip anything until you are done untying/tying things
  • Unclip from things while weighted, prevents accidentally unclipping the wrong thing

(A) How to LOWER as the last climber:

  1. Make sure your PAS is connected and redundant, ask for slack in your rope in order to check that you’re weighing the gear.
  2. Do NOT go off belay, ask your partner for 3 armfuls of slack
  3. Take a few armfuls of rope from the belayer side and tie an overhand/figure 8 on a bight and clip it onto your belay loop using a locking carabiner
  4. Untie the rope from your harness
  5. Thread the loose end of the rope through the chains and retie onto your harness. Double check every aspect because you won’t have a partner to check on the system.
  6. Unclip the locking carabiner and untie the bight, yell TAKE to allow your belayer to take in all slack.
  7. Give slack in your PAS (DON’T REMOVE!) to check that the rope is properly attached.
  8. Double check everything again before removing your PAS, and proceed to call out “ready to lower” to your belayer before lowering

(B) How to RAPPEL (A) with no extension or (B) with extension. (C) Tertiary backup Fireman’s Belay

  1. Attach yourself to the bolts with a redundant PAS. Ask for slack in your rope to check that your weight is on the PAS.
  2. Go off belay and take up an armful of rope from the belayer side and tie a clove hitch onto a carabiner and clip it onto your belay loop.
  3. Untie the rope from your harness.
  4. Thread the rope through the chains and tie a stopper knot on the end. Unclip your carabiner from the clove hitch and pull through on the short end of the rope until you reach the center (two black marks) or until both ends touch the ground
  5. Ask your belayer to check that both ends of the rope are touching the ground and BOTH ENDS HAVE STOPPER KNOTS
  6. Proceed to rappel via (1) No Extension or (2) Extension

(A) No Extension

  1. Attach belay device to harness and rope like a normal belay, but with both strands, make sure everything is backed and locked properly. If no device available, use a munter hitch.
  2. Wrap a prusik with at least 3 rotations around the braking end of the rope to form an autoblock–use a locking carabiner and attach it to the leg loop.
  3. Create slack (BUT DO NOT REMOVE) in the PAS, and lean back on the rappel system to check to see if the autoblock works. (If it doesn’t, add an additional wrap).
    1. Contingency plan–if autoblock fails to lock or is dropped, consider a prusik knot or a leg wrap (2 wraps minimum of the brake side rope around the leg)
  4. Once the blocking mechanism is proven to work, recheck everything
  5. Detach PAS AFTER rappel is weighted, with a hand on the brake strand
  6. Lower by shimmying the autoblock, or reducing to 1 leg wrap

(B) Extension (for comfort during longer rappels): Same as A except steps 1 and 2

  1. Girth hitch a sling that ends (either total length or with an overhand knot) about 1 foot away from your body onto your belay loop. Check that it’s tight and attach belay device and rope like a normal belay, except with both strands, making sure everything is backed and locked properly. If no device available, use a munter hitch.
  2. Wrap a prusik with at least 3 rotations around the braking end of the rope to form an autoblock–use a locking carabiner and attach it to your belay loop.
  3. Refer to (A)

Fireman’s Belay If you have a partner on the ground already, have them do a fireman’s belay by holding onto the two strands and pulling the rope taut to arrest a fall if you somehow fucked up so hard that you did several things wrong consecutively


Last modified: 10/1/17


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