By guest blogger Georgie Abel
"You're pretty strong for a girl," he says to me. I clench my jaw. I'm sitting around a campfire in the Buttermilks with three of my closest male friends. The apparent attempt at a compliment comes from a guy we met earlier that day. The space between my shoulder blades aches from multiple burns on my project and I'm mentally exhausted. I tilt my beer back, trying to muster the energy to come back with some witty response, even though I just want to pretend I'm one of those girls who isn't bothered by a comment like that. My eye catches a glance from one of my friends. His brow furrows and his mouth looks tight, he does not approve of what the dude said. I know in that moment that I shouldn't either.
"That's a really weird thing to say," I say to the guy. "That compliment was spiked with something that feels pretty demeaning." My friend's face softens and he nods, the other guy doesn't know what to say. He doesn't climb with us the next day.
Being a climber and a writer naturally makes me a curious person. Being a woman in a sport that is ruled (for the most part) by men makes for a lot of gender-related experiences, all of which I find to be really interesting. I knew that other female climbers were interested in this too, and that they had stories of their own about being a woman in the bro-ed out world of rock climbing. I wanted to hear their stories. So, I asked.
I asked almost 100 female climbers of varying ages and ability levels to tell me a story about a notable experience they had while climbing with a male. Most of the women are from the San Francisco Bay Area, some are from elsewhere in the United States, and a few are overseas. I have kept their names anonymous, mostly for the sake of the men who their stories are about.
I have arranged this article in the same manner that the responses were received. Initially I was told about moments when women felt degraded, looked down upon, or judged. Then, slowly, the positive stories started coming in--stories of empowerment, inspiration, and recognition. You'll find those accounts toward the end of the article. No matter the age, strength, or experience level of the woman, the themes of their negative experiences could easily be grouped under a few main categories. I decided to share only a fraction of the stories I received, selecting the ones I did because they echoed what many other women had expressed, or because they were particularly hilarious.
These are the true stories of female climbers--from five-year old girls who only climb the routes in the gym that have purple tape, to professional female climbers who have established routes on multiple continents, competed for national titles, and ticked countless 5.14s. And of course, all of us in between.
Here is what we've experienced while climbing with the boys.
- There was no conversation about who would lead what pitch, he just assumed I didn't want to lead at all.
- He told me not to worry because there were some smaller, easier boulders down the hill, unaware that I was completely comfortable with highballs and trying hard boulder problems.
- He set up a top rope on a climb I had led as a warm up several times in the past and told me it would be a little heady for me.
- He kept on shouting beta to me on a climb that was like five V-grades below what I usually climb.
- This guy was spotting me on Acid Wash, a really low climb in the Happy boulders. I really didn't want a spot because it's so low and I had enough pads, and he wasn't spotting any of his guy friends.
- One time a boy said I probably couldn't do the one he did because I don't play any sports.
- All of my friends had to leave Smith, so I met up with this guy who was a mutual friend. I had never climbed with him before. We got to the wall and he started teaching me how to tie a figure eight knot. This was the day after I sent my first 5.13.
Discouraging women from trying hard, heady, or powerful climbs:
- He told me I should stick to vertical climbing because girls aren't built to climb anything steep.
- We were climbing at the Red and he said I shouldn't try anything in the Motherlode because women don't usually like those kinds of routes.
- My boyfriend was belaying me on Pope's Crack in Joshua Tree and some random guy walked past him and said, "Bro, I hope you know this isn't one of those easy climbs. She probably shouldn't be on that."
- The same dude at Dogpatch tells me not to even attempt a problem because it's too hard for me because I'm short.
- I like climbing with girls because they say, "Good job! You're almost there!" And they cheer me on. Boys don't usually say that stuff.
- A guy told me I probably shouldn't try any highballs because women are all afraid of heights, and the only reason why they climb heady stuff is because they want to be seen as a badass.
- My climbing partner never encourages me to try anything harder than what he can climb.
- One time this guy I barely knew told me that if I was going to try this certain route that I should be very careful because it's sandbagged, has tricky pro, long runouts, and insecure feet. I did the route and yeah, it was hard, but none of what he said was true.
- He discouraged me from climbing a certain boulder problem because he said if I sent it, it would probably get downgraded.
Being Bro-ey, Cocky, or Douchy
- When I said that I wanted to onsight a route he started racking the quick draws on to his harness and said that putting up the draws was the only was he could control the situation of me leading.
- One time at a birthday party there was a boy who climbed all the routes I couldn't get to the top of and then he told me about it a lot.
- He told me that I need to wear Lululemons to do a high step.
- I was warming up in the gym and this guy started tickling me while I was climbing.
- I don't think I'll want to climb with boys when I get older because I usually don't like people who show their nipples in public.
- About five other girls and I were trying Go Granny Go in the Buttermilks and this guy came and did it in his approach shoes and then did pull ups on the finish jug.
- When we were climbing in Joshua Tree he asked me and my friend if our boyfriends had given us enough pro for the climb we were about to do.
- I climbed with a boy once and he got mad because he couldn't get to the top.
- I was climbing a boulder problem in the local climbing gym and about four guys were watching me climb, but none of them pulled the mats underneath me. I fell and landed on the floor, which is cement.
- There is this one guy at the gym who follows me around and only climbs the boulder problems I try, even though he is much stronger than me.
- One time one of the boys in my climbing camp was belaying me and I looked back at him and he wasn't looking at me so I got really scared. I think he was looking at his friend doing a handstand.
Attributing our strength to something other than...our strength:
- I overheard a guy say that the only reason why this girl sent Tales of Power in Yosemite is because she has tiny hands.
- He told me that I was better at slab climbing than him because having my center of gravity lower on my body gives me an advantage.
- After I sent my project, he said that it was probably easier for me than him because I weigh less.
- Whenever I send something that climbers typically think of as "girly" (slabby, balancy, delicate, or crimpy) he always mentions that I did it because I'm a girl.
- If I can climb a crimpy boulder problem he can't, he says it's because I have small hands.
- One time when I was climbing with a male, I suggested that we avoid a certain pitch because I had a bad feeling about it. It looked like it could be chossy and maybe even wet. We ended up doing a variation that led us to the left of the line we were originally planning to do, and as we climbed we could see that it was in fact chossy and damp. He asked, "Who told you to avoid that pitch?" totally assuming that I couldn't have predicted the bad conditions all on my own.
So there you have it. To be honest, when the stories started rolling in, I cringed a little (after laughing out loud in a coffee shop and nodding my head in agreement). I so badly didn't want to write some man-hating article that bashed on dudes and didn't address the fact that men can be valuable climbing partners. But, that's not what I was hearing from the girls. I thought to myself: where are the stories of that time you sent your highball project because you had some burly dude spotting you? What about when that guy said, "You're gonna crush this," even after he flailed? What about when he asked you if you thought you guys should rappel down or walk off the back, because you're always good at judging that kind of stuff? What about that time it wasn't about gender at all, what about when it was just rock climbing?
Slowly, I started hearing about these experiences. I didn't have to ask for them. It usually happened like this: a woman would tell me about a time a guy did something totally degrading, and then a few minutes or days later, she would come back and say something such as, But I have a lot of male climbing partners who don't act like this. Many of them treat me no differently than their guy friends and recognize that I bring something unique and valuable to the table, that they can learn things from me that they can't learn from male climbers.
Yes, how true that is: women experience this sport in a way that is so different from men, and we all have a lot to learn from each other. All of the negative stories were that of men assuming we had nothing to teach them. That's the common thread.
I received one story about a positive experience while climbing with a male that captures the spirit and character of all the other stories as well. Here is it:
I'm all racked up. My shoes are on, uncomfortable as always. They feel tighter than normal. The brisk Squamish air bites at the back of my neck. I tuck the remaining stray peices of hair behind my helmet. I take a deep breath and look up at my climb. I think of turning to my partner and telling him to go ahead. Tie in to the sharp end, I want to say. Lead this pitch. Lead all of the pitches. It's not that hard. You're much better than me anyways. My pride or my stubbornness stops me. My male counterpart is a much stronger climber than me and he's much more experienced - perhaps not in trad climbing, but he's certainly been exposed (and exceled) at this sport much longer than I have. Squamish used to be his stomping grounds anyways and for more than one reason I feel like I haven't earned my spot here. I feel pre-emptively embarassed and also that I have something to prove. You've got this, he tells me. Against almost exactly 50% of my will, I slip my hand into the crack. I make a fist and feel the granite against my knuckles. Right, I think. This is about climbing. Four pitches later and we're at the top, looking over a beautiful deep blue sky filled with clouds and mountains. I stopped being concerned with if the climb was hard enough or if my technique was good enough a long time ago, somewhere on Pitch 1. I looked at my partner and his male-ness did not concern me, impress me, depress me, or intimidate me. In fact it did not enter into my mind at all. It was just beauty and human-ness that filled my soul now. Weeks later we are sitting in his father's kitchen, recounting details of our Canadian explorations. He says, completey seamlessly, that I'm actually the better climber in a lot of ways. I think he's insane but that is besides the point. He tells of how he respects the way I push my limits, how I deal with my fear. He is being genuine. Honest. His ego isn't in the room and though he could walk up boulder problems I could only dream of one day touching, he isn't concerned with that. He's not trying to prove anything. I didn't need his validation; certainly not in the way that I as a female would want validation from a male. It's not about who the better climber is and in what ways. It never really is about that, for me at least. I didn't need his encouragement as a male, only as a climbing partner. And yet. I have to admit that I've had enough experiences as a female climber that make me weary; weary of being judged, weary of being undervalued, weary of being categorized by something other than my experience or my ability. I'm not afraid because I'm a girl. I'm afraid because I'm 30 feet up on a highball and this crimp is fucking tiny. I'm not sending my projects - not because I'm a girl, but because I haven't been training. You can go ahead and include me in the list of people who would like to lead this pitch. I'm a girl and I'm also capable of placing gear. Sometimes those dynamics are real and sometimes they are imagined. But what a nice experience to have had, a really lovely break from the chain of stereotypical bro-yness that can wear us ladies down sometimes. I'm sure we have our own stereotypes to break too. I've tried my best to let go of taking too seriously the gendered aspect of climbing now. There are those experiences that will re-affirm the great things about climbing with guys and there are the experiences that will inspire us to prove them wrong. It's kind of a win-win if you ask me.
A sincere thank you goes to all of the women who contributed their stories. You are the authors of this article. I'll leave you with more of their words; this is very important and overdue: To the males respecting and encouraging the females out there, a big thank you. We know you need the respect and encouragement too and we've got your back.
Mary-Kate fought through a series of pockets. At the last bolt, she grabbed a sidepull, pressed her foot onto nothing and made a delicate mantle to the anchors. Ecstatic, she clipped the anchors of Pocket Line, a 5.11 at The Wailing Wall, sending her hardest sport route to date.
Mary-Kate, a long time boulderer, has enjoyed the new transition into sport climbing. “It’s humbling and super fun,” said Mary-kate. One of the best parts about trying a new aspect of climbing is the quick acceleration. The learning curve moves quickly. No matter what your experience level, learning to sport climb can be a challenge. Below are a few tips on beginning to sport climb.
Warm Up Well
Some crags have plenty of warm-up routes and picking a suitable route is easy. At crags like Jailhouse, the warm-up can be a project. Make sure to warm-up properly. Hang if you get pumped to avoid the dreaded flash-pump, where your forearms fill with lactic acid and recovering becomes impossible. Climbing the bottom of a route several times can be a good way to loosen your muscles. Traverse the base, do a short run, swing your arms, or be like Ethan Pringle and bring a jump rope to the crag.
ABS- Always Be Sending
Sport climbing can send people deep into project mode. You try a route once then suddenly you’re spending days interrogating the route for better beta. You focus only on sending that one route and each day at the crag becomes a routine. Escape the bad habit of total route fixation. Make sure to mix it up a little bit and climb easier routes that you can complete quickly. This will teach you how to fight to redpoint and give you confidence on your project. “Climb at a place where you can succeed,” said Mary-kate. This will keep your confidence high, a crucial ingredient to climbing hard. It will also increase your technique for climbing other routes as well.
Feeling relaxed on a sport route is essential. Breathe well. Move efficiently. Despite 13 years of climbing, I still get terrified climbing. To overcome my fear on a difficult route, I test falls. “Every time I fall, I get less scared,” said Mary-kate. Being comfortable with the falls will help you move fluidly and well. Make sure you know where you’re clipping from. It’s easiest to clip when the draw is at your chest or waist. Depending on where the good holds are, you may need to clip from lower or higher. Be aware of which way the carabiner gate faces and clip quickly.
There’s a ton of strategy involved in sport climbing. To redpoint the most difficult routes involves being extremely efficient. Learn the basics of dogging up a route, how to rest well on holds, and how to memorize long sequences of beta. If you fall onsighting a route, make sure to figure out all the beta so that you can climb it better your second try. Also climb where and when conditions are good. Sometimes that means waking up early. More than anything, the best sport climbers are tenacious. Get after it!
On Friday March 21st, Berkeley Ironworks will hold the second comp in the 2014 Touchstone Climbing Series. Touchstone started these events to help build community and to provide climbers with an opportunity to socialize. The comps also provide a great chance to learn how to climb in a comp setting, a challenging facet of rock climbing.
Preparing for a comp, a day of climbing when you perform your absolute best, can be difficult. Justin Wood, a Salt Lake City climbing trainer with Maisch Training, provided solid advice for preparing the Ironworks bouldering comp. “Warm up really well. A lot of people get excited and they get flash pumped or beat up.” Take the time to stretch, and do lots of easy climbing. The Touchstone setters reset huge sections of the gym, which translates into amazing problems including great moderates. Warming up well will allow your muscles to relax and perform at their best. Check out all the new problems.
During the comp, take the time to relax. Enjoy the atmosphere and allow your muscles to recover. “Rest more rest than you think,” said Wood. “Watch people between the burns. Then give the problems good redpoint goes.” While resting, you could meet a new climbing partner or see another climber provide you with crucial beta on the problem you’re having difficulty with. Hydrate well and be ready to climb when your chance comes. When you do pull onto the problem, climb with intention. Execute the moves and do your absolute best.
If you want to train before the comp, climb a lot of problems with a focus on onsighting and finishing problems in as few tries as possible. You want to conserve strength and use it efficiently over a long period of time. Wood pointed out the need for significant stamina. “Schedule a bouldering pyramid where you’re doing lots of hard problems,” said Wood.
Forget about your performance in terms of the people around you. Earlier this year, former Zero Gravity member, Josh Levin competed in a half dozen comps across the east coast this fall. He provided some excellent insight into the mentality of comp climbing. “As hard as it may be, trying not to base your own performance on how other people do is absolutely key to succeed. If you lay down the absolute best performance of your life, but still do not come out on top, those people deserved to beat you that day. The results may not reflect your personal desire to do well, but it is important that you realize the true value of your efforts,” said Levin in his blog. “Conversely, if you win a comp but you know you didn’t perform at your absolute best, you should still be openly happy with your performance, but reflect on what you could’ve done better for future events. I’ve found that the true victories are the ones that don’t come easy.”
Most importantly, have fun at the event. After you’re done climbing, enjoy all the free pizza and beer that the gym has to offer. Train hard before the comp and then have a good time in the moment. The Touchstone Comp Series provides an excellent mixture of athleticism, community, and a good time.
Member of the Month
Racquel from The Studio Climbing
She first got “dragged” into bouldering at the old San Jose Touchstone Climbing gym back in 2006. After that, she quickly adapted the climber’s life, connecting with other Touchstone climbers and cranking boulders and routes outdoors. She claims to have just “begun to tap into the world of trad climbing,” but no doubt – she’s a strong and graceful climber indoors and outdoors. She’s even getting new grades in Charles “Swoll Chuck” Chang’s 5.12 class this month. Regardless, Racquel loves the challenge and pay-off of the hard work of climbing, a world of potential that pushes her to strive.
She climbs with goals in mind these days: technique, endurance and strength. “I try to hone in on the techniques I want to practice or build on rather than just climbing as hard as I can indoors. Right now I am building up my endurance by lapping walls at easy grades in order to get more time on the wall. Building up my core and grip strength slowly and sustainably is going to allow me to climb with skill and endurance on the outdoor stuff. Why climb? Because I want to get out and do fun and challenging stuff outside. There is nothing more rewarding than the feeling of reaching the top of a wall you have spent all day climbing just in time to watch the sunset.”
For Racquel, there’s always a reason to climb. She started climbing for fun, but it became a way to overcome fear of heights and motivate herself past personal limitations. Beyond being just a reason to get outdoors, it “has become a refining tool to get on more big wall stuff.”
“I like to live life day by day and I try to give each moment my full attention. When I am on the wall that brings it all together. There is no where else my mind can go to but the next hold. If there was one thing I could wish on everyone it would not be to be happy all the time, but rather to just be honest about how you are, where you are, and how you feel. That is all there is to show and all anyone can expect of you.”
Climbing shoes: Anasazi VCS Golden Tan size 8 - of the stinky variety
All-time Favorite Route at the Studio: A pink 5.11 comp route © June 2012
Favorite time to climb: Mornings for training and evenings for socializing... any day I can make it to the gym.
Favorite Climbing food: Coconut Strips and chocolate
Favorite climbing music: Ratatat
Secret identity: Rocky Raccoon
Hidden Features: A secret tattoo
Side projects: Conquer Serengeti, V5 in the Happy Boulders of Bishop, CA this year!
Thanks for bringing your positive attitude to the gym and the boulders! You are part of what makes The Studio Climbing such a great place to climb!
By Narinda Heng
So. You’ve made a tiny human! Does this mean no more climbing gym time? No!
You may have noticed that door between the drinking fountains and the men’s locker room with the “Childcare” sign above it. Here’s what’s inside:
Berkeley Ironworks offers childcare for children age 6 months to 6 years four days a week:
Tuesdays & Thursdays 4:00pm - 8:00pm
Saturdays 10:00am - 1:00pm
Sundays 2:00pm - 5:00pm
The pricing is pretty incredible at $7.50/hour for members and $10.00/hour for non-members.
(You’ll still be on diaper & potty duty, though, so keep an ear perked for the intercom in case those needs arise.)
I’ve been one of the childcare staff since August 2013, and I wanted to offer some hints and tricks for parents leaving their babes for the first time:
1. You may be called back to the childcare room for soothing. The first visit or two might be a little rough for those kiddos under three. They get worried. They think you’re never coming back. They start crying. Desperately. We’ll try to soothe them with toys and books and videos, but if that doesn’t work, we’ll ask the front desk to call for you over the intercom. It’ll happen less and less with each visit!
2. Sometimes it’s so hard to say goodbye that it’s better not to. Some babes mainly have trouble with the letting go part. It helps to let the childcare person know what your child is excited about playing with, so that they can distract them as you quietly leave the room to go climb your project, take a yoga class, or run a few miles on BIW’s super-fancy new treadmills.
3. The more the merrier! We can have up to six children in the childcare room at a time, and the babes tend to do better when they have other kids to play with. Play/belay dates are highly recommended. Are you a part of a pair of parents taking turns watching the little ones? Are your toddlers good pals? Set them on a play date in the childcare room so you can all get your climb on. Everybody’s happy.
4. There’s no place like home, but the toys don’t have to stay there. We have plenty of different toys for varying ages, but it’s great for them to have more familiar happiness- making things to play with, or a favorite book to read. Bring a few along. Here some creative tikes integrated their set of Squinkie toys with our map play rug:
The four year old’s had a grand ol’ time.
Weekday evenings can get a little wild at the gym. You can pay ahead for childcare time so you can just scan your member card and then come straight to the childcare room, where you can sign off the amount of time (in 1/2 hour blocks) that you’d like to use. Precious minutes saved! And it lets BIW know that there are folks interested in the childcare service, so we can keep it going for the parents yet to come.
These are some things I’ve noticed since I joined the childcare team. You know your child better than I do, of course! You never know whether this will be a good fit unless you try, right? What’s the harm? You wouldn’t want to leave us to sit alone polishing the toys all shift long, would you?
in lieu of a boring FAQ page... our favorite home town hero/pro climber/ MH model Ethan Pringle and coach/blogger/crusher Georgie Abel stopped by Dogpatch Boulders to help spread the word about proper gym etiquette. "I can always tell when it's someones first time in the gym," said Dogpatch Boulders manager Justin Alarcon. "And it's not their climbing that gives them away. It's not knowing how to fall or to see where a route is going before they jump on!"
Climbing is inherently dangerous. But this video will give you tips and tricks on everything from falling safely on our lovely Flashed Climbing flooring, to spotting in the gym. If you're new to bouldering or just want to be a more educated climber, this is a must see!
This video was shot and edited by the modern day Jean-Luc Godard, Joe Kinder, and finished off with the lyrical stylings of Michael P Hershburger. Thanks everyone! Happy climbing!
Resting can be one of the most difficult parts of rock climbing. When on a trip, there’s always a need to take a day or two off to let your muscles rest and recover. For obsessive climbers, finding ways to keep yourself busy during rest days can be brutal. Below are a few tips.
Hayden Kennedy reads during a rest day in the desert
Clean Up Your Act
Many climbing areas, like Squamish, Moab, and Mesquite, have recreation areas where you can purchase a shower, sit in a sauna, or swim in a pool. Besides rec area, showers are often available at local gyms or hostels. There’s hot springs around Bishop and Mickey’s Beach as well as vapor caves outside of Rifle. Find the local swimming holes if you want to save a few dollars but still smell rustic. Bathing helps heal the inevitable small abrasions that occur while at the crag or in the boulders. If you’ve been climbing long enough to take a rest day, then you probably have some dirty clothes. Finding a Laundromat with Wi-Fi, laundry detergent, and all of the dirty socks in your car can take upwards of eight hours. Beyond the laundry, clean out your car, organize your tent and camping area. Sort out your rack, collect your draws, and cut the ends of your rope if needed. Buy groceries, chalk, and climbing tape.
When you woke up, you probably made a slow breakfast, then hit the coffee shop or library. The rest day Internet sessions can last anywhere from two to fifteen hours. Be prepared to find the ends of the information superhighway. Update your Facebook status with a list of things you’ve climbed. Upload pictures. Find out who’s heading to the crag in the next few days. Ask your friends if they’ve climbed the routes you’ve been trying or if anyone has beta on a potential climb. Facebook can be an excellent resource for gathering beta and arranging partners. Make sure to contact your mom and tell her you love her. You never know when you might sprain your ankle, break a bone, and have to move back home. Plus, moms love to send care packages. Five-day-old brownies sent to general delivery in Leavenworth Washington still taste good.
Brittany Griffith does some stretching and band work out to rehabilitate her shoulder during a rest day in Indian Creek
Plan for the next climb
Take advantage of your day off by researching what you’ll do on your next climbing day. Devouring the guidebook for beta, finding the routes or problems you want to climb, and putting a rack together for tomorrow helps you climb more efficiently the next day. Finding partners for the next day and then prepping for the climbing can take a significant amount of time especially for longer routes. Make a tick list of the routes you want to climb while you are on your trip and schedule the days that you want to climb them. Account a few days for rain and bad weather. Prepare to make yourself as efficient as possible for the next day of climbing.
Alex Honnold takes an active rest day by hiking up the top of the Sentinel in Yosemite
Take An Active Rest Day
Heading out for a hike or a run can be a great way to recover. While some climbers abhor any exercise that isn’t directly related to climbing, getting a bit of physical activity can provide an opportunity to find new boulder problems, figure out approaches to long routes and provide a bit of fitness. Use the run or hike as an opportunity to stretch sore muscles. Heading to the boulders to brush holds, or to the crag to look at routes, can provide an excellent diversion for a few hours. Scoping out the descent route can also keep you from having an enormous epic.
Check Facebook Again
Something must have changed in the past five minutes to warrant you checking. Your fifth grade elementary school teacher probably updated their status. If Facebook offers little entertainment, read through past Touchstone blog posts, check Climbing.com for the latest news, or fixate on your 8a.nu card. All of these websites offer great training posts on how to improve your climbing. Purchase new climbing shoes from one of the dozen of online climbing sites. While you’re on the Internet, look for a job. If you’re on the road long enough to take a rest day and not have to work, then you need a job.
Document Your Travels
One of the best parts of taking rest days is the amount of free time you have. Many climbers take the day to invest in their hobbies. Drawing, reading about, and taking photos of the area can be rest day activities. One of the best parts of climbing is the different areas of the world it takes to. Hueco offers petroglyph tours. Arches National Park sits just outside of Indian Creek. Dinosaur museums litter the towns around Ten Sleep Wyoming. Yosemite National park offers a ton of museums about glaciers and Native American history. Every climbing area has a unique culture and documenting it offers a great rest day activity.
Nothing beats a good rest day. Have fun, prepare for your next day of climbing, and relax. One of the best parts of being on a climbing trip is being able to sit back and enjoy it.
While traveling around North America climbing for the past thirteen years, I’ve hit a few speed bumps. Injuries, epics, and car troubles have hindered my climbing but the biggest hurdle I’ve faced is finding climbing partners. From bouldering in Hueco to climbing big wall routes in Yosemite, the need for climbing partners changes and who I’m willing to climb with varies greatly. Last minute partner bails or vacation time but no one to climb with should never stop you from going to the crag. Line up lots of people to climb with through a few of these tips.
A good spot will guarantee you have a partner
Get Involved in the Community
Meeting solid climbing partners involves putting yourself out there. Internet forums, bulletin boards at climbing areas, and message boards provide a way to troll for partners but finding a solid long term partner involves a little more personal effort. Beyond calling for a new partner over the climbing gym speakers, the Touchstone climbing competitions, Access Fund cleanups, slideshows, and events like the Yosemite Facelift offer perfect venues to meet and greet other climbers. The climbing gyms offer partner meet-ups as well. Meet other climbers and become a fixture in the climbing scene. While a boulderer may not want to climb El Capitan with you, they may know someone who will. Attending climbing events will facilitate introductions to new partners. Often, friends of other climbing partners make for good climbing companions.
Provide a Perfect Catch
A good climbing partner offers a solid belay or spot. Nothing beats a partner looking out for your safety. While climbing a sport route at Utah’s Wailing Wall, I broke a hold on a run out section of climbing. The rope went behind my leg and I rocketed towards the slab below. Joe Kinder caught my unexpected and brutal fall perfectly, preventing me from slamming my head into the rock. There’s little doubt that I’ll climb with Joe again. Having excellent belaying skill or providing an attentive spot go a long way with developing solid partnerships. Beyond being a solid belayer, know how to manage the rope, how to clean pro, and how to arrange pads well will guarantee you a partner. Work on your spotting, belaying, and trad climbing skills and any potential partner will be psyched.
Long term friendships can develop out of providing a good catch
When climbing with a new partner, be honest with your abilities. Hiking all the way out to the base of a long trad route and then learning your partner has never crack climbed can turn a casual climb into a total epic. Honesty helps us find better matches and keeps us safe. Let your partner know you’re experience. Just because you love to toprope and hate climbing anything higher than three feet, doesn’t make you a bad partner. That can be many climbers’ dream partner. Also, never overestimate another climber’s abilities. A 5.14 sport rock jock may be able to crush at Jailhouse but unable to climb Yosemite’s Serenity Crack. Begin by climbing conservatively and testing the water. Learn what your partner is comfortable with leading, following, spotting, or bouldering. Establish a solid reporte with any new partner.
Show up on time. Never flake. Be pleasant to be around. While these ideas seem basic, a surprising number of socially inept climbers forget these basic human concepts. Being a nice reliable person goes a long ways. Buying a huge trad rack, having a nice crash pad, or always driving to the crag are certainly nice but these things can be bought. Having a great personality and being agreeable can’t be. Being the ideal partner will insure that anyone who climbs with you will want to climb with you again.
There’s times when everyone seems busy and unable to get to the crag. Head out anyway. A short trip to the boulders may yield a life long friendship. At the very least, climbing is always fun and going out will show potential partners your level of commitment.