Photo by Theodora van Duin
Your Next Belaytionship...
Who doesn’t like making new climbing buddies? But before you jump on that lead 7a project, just pause. In all walks of life, the people you surround yourself with have an impact on your world view and how you behave. It’s no different in the world of bouldering, buttresses and belaying.
I’m not average
The motivational speaker Jim Rohn is quoted saying that you are the average of the 5 people you spend most time with. Although, that statement should not be taken too seriously I think it’s an important concept to consider. Rather than buying new kit or making a dramatic change to your training regime, you could consider updating the company you keep; it might have a more positive effect on your climbing.
Choose what and how you want to climb
When choosing a belay buddy, the first place to start is with a smidgen of self-reflection. Do you want to push your grade? Do you want to get outside more? Do you just want to have a giggle? Your own aims and goals will influence what you want from a partner.
I want to be climbing E7 by July.
You will need a patient buddy, the training and repetition you’ll need to do will probably mean that you will put off a lot of potential climbing partners. Find someone motivated, who is climbing similar grades and will keep you on the right side of sane – those fingerboard sessions can leave a dry taste in your mouth.
I want to try new things.
You will need a trustworthy buddy, they should be well versed in whatever you want to try i.e. they should know what they don’t know. Avoid the ‘all the gear, no idea’ types, but, they can be hard to distinguish in the wild. Consider joining your local mountaineering or climbers club – there will be a wealth of experience and potential friends.
I’m just here to enjoy myself.
You will need an upbeat buddy, if you’re just there to socialise then don’t worry too much. Pick someone who doesn’t poo-poo climbing lower grades, will bring the good vibes, and maybe some snacks. Just make sure they are paying attention – no tinnies at the crag.
What to look for in a belay buddy
Although the reasons we climb are all different there are some characteristics that all the best belay buddies share.
Safe. If they can’t belay safely, don’t respect the crag or wall, or do anything that makes you question that they know what they’re doing then, best to avoid for now.
Kind. Goes without saying really.
Motivated. You want someone to show up and to be ready to climb.
Pragmatic. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, particularly outside.
How to be a good belay buddy
Know your sh*t, or go bouldering. No shade on bouldering here; it’s awesome but, know how to belay safely before getting into ropes. If you pretend, it’ll take all of 20 seconds for someone to notice. There are lots of friendly clubs where you can find someone to help you learn, or why not treat yourself to an instructed session or group course.
Follow the rules of the crag/wall; set a good example – and since we are all adults (sort of) then we’ll respect you for it.
Buddy checks; this is one of the main things I look for in a climbing partner. It’s reassuring to know, as you reach the third clip, that your knot is good and they’re on belay.
Be positive; a lot can be said for a friend who encourages you but doesn’t push too hard.
‘Why?’ we climb is different for everyone, but it’s important that we surround ourselves with people who help us be the climbers we want to be. It’s tricky working out your own motivation and then finding those people who are a perfect blend of what you need. But, hopefully, now you can go forth and tell the bad from the bud.
Red flags – for climbing, like dating, but try not to fall.
Power screaming on a 4b
Introducing yourself with what grade you climb
Only climbing routes in styles that ‘suit you’
Taking your shirt off when it’s not warm
There are so many... these are but a small selection.
By Sophie Low (she/her)
I love anything outdoors and fun; I'm into climbing, mountain biking and hiking. I'm keen to open up outdoor adventure to more people, so much so, I've made it my job. My favourite food is pizza and I have two dogs who are the bestest.