No matter what kind of a rock climber a person is, to rock climb safely, it’s important to find a good climbing partner. In this article, learn how to find and select a safe climbing partner, along with additional criteria that each climbing partner should consider when forming a climbing partnership. Find out how a good climbing partnership can ultimately help both rock climbers improve at climbing.
Finding a Safe Climbing Partner
First and foremost, a rock climber must find and choose a climbing partner who possesses proper climbing safety skills. One of the best ways to do this is to observe other rock climbers at the indoor climbing gym. Indoor climbing gyms require rock climbers to pass a standard climbing safety test, which includes knowing how to tie a figure-8 knot, properly put on a climbing harness, and belay correctly.
Outside of the indoor climbing gym, however, more climbing safety skills are required to be a safe climbing partner. At the very least, it’s smartest to observe another rock climber’s belaying technique, as well as his or her ability to safely catch a climbing lead fall, before climbing outdoors together. Likewise, it’s important for each rock climber to thoroughly know and understand these climbing safety skills before offering to serve as another climber’s lifeline.
Depending on the type and style of outdoor rock climbing in question (i.e., toproping, sports climbing, traditional climbing, bouldering, big wall climbing, and so forth), different rock climbing safety skills will be required of each climbing partner. Therefore, it’s also important for each climbing partner to be honest and forthright about his or her experience and climbing safety skills when contemplating a new type of climbing adventure, even with a familiar climbing partner.
Beyond Safe Climbing – Selecting a Good Climbing Partner
In addition to finding a climbing partner who is well-versed in the required climbing safety skills for the type of climbing being undertaken, a number of additional considerations should ultimately be taken into account when selecting a good climbing partner. These include the following points (among others worth considering):
The preferred pace of the rock climbing day, including when the climbing day starts (7 a.m.? 11 a.m.? 2 p.m.?) and how long it lasts (Three pitches? Seven pitches? Until darkness/exhaustion sets in?)
Level of climbing and sharing of climbing routes: Are both climbing partners climbing at similar ability levels, and if so, will they climb all the same pitches? Who will lead the pitches? If climbing partners are at different ability levels, is one climbing partner content to toprope/clean all of the pitches? Or are both climbing partners willing to belay for the other climbing partner’s chosen climbing routes, regardless of his or her climbing route choices?
Attitude, including the approach to climbing, beta, and competitiveness. Climbing partners are usually more compatible if they share similar attitudes toward rock climbing, whether they take it super seriously or just want to have fun. Climbing partners should make it clear to one another before rock climbing whether they want beta (information about how to climb a route) or not. And, while some rock climbers thrive on competition, others find competing with their climbing partner exhausting.
Improve at Rock Climbing with the Right Rock Climbing Partner
A good climbing partner should not only be well-versed in climbing safety skills and compatible but also, he or she should be supportive of and respectful toward his or her climbing partner. A climbing partner should never personally insult or mock another climbing partner over his or her rock climbing skills, nor should a climbing partner attempt to provoke his or her climbing partner to fail or not believe in their rock climbing ability.
A solid climbing partnership built on well-informed trust can lead to both rock climbers improving at climbing. Not worrying about a climbing partner’s climbing safety skills enables a rock climber to be more relaxed and focused on the rock climbing itself. Additionally, the optimal climbing partner will always be encouraging and provide constructive criticism when solicited. By giving helpful feedback and genuine support, compatible climbing partners can help one another improve at rock climbing.
Summary – What Makes a Good Climbing Partner
Finding a safe climbing partner often starts at the indoor climbing gym. Beyond the climbing gym, it’s important that climbing partners be well trained in proper climbing safety skills for the type of outdoor climbing being undertaken. Climbing partners usually work best together when they’re also compatible with some additional areas, including the pace of climbing, level of climbing, and attitude toward climbing. Supportive climbing partners can help each other improve at climbing.