Climbing Partner Traits
8 Easy guiding principals to being a fantastic climbing partner in the VOC
1. Check your knots
Checking your knot and your partners knot takes a literal 3 seconds. Climbing legend Lynn Hill (first to free The Nose) and John Long (wrote the textbook on climbing anchors) both had serious injuries due to mis-tied knots and narrowly escaped with their lives. A partner who checks knots is a great sign that you're tied in with someone who doesn't trivialize your life. There is no reason to save time on safety.
2. Rappelling? Tie a knot!
This is easily the most common life-threatening mistake climbers make. Open any alpine journal or recent news stories about a climber falling to their death and the most likely reason is that they didn't tie knots in the end of their ropes. Make this a habit and prevent your partner from decking, she'll appreciate it.
Note: There can be situations where it'd be better not to tie a knot when rappelling; see the discussion in the message board (link at the bottom of this page). Above all else, discuss your plans with your climbing partner and reach consensus.
3. Be honest about your skill/knowledge level
The thing about climbing is that, it becomes immediately obvious if you can't climb at the level you claim. It's not a crime to be weaker but if you and your partner planned a 5.10 trad objective and you can't lead higher than 5.8 then time and effort are lost or you put a large burden on your partner to rope-gun all day. If you're not certain choose an easier objective to start with and have a fun day climbing.
A rule of thumb is that if you can lead climb in the gym at 5.11, you'll climb 5.10/9 seconding outdoors, 5.8 leading outdoors, 5.4 in the alpine. Corollary: be upfront about the difficulty of a route and if your partner is struggling to keep up and not having fun, offer to retreat to something you both can enjoy. If you're doing a traverse pitch, protect your second better then you want to be protected. We've all been there.
4. Don't say, "Off Belay". Just Don't.
Unless that's exactly what you mean. "Off Belay" is used ONLY when you won't be put back on belay again such as when you're rappelling by yourself. Never say "Off Belay" to mean that you've put your safety in while you set up an anchor and then want to be lowered. Don't say anything if you're going to be lowered off until the anchor is set-up and you're ready to, "Take" before you, "Lower". This is a subtlety with catastrophic consequences (think about it). This can be generalized to, Communicate before you climb. Talk about what you and your partner will do, be it rappel and clean, lower off or top-belay before anyone is climbing. Talk about how you're going to communicate if you're out of ear-shot, rope-tugs are a good communcation tool. You should all be on the same page with what's going to happen so no-one is accidentally dropped 30 meters. See Epic: enormocast.com
5. Check your damn knot!
Seriously, 3 seconds is all it takes. It takes longer to read this than to check your partners knots. You could have already done it twice by now.
6. Respect other's gear
Climbers U Students is not a wealthy demographic. That rope can cost upwards of $200, that trad rack is easily $400+. Don't stomp mud unnecessarily into your partners rope or strong-arm the protection. Taking a minute to properly use equipment (flake rope onto a rock or extend over an edge) makes a difference in the long run and makes your partner feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If you're climbing with someone else's gear, buy them a beer or cupcake as a thank you (your partners too). If you fix or wreck someone else's gear, buy them a replacement if your borrowed it or offer to split the cost if you're both climbing on it. In the same vein, pay your drivers generously. A ride to Squamish is usually $10 - $15 and most still will lose money on the car in the long run. Throwing your driver a few extra $ is still much cheaper then the $35 bus ticket and will go a long way in showing appreciation and getting you a ride in the future.
7. Your partner is not an ass
There's a million small things that need to be done while climbing; carrying gear, flaking rope, navigating the topo, organizing gear etc... It's no fun when one partner has to do the donkey's share of the work. Offer to flake the rope (or ask to be taught if you can't do it) and share the work-load equally. Don't wait to be told to do every small detail, a good climbing duo will instinctively know what has to be done and each of you can do those things immediately.
8. Keep cool, stay stoked.
Climbing isn't always fun, see: Type II/III Fun. The one thing which can make even the most miserable pitches enjoyable after a few brews is a partner who stays cool and light-hearted when all else is falling apart. Remember you're here to have fun, a good laugh, even at yourselves can go a long way to keep morale high. Avoid focusing on the negative, everyone knows it's cold and wet, it's not a point bearing repeating. A really crappy day at the crag can go a long way in building close relationships with your partner. It's easy to rope up with someone when everything is smooth and easy, but the hard and scary experiences are where you'll bond with your partner at a much deeper level. Even when the climbing is not that objectively scary, stay positive and encouraging. A climbing partner is part-athlete and part-coach, you’re there to brings out the best performance in your partner. Remember you’re tied to each other, you’re in this together.