Ahh February… a time of intense cold and fiery passion. It always feels like spring is almost here, like it’s ready to pop up from behind a bush with an axe screaming “Heeeeeere’s allergies!”. Unfortunately, it isn’t and it’s frightfully cold. At least you have Valentine’s Day to look forward to- spending the nice romantic day with you significant other, snuggling, eating gratuitous amounts of chocolate. Hopefully during your Valentine’s Day celebrations you can make time for some climbing. I love it when couple go climbing together, because climbing by nature is a partner-based activity. You’re trusting your partner with your life and taking their advice on those tricky moves. You’re communicating your needs effectively, whether it be “extra slack!” or “take!” or “oh god I’m falling oh god!” (that’s me in case you hadn’t guessed). When one partner successfully climbs a route, there’s a feeling of shared success. To me, it’s so pure and it really makes me happy to see it when I’m out climbing.
I see so many couples come into the gym and work on new routes or problems, and frankly, it inspires me. That’s why this blog post is dedicated to all you adorable couples out there that climb together so much that you already know what the other one is thinking before they even have to say it. The thing is, climbing with a new partner is a journey into the unknown. Are they going to high clip every draw? Do they go slow and steady or do they fly up the wall? Do they like to push themselves on new challenging routes or do they enjoy staying in their skill range and cruising through? How confident in their abilities are they, and how realistic is that confidence? Being that I work in a climbing gym, I’ve climbed with a lot of new partners. I only have a couple static partners that I climb with frequently. Hopping on a challenging new lead climb (whether I’m belaying or climbing) can be daunting simply because I don’t know the person and their climbing quirks. I’ve come up with a loose checklist that hopefully can help new partners become more comfortable with each other!
Communication is King
Communication is important in any relationship, and a climber-belayer relationship is no different. Before I climb for the first time with someone, I always ask that they be overly vocal about their climbing situation. If they think they might fall, or are getting pumped, or are high clipping, I want to get all the information. After a few rounds of climbing and belaying its easy to get a feel for the partner and you might not need as much stringent communication as before.
Courtesy Slack is a magical and wonderful thing. When your climber finishes their climb and finally touches down on the ground, be sure to give them extra slack so they don’t feel like a giant is grabbing their groin and heaving upward. Male, female, young, old, toprope, lead, mage, or warrior- everyone loves not having groin discomfort.
F is for friends who do stuff together
U is for U and Me
N is for “N”ewhere, “N”etime at all (down here in the deep blue sea)
The single most important thing I can say when climbing with a new partner is this- HAVE FUN. That’s why you climb, right? When climbing with a new partner, don’t worry about being better than anyone, or take yourself too seriously. Just have fun! Inspire your partner, cheer them on. Celebrate their triumphs and let them know they still did a good job when they try their hardest but don’t quite succeed.
So there it is, my secret master list of what I have found to be successful behaviors when climbing with a new partner. Remember, you do this sport for fun. It’s a great workout both physically and mentally, and is a great way to bond with other people. If you are in the gym and see someone climbing alone, go ahead and offer them a catch. By engaging someone who may be too nervous to approach you, you can stoke someone’s interest in the sport, and could make a great new friend in the process. And when you start climbing together, remember this list. Happy climbing!