HomeOutdoor activitiesWhat is Trad Climbing?

What is Trad Climbing?

What is Trad Climbing?

Trad climbing can be one of the most exciting and challenging forms of rock climbing, no matter your experience level. It requires special skills to safely place and remove protection from natural features on the rock face.

These techniques are essential for avoiding falls and creating secure anchors on multi-pitch routes. Furthermore, it requires an understanding of how to safely scout out complex routes and navigate them securely.

The Basics

Trad climbing, commonly referred to as “trad,” conjures up images of majestic mountain crags, wild sea cliffs or hidden gems set in picturesque settings. It’s no wonder why climbers love this style of climbing so much – it’s all about adventure!

Sport climbing typically follows pre-placed bolts to ascend a route; trad climbing requires you to carry your own gear and place it into cracks or fissures as you climb. These protective pieces, known as pro, are meant to arrest falls and shield the climber as they progress up the route.

Trad climbing got its name from when this style of climbing was the primary means of protection from falls. Sport climbing later replaced it, offering a newer and more innovative system of metal bolts and hangars that could be clipped into walls every few meters – but the original form of trad remains popular among climbers today.

Trad climbing requires more of an attention to safety and protection than sport climbing, making it challenging for those without prior expertise. But with the correct skillset and knowledge, trad climbing can be both rewarding and secure.

As with all climbing styles, it’s essential to always climb with a qualified and experienced guide who has been certified by your national organization. Having someone with years of experience who possesses strong belaying and leading skills can save you from serious injury.

If you’re just starting out in climbing, it may be beneficial to take some practice leads at your local crag before embarking on longer routes. These shorter pitches will teach the basics of trad climbing and provide practice with more challenging climbs.

Before leading your first trad route, practice placing and taking off all of your gear as many times as possible. This will give you a good understanding of how to assess the rock face correctly and select an appropriate piece of equipment.


Trad climbers typically bring along a range of gear on their climbs. This includes pieces of protection (also referred to as active or passive pro) which they use for holding onto ropes and themselves while ascending trad routes.

Before you dive into trad climbing, it’s essential to know which gear you need and how to utilize it effectively. Fortunately, there are numerous resources online and in books that provide a good overview of the necessary equipment for starting out in trad climbing.

One of the most essential pieces of trad climbing equipment is a nut tool (also known as ‘nut key’). These long metal sticks feature a hook on one end that allows you to pull or push gear in and out of cracks, pockets or pin scars without breaking it off.

Trad gear also includes cams, which are spring-loaded mechanical devices that can be placed into cracks in rock as runners or anchors. Cams come in various sizes from your little finger up to your head’s width and offer an affordable way to add some security to your rack while trekking.

Finally, nuts and hexes come in various sizes and shapes that can be used as runners or anchors in cracks. Plus, these cheaper alternatives to cams make them a great starting point if you’re new to trad climbing.

Depending on the type of trad climb you plan to do, additional gear may be necessary. This might include a sling – an elastic fabric cord that wraps around rock spikes, trees or other natural points on a crag to form either a runner or anchor at the top of the pitch.

In certain circumstances, you may need to attach a sling to a cam or nut in order for it to stay put. This is often used on sport routes where both leaders and belayers are belayed from above; trad climbers also use this tactic when climbing routes with straight cracks between them.


Trad climbing is a style of rock climbing in which climbers use their own equipment to scale vertical features. Tools like hexes, cams and nut tools are used for this purpose; techniques vary depending on the rock type and climber’s ability level.

Sport climbers already have protection installed, while trad climbers must install their own gear (bolts). This requires considerable skill and an intimate understanding of the physics behind trad gear installation.

One of the first skills a beginner must master is placing trad gear. While this may seem intimidating at first glance, an experienced instructor can help you master this technique and begin exploring straightforward trad routes.

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, you can progress to more advanced trad climbing techniques and gear sets. This includes learning to quickly construct anchors, install protection, and clean gear as you ascend.

Crack climbing is an essential trad climbing technique, as most routes require this form of protection. To do so, climbers must jam their hands and feet into cracks for security – it may be a painful experience at first, but ultimately helps build confidence in their trad climbing skills.

Slab climbing is a traditional climbing technique that many experienced climbers must master. Slab climbing requires low angles and lacks features to grab onto, so the climber must learn how to use their feet and legs effectively in order to control the rock’s movement.

Trad climbing’s other major technique is rappelling, which involves using either a fixed or natural sling or point to descend from an elevation. Rappeling can be both enjoyable and challenging; however, it should always be done correctly to minimize potential risks.

Thankfully, most trad routes feature some kind of rappelling station to make it simpler for climbers to bail out if they lose their grip on the rope or don’t send their pitch. Some climbers prefer bolted rappelling stations while others opt for natural systems like trees or protruding rocks where ropes can be threaded through.


Trad climbing is a beloved activity among climbers of all ages and abilities. The safety of this type of climbing depends on several factors, including the experience and fitness level of the climber, the route difficulty, and rock quality.

Trad climbing typically does not result in serious injury, and the risk of falling is lower than other sports or bouldering. This statistic is important as it indicates that rock climbing can be enjoyed safely by anyone who understands its risks and is willing to make an effort to minimize them.

Trad climbing differs from sport or bouldering in that it utilizes a combination of gear and belaying to protect the climber. This includes a rope that is used both during ascent and descent of a route, as well as safety items like helmets and chalk.

Trad climbing gear is generally much safer than sport or bouldering gear, as it rarely breaks. When something does malfunction on trad climbing equipment, however, it usually due to human error rather than mechanical failure.

Trad leaders must ensure they have placed adequate gear and secured their climb safely for their belayer. This necessitates technical knowledge and experience placing equipment, as well as greater endurance and mental fortitude to deal with the greater risks that come along with trad leading.

If you are new to trad climbing, it is wise to seek out a mentor or guide who can teach the fundamentals of this style of climbing. These professionals usually possess certification from the AMGA or other recognized organization and will customize your trip according to what topics interest you most.

Another effective way to hone the skills of trad climbing is by practicing at your local crag. This provides an opportunity to practice placing and taking off gear without fear of an actual fall, while also giving you a good understanding of how it all works.


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