Ask Answer Man: How Do I Find a Good Climbing Partner?

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I’m fairly new to climbing, and my buddies are all focusing on bouldering. I’d rather rope up, but I’m having trouble finding a good partner. Suggestions?—Patrick R., Boston, MA

This ain’t no last call for alcohol, Hail Mary, let’s-you-and-me-catch-a-cab-and-split kinda thing, because instead of possibly ending up with an itchy bathing suit area, you could end up dead. Word?

Since you’re “fairly new” I’m going to assume you want a little instruction in the fine art of Not Killing Yourself. NKY is best taught, obviously, by someone who has been climbing considerably longer than you, who understands the techniques, and is a patient teacher. Every great climber has had a mentor who showed them the ropes. Unfortunately, that person, while not impossible to find, seems to be a slowly dying breed. You can lurk about your local crag with ear-to-ear psych and offer belays in exchange for time and knowledge and eventually find a wing to get taken under, or try a forum/partner-finder feature like Mountain Project has. But, I bet your gym offers a class in which you can learn proper rope management alongside a group of your climbing peers who may also serve as potential—DING-DING-DING—climbing partners! Take a class, learn best practices, and find yourself a good partner. Pretty easy, right? If that’s not your bag, you can explore the charm route, but as you can tell, I have basically no intel on that method.

I’m seeing those odd-looking belay glasses more and more. Are they worth the money?—Aly N., Seattle, WA

You’re asking if you should pay $90 to avoid bending your neck a little? Actually, it’s a good question, and the answer is yes. And no. After extensive market research, I have come to the conclusion that these prism specs are worth it in the following situations: 1.) Single-pitch hangdog sessions where your partner works out moves and takes forever. 2.) Reading things on your ceiling. 3.) You have an injured neck or chronic neck pain. 4.) Excessive wallet thickness. 5.) You are sponsored or got a pro deal.

Most belay glass practitioners say that they become second nature to use and do not interfere with proper belaying techniques like soft-catch timing. The fact remains, however, that if you wear them in public, you will be the subject of ridicule by those who do not possess a pair. After all, that’s what I do. But I’m just jealous, since it appears that they actually work. You just have to gauge how much your neck comfort is worth, in both dollars and pride.

What’s the final word on crag pooping?—Catherine C., Taos, NM

I typically take the Browns to the Super Bowl prior to leaving the house or camp for a day of climbing. Hey, you asked. But since I understand not everyone has my Swiss-like bowel reliability (seriously, you could set the atomic clock to it), I’ve recruited Jason Grubb, the Education Programs Coordinator from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, to tell us about what’s most proper at high-traffic crags.

“Who wants to have their afternoon ruined by encountering a big turd? And I’m not talking about that gelatinous gumby flailing on your warm-up,” Grubb says. “Factors such as soil composition, aridity, visitor-use levels, proximity to water, wildlife considerations, and others all determine how quickly waste decomposes, the likelihood of water contamination, and the potential of other climbers seeing or smelling it. Safest bet is to contact the land manager for localized advice or pack it out using an EPA-approved pack-out system like the Biffy Bag or Restop 2. With proper planning, there should never be an instance in which you can’t drop a deuce crag-side.” Packing it out is clearly gross but also clearly for the greater good. Take one for the team and figure out a Plan B, too. When my clock’s off, I either put together a makeshift pack-out system or dig a cathole. Go to lnt.org for more info. And no more fecal questions or your subscription gets revoked.

And other topics...

Can I fly with my rack?No, cams don’t provide optimal lift.

What dogbone is best for grabbing?The one not in your dog’s mouth. Or any dog’s mouth for that matter.

Should I buy some brassies?Are you climbing thin crackies?

Will Lycra ever come back in style?For you? Definitely.

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values? Email answerman@climbing.com