The Climbing Personality and Proficiency Exam for Potential Partners

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Do you find yourself continuing to search for climbing partners?  Maybe it

Do you find yourself continuing to search for climbing partners? Maybe it

Let’s face it: we, the intelligent beings that we are, are relying more and more on tests to make decisions for us.1 We seek guidance for just about every aspect of our life, which means two things: it is either a reflection of our species's confidence in our decision making abilities, or it may just be that we’re too damn lazy and would rather rely on mathematical equations that other, non-lazy, people have established to make our decisions for us. Whatever the reason, it's happening.

For example, in High School I took a test to help me find a career that I was best suited, some might even say destined, for. (I wish with all my being that I hadn’t ignored the results of that test, which found that I’d make a great shampoo tester. Of course I would- I’d even have a dramatic, abbreviated career due to a courageous battle with male pattern baldness (or more accurately, male pattern greatness)). This test was issued by my guidance counselor, whose training, from what I could gather, left her qualified to administer this type of personality profile test ONLY. Many thought this would be the sole encounter with this type of test.

But no, this genre of testing did not end when you were handed a diploma — it has followed us to this day. Those of us who are not self employed may have experienced employers giving these kinds of tests to their employees. There are some teachers who like to give tests that will help identify a student’s learning style (after all, why work on your jump shot if you’ve got a textbook lay-up. Sorry, I couldn’t think of an equivalent climbing analogy). Heck, if I wanted to, I could even go to one of a plethora of websites and take a test that will, as advertised, match me with the love of my life, who will love me for ME, and with whom I will live happily ‘til the end of my days; days that will include laughing ourselves to sleep, sunset strolls on the beach, and many weekend jaunts to Bed and Breakfasts. (The accuracy and success of said test is probably more due to the power of suggestion than to the validity of said tests). The more savvy lady readers may be thinking to themselves “Does that mean the author is single?”. He is. Sorry, men need not apply.

Sand Rock, Alabama. Photo by Luke Laeser

Sand Rock, Alabama. Photo by Luke Laeser

One of the most important decisions climbers make, and a decision that we all undoubtedly will have to make if we climb long enough, is picking a climbing partner. Many climbers spend more time picking a climbing partner, in fact, than they do picking a “career”. This is likely the reason for the phenomenon of decade long climbing pairs. Some climbing partnerships last longer than the respective marriages that the partners belong to. To paraphrase and borrow a line from, without a doubt, my favorite gay cowboy movie: “I can't quit you!” At the time of publication, the conventional method for finding climbing partners is a kind of climbing interview process. Trial by fire, sink or swim- call it what you will. What remains constant is that this period can be awkward, and potentially dangerous (depending on how much you do or do not know about the other person’s skill base).

So why do we do this? Why don’t climbers make their life easier and/or safer and just take a test to facilitate the process? Because such a test does not exist — UNTIL NOW!

It should be noted, before continuing, that this test may not work for everyone; you may find yourself continuing to search for climbing partners. There are two possible reasons for this: reason one being that the author created this test so that he could consider himself part of the “non-lazy” group mentioned earlier. Or at least so his mother could. The second reason this test may not have yielded desirable results is that unfortunately, you may just fall into the category of undesirables. The only solace I can offer such an individual is that everybody is capable of change. Right? Try taking a belay clinic!

1For the purposes of this discussion, tests include exams, surveys ... anything that tries to sum up our personalities and abilities in one succinct paragraph. Which is totally possible.

Instructions: For accurate results, all answers must be answered truthfully. You will need a piece of paper to record your answers. Calculators may be used to add up your answers at the end of the test… “Climbing enhancements” such as micro or home brews and/or doobies are NOT prohibited, as they are part of your lifestyle, and thus, will yield more accurate results. It will give the test an A0 rating, however.

A number two pencil is not required; any writing utensil will work. (Am I the only one who thinks all the stress caused by making sure test takers bring a number two pencil to an exam is completely unnecessary? My survival is possible thanks to the development of synthetic insulin (true story), but they can’t make a machine that recognizes more than one type of lead.)

The answer to all questions will be on a scale from one to ten. Simply write down the number (or circle your answers if you printed this out). The sum of your answers at the end of the test will be used to help match you to a climbing partner. Generally, the higher your score, the more old school, traditional, and cantankerous your tendencies are. And chances are you have a beard…

Note: this test does NOT service boulderers, as all boulderers are the same and don’t need help finding each other (the discotheque has worked for them/us thus far), and also likely don’t have the patience (read: attention span) to finish such a test.

Question 1. The frequency with which you drive your partner and yourself to the crag: I’m sick of these mooches (1) Or My VW Van isn’t running, again (10).Question 2. Level of comfort when falling: I scream and grab for the rope (1) Or I bought the ticket, now I'm taking the ride (10).Question 3. Climbing longevity: I have the latest and greatest (1) Or I have a perfectly functional swami belt, hobnail boots, a rack of pitons, and a hemp rope (10).Question 5. Brass: I sketch out and shake uncontrolably four feet above a bolt (1) Or I feel comfortable, off the couch, onsighting miles above above bad gear, on loose rock in the rain, or snow (10)...Question 6. Level of supportiveness: Come on man, you got this. Looking good man! (1) Or That gear doesn't look so good. I wouldn't fall man... That'll be a nasty whip. Hey, Are you back clipped? Nope, my bad(10). Question 7. History of previous partners: I get around with many (1) Or I had the same partner for… 20 years? Until arthritis made it “too painful” for him to climb (10).Question 8. Ethics (remember to remain calm): That line looks KILLER, let’s rap bolt it! (1) Or Ground up, on gear, or don’t climb it (10).Question 9. Proudest send: That 5.12 endurofest at The Red (1) Or That scenic arête with the amazing view that we climbed during peak foliage (10).Question 10. At the end of a long day of climbing I like to: Keep rampin' it up with some sick climbing vids set to drum and bass (1) OR kick back peacefully around the campfire with a few cold ones (10).

Let’s Begin.You have 30 minutes. (Simply because that’s really the longest amount of time that a tester could spend on this without the author experiencing any kind of guilt). Again, just write down a number from 1-10 (or circle a number if you're printing this page) that best describes you based on the questions below.

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Question 4. Tendency to use chalk: Let me coat my arms to the elbow every 30 seconds and hang here while I tick this huge jug (1) Or I prefer the au natural experience, chalk looks bad on the rock and just dries my skin out (10).

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Stop!Put pencils down. Add answers up, record them and read on.

Allan Porter launching up Tenderloins (5.12), Indain Creek, Utah. Photo By Luke Laeser.

Allan Porter launching up Tenderloins (5.12), Indain Creek, Utah. Photo By Luke Laeser.

Alright, now that you've added everything up, go ahead and see which category you fall in. Make sure you read all the categories, though. Not only are they witty, but they will also enlighten you to what skills you will need in your climbing future, as well as provide an opportunity to reminisce about your climbing past.

Scores of 10-15: You’ve either just started climbing (welcome!) or you’ve made little progress since you’ve started. Chin up! You should look for somebody who is good with beginners, and can show you how to do a few things, and safely. Some are happy staying in this elite unique group of climbers. Remember, why climb if you’re not having fun.

Scores of 16-30: You’re improving your skills and your confidence on the rope. If you’ve just started and are progressing quickly, you need a partner who is as enthusiastic as you are about climbing. On my last climbing trip I heard rumors that Richard Simmons had taken up climbing. If you’re lucky, he’s looking for a partner too. At any rate, anybody with an equal level of energy will be great for you. If you’ve been climbing for years and still earned a score in this points range, you will probably quit climbing for good soon. The climbing community will miss you. We’re sorry climbing wasn’t for you.

Scores of 31-45: Climbers who fall in this range are likely just getting over their crush on Chris Sharma, and have either moved on to Sonnie Trotter, or just realized that that kind of idolatry is silly. You’re well on your way to being a grizzly trad master.

Scores of 46-60: This is a pivotal point in a climber’s evolution. It’s around this time/points range/skill set that climbers, if they are going to, develop elitism. Don’t do it! This will have two likely outcomes. The first: it will make it even harder to find a climbing partner. The second: if you do find a climbing partner, he will be equally dickish, and you’ll likely taint the atmosphere at the crag you’re climbing at. Nobody likes this. You probably won't even like yourselves.

Scores of 61-75: This is a stage that few people make it to. You will honestly have a hard time finding partners with equal climbing ethos and skills, as climbers in this range and higher tend to be very monogamous and are very faithful to their climbing partners; many in this category have had the same climbing partner for over 10 years. You may have to settle for a climber in a lower category. “Settle” may not be the right word… Adopt?

Scores of 76-100: You are the best of the best of the best. You probably climb with your husband Tommy, or your wife Beth. If that's not you, than you have either been climbing longer than many climbers have been alive, or you’re one of those genetic freaks who progress rapidly, AND had the drive to built your skills at an equal rate. We call call these people 'overachievers'. In all likelihood, you will have trouble finding a partner with skills equivalent to yours. This lack of a climbing partner is an opportunity: truly benevolent climbers in this category may decide to take a lesser climber “under their wing”. The author may be such a choice for you... please.