Love on the Rocks


The Do’s and Don’ts of Climbing with Your Significant Other

We’ve all been there. Enjoying a day at the crag, when suddenly the fun and mirth are shattered by the most uncomfortable interaction you’ve ever seen between two people who supposedly like being with each other.

“I can’t figure this out, you can let me down,”
“Did you try the undercling? That ALWAYS works for me.”
“I can’t do the undercling, it’s not working for me.”
“Are you sure? Just try a little harder, you can do this!”
“I said I’m done, let me down.”
“Come on, I know you can do it. Grab the undercling!”

or how about this:

“OK, watch me here.”
“I’m with you, you got this!”
(climber makes sketchy moves, get’s in place to clip, pulls up rope, then drops, then goes to pull up again and gets short roped.)
“’Come on, feed it faster!”
“I’m trying, don’t pull so hard!”
“Agh, now I’m pumped. I’m off, falling!”
(climber lowers to ground and gives belayer stink eye.)

We’ve probably all seen interactions like this, though oddly enough, rarely between two people who aren’t romantically involved. I’ll never forget the first “couple wobbler” I saw. These two normally-nice-to-each-other folks would turn into something very different at the crag, where all these frustrations and insecurities would surface in a perfect storm of swearing and tears. Yikes, isn’t this supposed to be fun?

I’ve often pondered why it is we let ourselves get so upset when climbing with our significant other. Maybe it’s because we think they should know us so well, that when they don’t give us 100%, we feel betrayed. Or maybe because we allow ourselves to be more vulnerable, but then when things go haywire, we explode with emotion. Scientists may be investigating this one for a while, but what I do know is there are certainly some solid do’s and don’ts when it comes to having a climbing relationship that works.

Don’t: Assume they want to use your beta. We’ve covered this briefly, but nothing seems to make your SO more flustered than you shouting up beta to them that may or may not work. Just let them figure it out, if they want your help, they’ll ask for it.

Do: Be supportive and encouraging. Listen, don’t try to fix. Men have an especially hard time with this one, which is maybe why we are the ones who walking around the base spraying beta at everyone.

Don’t: Yell at them, belittle them, push them to do something they don’t want to do. This is climbing, it’s supposed to be fun.

Do: Remember this person is special to you, and that should be the number one thing. Climbing will come and go, but your relationship should always be the #1 priority.

Don’t: Always be the one to suggest where you go climbing.

Do: In many relationships there is typically one personality that is stronger when it comes to making plans. Vary things up. If you both like sport climbing, great. But maybe they want to trad climb this weekend, and then you can go bouldering the one after that. Make sure you both have an equal say in where you want to climb.

Don’t: Treat them like any old climbing partner. Don’t assume they are having a blast just because you are.

Do: Check in to see how the day is going. Remember, the goal is to keep the fun factor high and the drama low!

I’ve been blessed to have my wife as my main climbing partner for the last nine years, and these are some things that work for us. Got any other tips? Please share in the comments!

2 Responses to Love on the Rocks

  1. Do: Climb with other people on a regular basis. Your SO might be your main climbing partner, and that’s awesome, but sometimes might be injured, might need to do something else, etc. Keep your partner base up. It’s good practice for recalibrating your attitude towards your partner. “I wouldn’t throw a wobbler or be pissy about a shortrope if I was climbing with Sue or Joe, so why am I throwing a wobbler and being pissy when climbing with my SO?”

    HD April 18, 2015 at 11:59 am
    • That’s a great one, thanks!

      BJ Sbarra April 18, 2015 at 1:50 pm
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