Five Hard Questions To Ask Your Climbing Partner

©istockphoto/scotto72Before you head into the hills, it’s impor­tant to have an hon­est con­ver­sa­tion with your climb­ing part­ner. These sim­ple ques­tions can make your day run more smooth­ly, let you both have more fun, and keep things safer when things get real.

What are your com­fort limits?
As tempt­ing as it can be to exag­ger­ate the ter­rain you’re com­fort­able climb­ing, ski­ing, or trav­el­ing through in the moun­tains, it’s vital­ly impor­tant to be hon­est with your climb­ing partner—and with your­self. Iden­ti­fy which grades are easy, chal­leng­ing, and out­side of your com­fort lev­el, and keep in mind that those num­bers might be dif­fer­ent on dif­fer­ent types of ter­rain. A 5.10 crack climber might be uncom­fort­able on a run-out 5.7 slab, for exam­ple, and that’s impor­tant to understand.

Do you have any phys­i­cal concerns?
When your life depends on the per­son hold­ing the oth­er end of the rope, it’s impor­tant to under­stand any med­ical con­cerns or health issues that they might have—especially if you’re in a remote area or off the grid. Ask your part­ner if they have aller­gies, what med­ica­tions they’re tak­ing, if they’ve ever had surg­eries, and if there are any oth­er med­ical con­cerns that you should know about. If you’re plan­ning a mul­ti-day trip, write down emer­gency con­tact num­bers, health insur­ance infor­ma­tion, and pre-exist­ing conditions.

If some­thing goes wrong, what kind of train­ing do you have?
Before head­ing for the hills with a new part­ner, it’s worth com­par­ing expe­ri­ence. Do either of you have wilder­ness med­ical train­ing, like a Wilder­ness First Aid (WFA) or Wilder­ness First Respon­der (WFR)? Have either of you tak­en an avalanche course? Do you have safe­ty gear—beacons, shov­els, a res­cue rack—and do you both know how to use it? Not hav­ing train­ing isn’t a deal-break­er, of course—but it might be a good excuse to seek out some train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties together.

What’s your dream goal?
Every­body has dif­fer­ent goals, and they can vary wild­ly among climbers and skiers. For rock climbers, it might be a first trad lead, an icon­ic mul­ti-day big wall, or an onsight of an impres­sive grade. For skiers, it might be a back­coun­try tour, a first descent, or just that nail­ing that hard run at the local resort. But know­ing what your part­ner day­dreams about can help you pick objec­tives that chal­lenge and sat­is­fy you both on your pre­cious days out.

What do you need from me?
Every­body oper­ates dif­fer­ent­ly in the moun­tains, and every climber faces dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. For some peo­ple, vocal encour­age­ment and pos­i­tive stoke help build con­fi­dence; for oth­ers, hav­ing part­ners shout beta might be dis­tract­ing while they’re on lead. You’ll gain under­stand­ing with shared miles, of course, but don’t be afraid what helps your part­ner be the best they can be.