My friend Line Tveter is guest blogging for me today! Here is her awesome piece about friends and climbing 🙂
– No, you geek, not cams… friends of flesh and blood
When I ask climbers why they climb, they often answer people, community, friendship. Yet, I have never seen an article about climbing and friends. They’re all about training, technique, destinations and injuries. If you run a rigorous search by Googling “climbing friends,” you will get loads of hits about cams, but nothing about real friends of flesh and blood. If you Google “climbing people,” Wikipedia is on top: “List of People who died climbing Mount Everest,” followed by stuff about social climbing, which obviously has nothing to do with our physical act of climbing on rock.
So… friendship is one of the main reasons that we climb but not much is written about it. It might be that people lie, and that friends are not particularly important for the firm and decisive climber. I don’t believe that for a split second. I think climbers like people. And I think many have given the subject a lot of thought. Here are my thoughts.
Climbing can be insanely fun. So insanely fun that you have to pinch yourself and think “OMG! Really??!!” So insanely fun that you feel like squeezing your climbing partner, even make out a little. It can be a summer evening at the crag, wrapped in pastel colors, the time flies and it is getting way too late, but you don’t care because everything is just heavenly. Or it can be an alpine start, a long approach, racing heart and a touch of fear way up there on the wall, followed by the reward when you lie on the summit, looking into the sky and everything is exactly as it should be. At other times, climbing can also be a tremendous pain in the ass. For example when the table is set for an epic climbing experience, but the only thing you can think of is your annoying climbing partner who just talks… and talks… and talks… sparing you not an ounce of peace the entire day. Is he also a poor belayer? Maybe you send your project, cheer a little, but the excitement soon transforms into annoyance and emptiness, as he goes on and on like nothing happened, about his projects, awesome moves and personal issues.
I guess we have all been both the annoying and the annoyed… That’s just the way it is: it doesn’t always click. So… who should you climb with and how do you find those first-rate climbing friends? In larger cities there are many potential climbing friends and there’s a decent chance you just might find “your” crew. In smaller places there might be only a handful of dedicated souls. Should you stop being a prima donna and be happy that someone cares to join you? If you choose to be of the more selective kind, there are two possible paths: go with the gut feeling, or come up with climbing-friend criteria.
Your gut will often tell you if the chemistry is right, and it’s super easy to follow the gut-feeling approach. You just do it: find a potential friend, go climbing somewhere, let things slide and time will tell if it’s hot or not.
A friend of mine has a more tangible recipe. He has four criteria for climbing partners. They have to 1) be on time and not bail out, 2) contribute to meaningful conversations, 3) be a good belayer, and 4) be psyched.
Do you have criteria or do you follow your intuition? What are your criteria? Does your climbing partner have to be sexy? Unsexy (sexy is distracting)? Bring yummy snacks and be generous? Patient? Impatient? Do you have to climb more or less the same grade? Have the same age? Same gender or rather not the same gender? Or are you happy if only someone cares to join you?
To date, I have exclusively followed my gut and it has worked perfectly. Through climbing I have met fantastic people, some of them on the “what’s up?”-stage while others have gotten under my skin. There’s something about climbing and climbers that makes me feel at home. It’s okay to be different, it’s okay to be a bit of a weirdo. And here is the best part (I’ve saved it for last): Not only is climbing good for making friends. The magic works both ways. Friends are good for climbing! I think I will go so far as to say that real friends are the most important ingredient for enjoying and improving one’s climbing; real friends who support you and care, and real friends who push you when necessary.
Climbing strengthens friendship. Friendship strengthens climbing. That’s just the way it is.
– Line Tveter