17. Swapping Leads vs. Leading in Blocks

In this video we review the reasons you might choose to swap leads or lead in blocks.

Swapping Leads: Also known as swinging leads. This is where the climbing team alternates leading each pitch.

– You might assign odd or even numbered pitches to each teammate based on which climber wants to lead the first pitch, or the crux pitch.
– Sharing leads, in general, allows each climber to feel like they’re part of the team, sharing in the adventure.
– Works well in easier climbing terrain where climbers don’t need a rest between climbing pitches.
– Since the rope will be stacked appropriately for the follower to transition into leading the next pitch, and because the follower will also have most of the gear that they just cleaned off the last pitch, this can be a faster climbing strategy.

Leading in Blocks: This is a great technique for tackling long and demanding climbs. This is where one climber will lead several pitches in a row, then the other climber will lead several pitches in a row.

– Team decides which climber gets to lead which blocks based on experience level with different climbing techniques required for each pitch (i.e. crack, slabs, stemming, aid climbing…etc), as well as speed and overall skill level.
– Team also decides how many blocks to break the climb into based on strengths, changes in terrain, styles of climbing, belay ledges which enable an efficient transition, and/or number of pitches.
– Allows the lead climber to rest while belaying the follower. From a physical standpoint, this can be ideal on more demanding routes, as it allows each climber to climb one pitch at a time, then rest, vs swapping leads where the follower rolls right into leading the next pitch.

We hope you found this video helpful. Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.