The next step after learning to belay – lead climbing

Ed hamer showing good clipping techniques at an indoor climbing competition
Learning to Lead Climb
Lead Climbing is when the climber ascends a route from the ground without a top rope from above. While trailing the safety rope, their belayer then watches them as they climb higher, while paying out rope through the belay plate and in case of a fall will lock off the rope.
The best place to learn to lead climb is indoors in a safe and controlled environment so at a local climbing centre. After having been climbing for a while, tope roping routes, tying into the rope, learning to belay and bouldering, the next step is to lead climb.
The first thing that needs to be practised is the clipping of the rope into quickdraws. This sounds like quite a simple thing to do on the ground but can be different prospect when your half way up the wall with tired arms in an awkward position. At most climbing walls there will be a section of the wall where there are two low bolts with quick draws attached to them. These are used to practise clipping the rope into teem the correct way. So practising this technique standing on the ground, with a rope is very useful. The lead rope attached to the climber always wants to come out of the top of the karabiner and not from the bottom, which is called back clipping and can un-clip itself from the karabiner so it is imperative that this is done correctly.
Ed Hamer with an awkward clip
Once happy with the rope clipping technique, one can then move onto leading a route but with a normal top rope system set up. So the climber can practice by tying into a top rope as per usual with a belayer on the other end of the rope, then with a separate lead rope tie in into this and trail that rope while clipping it into the quickdraws. This is a great and safe way of learning to lead climb as you still have the rope above you but are practising clipping into quick draws. Doing this technique gives you experience leading with the rope and clipping into each karabiner. This can be done over and over again until you feel comfortable enough to lead your first route.
Start are something way below your grade with nice big holds and at a modest angle. Get someone who you fully trust as a belayer to give you confidence. Take your time while leading, its not a race to the top! Practise, Practise and practise some more. Once you get to grips with the leading technique this in turn opens up a lot of exciting climbs both indoors and outside.