Being There

Climbing etiquette is discussed on occasion, but it is most often discussed in terms of how you interact with other parties sharing the cliff. Common sense and being considerate of the people around you is the basis on which best practices are formulated. However, over the years I have frequently seen a problem that is often overlooked and I must admit that I have been among the guilty. I am referring to dragging new partners up routes that they have little chance of getting up.

Here are some good rules of thumb to help avoid damaging your partner's climbing experience. I am sure you can think of many others and you should. After all, sharing the fun, responsibility, challenge, and camaraderie of climbing are what it's all about.

If there is a huge discrepancy in ability levels, you can lead them up a climb that they are more than capable of doing and in return they can belay you on a route that better suits your abilities and is easy to rap and clean.  Warming up on an easier route allows you to see if everything is clicking with your partner or if there is a problem.  If all goes well, asking if they want to crank it up a notch for the next route is a thoughtful question to ask. If the next climb goes well you may want to repeat the question. Perhaps your partner is more comfortable doing only first pitches or maybe reaching the top of the cliff would make their month. If someone just made it up a route by the skin of their teeth it may be time for an easier route, a run, swim, bike ride, or a beer. If you got it wrong and they are stopped by a move, maybe you can pull them past that move or lower them to the ground and rap, clean, and then try something more suitable. Avoid routes with low cruxes that could result in grounding out with rope stretch or that have an unprotectable difficult traverse. Understanding people's goals is complicated and it often helps to read between the lines. If you are good at sussing out your partner's strengths and weaknesses, it will make you a smarter and safer climber.

With a beginner or a new partner orchestrating climbs successfully may lead to a long and rewarding future on the rock and possibly even an enduring friendship. Climbing, above all else, should be fun for all involved. If you're turning someone on to your local area wouldn't you be gratified if, at the day's end, they thought that it was a great place to climb and that you are one of the best and nicest people they ever climbed with? Until next time "see you out there."