How to Find Climbing Partners

“How to find climbing partners?” I’ve never considered myself a shy person, but this question used to trouble me. Back in summer 2005, I signed up to a beginner’s rock climbing course at a local gym for me and my husband Jeremy, with the intention to turn him into my belay slave. It didn’t work out. He is not a climber. Since I hate to see when a male climber attempts to turn his girlfriend into a climber without her consent, I had to let my default belay slave go. As a result, assuming that nobody wanted to climb with a pure beginner, I didn’t start climbing more regularly in the gym until Dec 2005.

I had a few gym climbing partners then and things seemed to work out fine until I followed my first traditional route outside. That experience struck me; I immediately knew that it was the type of climbing I was looking for even though at that time I had no clue that this type of climbing is called traditional climbing. Again assuming that nobody wanted to climb with somebody who could only follow easy routes, I decided to take a formal course from NOLS in summer 2007.

During the course, I repeatedly asked each instructor how they found their climbing partners. I needed to know the right answer because the answer would dictate how much time I could spend climbing outdoors. They offered me some pointers: finding partners at the gym, at the crags, on the Internet…well it was not something I did not know. And I realized perhaps I didn’t ask the right question. It should be “who will climb with me?” and this seemed to be a bigger question. Among all the advice, I remembered one vividly “…it will only get easier.”

I had always had faith in that piece of advice, it will only get easier, but not until Spring 2008, did I verify that belief. Well, here is the story. Heather, my long time partner, and I spent two weeks climbing in Red Rocks in winter 2007-8. I met a climber called JP at a crag and found out that we both had April free; therefore we decided to meet at Joshua Tree. After I came back home, JP and I exchanged some emails but we never had an affirmative plan. I felt somewhat insecure however I still flew to Las Vegas for the Red Rock Rendezvous and planned to stay in the area for a few weeks. My thought was that there would be many people participating in the event, and chances were good that I could find a partner, and if nothing worked out I could always hunt JP down since in additional to his email address, I obtained his cell phone number as well.

After all, JP and I never got to climb together. He had too much fun in Joshua Tree and so did I in Red Rocks. I did not climb each single day when I was in Red Rocks, but I learned a precious experience from my accident and I climbed with many new friends whom I still climb with now. These newly-made friends also referred me to their climbing friends when I traveled to other climbing areas. Learning from the experience, I have also realized that people will climb with me and keep climbing with me even though I haven’t become the strong climber whom I still want to be. I became more comfortable finding partners to climb with on the Internet and so far most of my experiences have been very positive.

I believe that, to many people, “how to find climbing partners” is still a question not an action. I would like to share some ideas I have acquired over time on this topic to save some of your idle time. Finding climbing partners might be a tough task at first but it will only get easier.

1. Prepare yourself

Tons of people climb, and you will find your partners. You don’t have to be a 5.12 climber to find climbing partners, but there are a few things you need to prepare yourself with:

a. Be positive and pleasant

Climbing is fun, making new friends is fun, and the combination of the two is greater than the sum. Take it easy.

b. Be useful

There are a million ways to be a useful partner, and being able to lead harder routes is only one of them. Even if you don’t know how to lead, many people will still climb with you as long as you are a good follower, and they might thank you for giving them all the thrill to be tied to the sharp end.

Three basics to be a good follower:

1.Be a bomber belayer. Take pride in your belaying because the climber’s life is in your hand. The concept of belaying is very simple but, surprisingly, good belayers are not everywhere. If you are a safe belayer, you are a gem.

2.Know how to clean pros efficiently. Understand the basics of how active and passive pros work, reverse the path the pros are put in, be gentle and don’t drop anything.

3.Know how to manage ropes. Knowing how to flake and coil a rope is the minimum. When the leader is rigging her rack, you can start flaking the rope. At the end of the day, when the leader is sorting out her gear, it’s time for you to coil the rope neatly.

c. Be honest

Give yourself a honest assessment about what you can climb and what you cannot climb. It’s common for people to ask prospective climbing partners about their climbing ability. You should ask this question too. Being honest helps us to find a better match and keeps us safe. However, sometimes it’s hard to assess our climbing ability, and ratings are not usually consistent throughout the country. I found it useful to keep a climbing log which marks the info of the routes I have climbed. (For a sample climbing log, check my climblog). Not only does a climbing log keep you on top of your progress, but it gives others a better idea than “I can lead 5.8’s and follow 5.10’s.”

2. Intersect with prospective climbing partners

Once you are ready, the second step is to create opportunities to meet people. Here are some approaches I have done:

a. Release the message

Release the message that you are looking for a climbing partner. Plant the seed when you see fit. So let me tell you this: I am constantly looking for climbing partners. To know what I can climb, please refer to my climbing log.

b. Meet people at climbing areas

Post signs at the bulletin boards at camping area. For example, in Yosemite, there is Camp 4; in Red Rocks, there is the campground right outside of the 13-mile scenic loop. Post signs at local climbing gear shops, outfitters, and climbing gyms. Hang out at the area climbers usually go to. For example, when I was in Red Rocks, I met a few climbers at a nearby coffee shop by putting a guidebook on the table while I was surfing the Internet.

c. Meet people on the Internet and are two good places. Locally, there are, etc.

3. Interact with climbing partners

You don’t work on a red-point project with a climbing partner you just picked up. Here is some advice.

a. Start out conservatively

Start out with something easier than your limit or something you have climbed before to test the water. You might have taken my advice to give your partner an honest assessment about yourself, but it doesn’t mean that he is also a loyal reader of It’s your life and well-being we are talking about. Since the risk is hard to calculate with a new partner, reduce the consequences.

b. Pick up clues

Use the guidelines in “Prepare yourself” to assess whether this partner has prepared himself/herself. Is the rope neatly coiled when it is pulled out from his backpack? Does he check whether he has double backed, locked the biner etc before he tells you “you are on belay”? Does he pay attention to you when he belays you?

c. Communicate assertively

You and your partner are tied to the ends of the same rope, isn’t it worth the time to understand each other a little better? Communicate with your partner to get comfortable with each other’s climbing style and climbing ability. Double check with each other regarding climbing commands, dos and don’ts etc. Update your partner with your current physical and mental condition. If anything raises your concern, speak up. For example, he wants to climb or pushes you to climb things outside of your ability. You think the weather is coming in and bailing is a better option than pushing on.

Climbing is a serious activity; it is dangerous and you can get severely injured or die. Take good care of yourself and take good care of your new friend. Good communication can help you accomplish that. It’s admirable to step out of your comfort zone, but it’s foolish to attempt things beyond your limit.

I hope that these suggestions will help you to find your next climbing partner faster and more smoothly. I am always looking for people to climb with. I am most interested in moderate multi-pitch trad routes and backcountry alpine routes but I am also happy to climb anything, such as crag climbing or sport climbing. If you are interested in adding me to your partner pool, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

4 thoughts on “How to Find Climbing Partners”

  1. Hello Po, sorry 找不到地方下手只好po在這兒.前天想留言跟妳說生日快樂, 但是好像沒成功? 有空mail to me. I lost your email address.

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