If you’ve been crushing the top-rope game lately and find yourself looking longingly toward the lead wall, you need to join the lead climbing crew! But how do you know if you are ready to receive your lead belaying certification?

First, wait to start lead climbing in the gym until you have successfully passed your gym’s lead belaying certification. This usually goes hand in hand with the climbing portion. You may feel unsure if your eagerness and longing to jump into lead belaying equates to adequate preparedness for the certification. We get it. Tests of any kind are scary and nerve-racking. But that’s where this article comes in handy. So, if you’re looking to affirm whether or not you are ready to receive your lead belaying certification, keep reading through our self-evaluation and test tips to find out!

Lead belaying certification: Am I ready?

Part 1

First, you need to ask yourself a series of questions:

  1. Do you know how to lead belay already?

(If you answered yes to question one, you can skip to our test tips and take the exam as soon as possible. More than likely, you are just battling the test-taking nerves, but the information should reduce any stress around the test.) 

  1. Do you climb ropes often?
  2. Do you know how to top rope belay?
  3. Are you comfortable with top rope belaying?
  4. Are you good at knowing when your climber is tired before they tell you they are?
  5. Are you comfortable catching people when they fall on the top rope?

If you answered no to questions #2 – #5, we suggest you revisit this article once you can answer yes to at least 2, 3, 4, and 5. However, if you answered no to question #1 but yes to questions #2- #5, we suggest considering you take a learn-to-lead-belay class that will aid you step-by-step in becoming certified. If you’re an eager and fast learner, this should allow you to feel confident in receiving your lead belay certification in a few weeks or less!

Test Tips!

When it comes to taking the exam, be confident. We have curated a mini-study guide below to ensure you feel prepared for the exam. It consists of nine components in which you should feel competent before taking the exam. Also note that some gyms require you to be able to lead climb to lead belay, while others don’t. Make sure you are comfortable with both belaying and climbing if you know your gym requires a demonstration of proficiency in both. 

  1. Know how to set up the belay device adequately (either ATC or GriGri)
  2. Know how to put on a harness properly and explain that you know the harness is on correctly.
  3. Know how to tie into the rope correctly and how to check if the knot is tied correctly. 
  4. Know how to clip a quickdraw properly and the two improper ways to clip (z-clip and backclip). For a z-clip and backclip, you should know how to demonstrate what each looks like and be able to explain why they are wrong/dangerous. 
  5. Know how to clip opposite and opposing anchors properly. 
  6. Know the difference between a cold-shut and quickdraw anchor system. 
  7. Know how to properly belay (giving and taking the rope, braking).
  8. Know how to catch a climber’s fall as the belayer properly. How to catch a fall as a belayer 
  9. Establish communication commands between the belayer and the climber (before climbing and before lowering).

If you’ve read this far, we hope you feel confident and have a plan of action to receive your lead belaying certification. As you can tell, it’s not one size fits all. It ultimately is up to you to determine when you feel confident in your abilities to lead-belay. Once you receive your certification, you can enjoy all the fun leading brings to the sport! We’d love to know if you found this article helpful, so leave us a note in the comments below with your thoughts!