Unsent: A Belayer Breakup Letter

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Unsent /un-sent/ 1. To have failed so badly on a route you had previously climbed that you negate your redpoint. 2. A humor column.

Photo: Alexandra Normand/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

To my climbing partner,

It pains me to write this, but I’m sure you’ve seen it coming. Things haven’t been going well between us for a while. Lately we feel as different as a boulderer and a big waller; we’ve grown apart. Deep down I know it’s time for me to move on. I want to climb with other people.

We just don’t communicate well anymore. In our early days, it was “off belay,” “belay off.” Lately I feel like I can’t get through to you. It’s always “Take!” “Slack?” “Take!” “Slack?” “Take!” “Slack?” Sometimes I’m not sure you notice me at all. Like that time I got hit by a rock because you didn’t yell “Rock!” Or that time I took a 15-foot grounder when the rope zipped through your belay device because you had both hands on a sandwich. That was seriously not cool.

I’m tired of all the broken promises. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard “I’ve got the next lead.” Only to be followed moments later by “I’m just not in the mood.” There was a time when you loved being on top, taking the sharp end as often as possible, sometimes multiple times in a row. Now I’m always on top, and you just sit below me at the anchor like a dead fish. I want a partner who’s up for real adventures. I want a partner who’s into swinging (leads). Hell, sometimes I want to climb with multiple partners. Or without protection.

Look, I know I told you 5.8 was a good grade, but that’s because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. 5.8 is below average. It doesn’t satisfy me. I barely even feel it (in my forearms). I need a partner with something harder under his belt. I want to know what it feels like to get on a 5.10, 5.11, or even a 5.12. I’m not sure I could handle the latter, but I’d sure like to try.

Maybe this is shallow, but you’ve let yourself go. When we first met, you were hangboarding three days a week. These days you’re lucky to get in the gym one day, and I don’t remember the last time I saw you do core work. Frankly, you’ve put on weight. I’m embarrassed to be seen at the crag with you, 3-to-1 hauling you up a crux because your fingers can’t hold your ass on a jug. Can you even check your knot under that gut? I’m sorry, that was cruel. But you need to hear it.

Also, the other day when you tried to kiss me while I was still tied in after lowering off a sport route, that was weird.

I don’t want to make this any more difficult than it already is, so I think it’s best we not see each other again. I’d say we could still be friends, but I don’t really hang out with people outside of climbing.