When I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado—because the mountains were calling, of course—the hardest part was leaving my climbing community behind. These were my people, and I loved them, and still do. But as much as I knew I would miss my friends, I had faith I’d be able to find new friends and climbing partners in the Front Range, and I was right.
If you’re looking for new climbing partners, whether you’re moving or new to the sport, take heart: You don’t need to climb 5.12 to find climbing partners (I certainly don’t!), but it certainly helps if you bring something to the table, whether that be gratitude, gear, or beer. Here are four keys to finding and keeping awesome climbing partners, as well as a few red flags that you might not want someone on the other end of your rope.
Hit Up the Gym
First, you have to find these future friends you’ll be buying a round for. To do that, you could head to your new gym and meet fellow climbers. It’s especially easy if the gym has sessions for solo climbers to rope up together or other ways to share that you’re looking for a partner. You could also try to get some beta on the bouldering mats, where people often seem to be a little more open to conversation.
Be Social on Social Media
Social media ended up being my key to the climbing community here. In the process of moving, I joined several Facebook groups, both for climbers in the Denver area and for female climbers in general. Soon, my hatred of slab climbing led me to comment on a stranger’s post, and that woman responded by asking me if I wanted to join a climbing meetup later that week. That meetup—and the many more I have attended since—led me to the people I wanted on the other end of my rope.
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Before I got to Colorado, I had no idea that Meetup.com was still a thing, but it is now my No. 1 recommendation for finding climbing partners. Mountain Project also has active forums, including a partner finder. And you can find Facebook groups for areas all over the country. (Also, for women and underrepresented genders, check out Alpenglow Collective.)
Have Gratitude and a Positive Attitude
Once you’ve met a cool climber, how do you get them to rope up on the regular? Show them that you’re grateful for their time. If you’re stoked and thankful, people will be more likely to want to climb with you again, even if you’re brand new in town or have no gear. Of course it does help to contribute gear along with a catch, so if you have a rope and quickdraws, or a crashpad, bring them along. You’ll be definitely be appreciated. But a sunny attitude also goes a long way.
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Pay It Forward
The best way to get repeat partners is to thank your partner for introducing you to new crags, teaching you new skills, sharing their snacks, or providing a ride. Then when you feel ready, don’t forget to give these things back to other new or new-to-the-area climbers. Invite those who post on Facebook groups out with you, take people you meet at the gym out to the crag, and teach people the skills that someone once taught you.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
Although most climbers are wonderful and welcoming, you should be on the lookout for a few warning signs that your new belay buddy isn’t meant for a long-term belaytionship.
- Safety Issues
Although you’ll often hear the joke “safety third” around the crag, if you find out that your partner doesn’t take safety seriously, that is the biggest red flag. As you surely know from signing gym waivers and talking to your mom, climbing is inherently dangerous. However, safe climbers do everything possible to mitigate these risks. Everyone has their own risk tolerance, so you definitely want a partner who matches yours—but safety checks should always be standard for everyone. If you don’t feel safe with the person you’re climbing with, that is a deal breaker.
- Ego Hangups
Getting the send is often about believing in yourself, but if your climbing partner has more than just healthy confidence, beware that their ego could cause problems. You might end up in a situation where you’re in over your head, which could be dangerous. Also, people with too big of an ego often believe they’re always right, unwilling to admit that they’re wrong or they made a mistake, which can lead to risky behavior.
- Poor Communication
You should always be able to communicate with your partner, and if someone can’t share things with you and also listen to what you have to say, that’s a bad sign.
Now get out there, find some great partners, and crush it! Make the climbing community as welcoming as you want it to be, and you’ll find that it truly is.