Unsent: Herding Your Partner

The Selfish Climber's Guide
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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.

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The relationship between climbing partners is sacred: We hold each other’s lives in our hands; we trade belays, sharing successes and failures. Some might say that our time bonding is more rewarding than any redpoint. But these people don’t care about sending—any time spent helping your partner achieve his goals is time not crushing your projects. However, by following the steps below, you’ll never have to support another climber again—100 percent of the day will be about you.

1. Feign graciousness

A reasonable person would take turns when choosing climbing plans, or settle on a common goal. This is the unspoken social contract: “I choose the movie/restaurant/crag this time, you choose next time.” Start by pretending that’s who you are. Insist that your partner choose the crag. He earned it with that two-hour belay last week, when you worked the crux of Extra-Spicy Chicken Wings 20 times in a row, hanging for 10 minutes between attempts without going in direct.

2. Make excuses

Your partner is an independent being with his own wants, which is annoying. You just need him to hold the rope like a human auto-
belay. So when he suggests ideas, you’ll need to find a reasonable excuse for why each is impossible. It’s not that you don’t want to go to Wall of Monos; it’s just those damn outside circumstances! Piggyback off the following to craft excuses of your own:

  • Oh, Hand Jamboree? That sounds fun—except that it goes in the sun at noon and it’s supposed to get up to 65° today…
  • Yeah Mouthful of Angry Bees looks sick, but I heard the crux bolt was spinning and is about to blow.
  • I’ve been on Smedge Maze. It’s good, but last time there was a bat behind the crux flake. Yeah, that was a few years ago, but it looked settled in. It’s prime bat real estate—my bat-guy friend said so.

3. Suggest convenient alternatives

Now selflessly suggest routes that would be perfect for your partner—right next to the route you want to climb (DO NOT MENTION THIS PART). Remember: It’s all about him. At least, that’s what the dumb rube is supposed to think. Try something like this: “What about Chim-Chimney-Charroo? You’re super-strong on chimneys. I bet you’d love it. Oh yeah, I guess it is next to Extra-Spicy Chicken Wings. I mean, I’d give Chicken Wings a burn if we had time, but no big deal if we don’t. I’m easy.”

4. Make him think it was his idea

If your partner is on board with your suggestion from step 3, great. Sucker! However, should he resist, your contingency plan will be to make that idea look better by suggesting even worse ideas:

  • “What about Hip Stitches? It’s about time you learned to climb unprotected offwidths.”
  • “My cousin’s university club will be at Five Onederland, and their Bluetooth speakers are so loud you’ll feel like you’re really at a Sublime concert.”
  • “Could be cool to make the first repeat of Mancrush after all 
  • that rockfall.”

After rejecting enough of these, your partner will revert to the only remaining viable idea: yours from step 3. Since he brought it up this time, congratulate him on his excellent idea. Now all you have to do is ask for a lap on your proj during the hike in, then turn that into the entire day. E.g., “Let me just run back up real quick to work out the crux.” “I’m sooo close—you don’t mind if I go for a redpoint burn, right?” “Ah! I flubbed the beta. One more go?” Etc., until it’s time to go home.

Other Considerations

Maintaining your partner pool

People will only put up with your manipulative behavior for so long. Once your partner wises up, he may throw your pack into the creek, threaten you with a nut tool, or worst of all, refuse to belay. It’s best to switch partners before this happens, so get on Partner Finder early to have your next sub ready. It’s like a Ponzi scheme, but with climbing partners.

In case of emergency

Sooner or later, word will get around that you’re a sociopath (fair), and you’ll become a pariah. You could move, but in this digital age, bad reputations are hard to shake. It’s easier to start bouldering—then you’ll never have to waste your time belaying someone again. Plus, if someone asks for a spot, you can just leave once they’re on the rock.

Read more Unsent. For Kevin's non-humor columns, see Noon Patrol.