Climbing isn’t just a sport. It can be a lifestyle – just ask all the #vanlife climbers out there! The uninitiated may shake their collective heads at our foolhardiness, but for those of us who live and breathe climbing, nothing compares to the feel of clean, sturdy rock beneath your fingers as you dangle from a breath-taking height in the light of the rising sun. Before you can experience this life-changing sport that we have come to love, however, you must have a great climbing partner. After all, your life will be in your partner’s hands.
CLIMBING CLASSES OR WORKSHOPS
If you haven’t gotten your climbing skill level up yet, your best bet may be to sign up for a class or workshop, where you can learn some of the basics of climbing and connect with like-minded enthusiasts. As a beginner, your first climbing partner should be someone who is highly experienced and willing to take you under their wing, so to speak. A workshop is the most promising place to start because you can meet climbers of all skill levels there.
Hiring a Guide
If you can swing it, you may consider hiring a guide to partner you on your first few outdoor climbing trips. Check the American Mountain Guides Association to find a certified one; you’ll know that you are receiving expert advice from someone who truly knows what they are doing and that you will be safe in their hands. You can also ask around at the rock gym and climbing equipment retailer for recommendations of local guides for hire.
Your local rock gym is going to become your favorite place, whether you’re just starting out or you’ve moved to a new area and need to meet climbing partners who will challenge your skills. If you haven’t gone to yours yet, plan to go soon — or better yet, go now. You may prefer highballing in the great outdoors as a general rule, but the gym gives you a place to meet new climbing mates, practice more complicated moves in a safe environment, or just hang out and climb on a rainy day.
Any area that has a strong climbing culture is bound to have a few different climbing clubs. Ask around at your gym for information about any clubs in your town, and make sure that you choose one appropriate for your skill level. The climbing club is one place where you’ll be able to talk climbing with people who understand you, and those fancy belay goggles you just bought. Of course, you can meet up with people who could become lifelong friends and climbing partners.
Facebook Groups and Other Online Forums
Meeting a climbing partner online is not ideal, but if you don’t have a gym nearby, can’t find any clubs or workshops, or simply prefer to reach out online first, you can find climbing partners over the web.
Make sure to meet them at the rock gym, or at the very least, at a beginners-level climbing route, to test their skills and see if they will be a good fit. You don’t want to trust someone you’ve never met previously to give you a catch on a ten pitch route you’ve never done before.
What to Look For
Everyone needs something unique in their climbing partner, but here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide who you should climb with:
- Personality – No matter how good this climber is, if she spends the whole climb bragging about it, it’s going to ruin the experience. The right personality is a must.
- Experience – Do you need someone who will act as your rope gun, or would you prefer to be the teacher? Are you looking for a partner to challenge the limits of your abilities or someone to just have a good time climbing with? Decide ahead of time what kind of experience you want your partner to have.
- Expectations – Knowing what to expect before the climb can keep things going smoothly — you don’t want to gear up for a full morning of hard climbing only to find that your partner would rather scale a short route then spend an hour nibbling on energy bars. And you certainly don’t want your partner to think you’re going on a date if that’s not what you had in mind.
Choosing the right partner for a climb when you don’t have a strong network of climbing buddies in place can be frustrating. But with some diligence and patience, you can begin to build that network no matter where you live. Contact us to start building that network.