FIRST ASCENT CLIMBING

On a mission to serve and grow Chicago's vibrant climbing community.

4 Tips To Find the Right Climbing Partner For You

Many new climbers often ask the question, “How do I find climbing partners?” Finding a partner can be a daunting or intimidating task if you’re new to climbing. Luckily, if you are a member at First Ascent, you have already taken the first steps to finding a partner!

First Ascent is not only known for some of the tallest rock climbing walls in Chicago but also known for providing a sense of community and a warm welcome to all that walk through the doors.

Finding a partner at First Ascent is certainly less daunting than you think, and if you’re still unsure, these four tips below might be of help in your quest for the right climbing buddy!

#1: Get Involved in the Community

Meeting solid climbing partners means putting yourself out there.We provide weekly meet-ups, called Community Sessions, for climbers of all ability levels to climb together, hang out, meet new climbers, and gain some new skills along the way!

These sessions are designed to make sure that every member at First Ascent can feel welcome. If you are reading this and are having reservations about putting yourself out there, you can be assured that Community Sessions are designed specifically for you!

If you’re not able to make it a Community Session, use our “Need A Belay Partner?” board to find a climbing partner! Just write your name, preferred climbing style, and identifying characteristics, and you’ll find someone to climb with in no time. Also, feel free to ask for help finding a partner at the front desk. Our staff are happy to help!

You can also use social media to your advantage and join a Facebook Group of Climbers or Meetups in your city.

#2: Gain Knowledge

To have a great climbing partner, you have to be a great climbing partner! Work to gain the knowledge and skills you need to support others in climbing, and you’ll have partners pounding down your door to climbing with you.

If you’re looking to sport climb (top rope or lead climb), you should learn how to belay. Belaying is something you should learn from a qualified instructor, so we recommend taking our Learning The Ropes class to top rope belay or our Learning To Lead class if you’re a more advanced climber to learn how to lead belay. In these classes, you’ll learn all of the technical skills you need to be a great belayer, and you’ll be prepared to pass a belay check next time you visit.

Teaching friends how to belay is generally not permitted at First Ascent because we want to make sure new climbers are learning proper belay technique from a qualified instructor. The exception: Teach A Friend Night! During Teach A Friend Night, FA members can teach a friend to belay with the guidance of an FA instructor. Once the lesson portion is over, you are free to climb together after you get approval from the instructor. Check it out if you’re a friend of a member – they can use their FA Bonus Points to get you in for free!

When it comes to climbing technique (ie how to move your body and use holds efficiently), learning from the climbing community can be of great benefit. At the end of the day, you and other climbers have accumulated different experiences, providing each of you with unique climbing insight, tips, and tricks. Having someone by your side that pushes you – or better yet, being that person who pushes others – to new limits not only physically but mentally is  key. Allow someone to teach you, and in return, you can teach them something! Help yourself to progress by teaching a tidbit of knowledge to someone else. You’d be surprised how talking it out with someone else offers clarity the next time you try to tackle it. After all, “When it comes to learning rock-craft, the best way I’ve found to reinforce a newly learned skill is to teach it to someone else,” says Paul Mandell.

Knowledge also means adventure. Explore climbing terms and local outdoor climbing areas,  and you may even be lucky enough that your partner will take you climbing to a place you’ve never been before! Find a partner who enjoys learning new things and always comes to climb with something new. 

#3: Be Friendly

Making the first move to ask if someone wants to climb with you can be terrifying. Social anxiety is a real thing, folks.

You already have one thing in common: Climbing! Take a deep breath and don’t be afraid to ask for a partner! Kevin Kent, an avid climber, and traveler from Flagstaff, AZ, says that when he approaches new groups, he opens up the conversation quickly and is straightforward.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to have fun and have a good climb! Climbing can already be a mentally daunting task, why add to the stress by being afraid to reach out for a partner or being closed off to new potential climbing buddies.

#4: Communicate

Communication is key with your partner. You need to know your partner has your back down on the ground; they guide you through your climb and keep you safe. What better way to build trust than a little give and take to start out the relationship.

Make sure to communicate with your partner regarding climbing style as well. You may be looking to boulder, while the person you’re climbing with is looking to lead climb. That’s okay if you both want to do something different. The key to being a good partner is give and take. Maybe one round you let your partner lead climb and you can belay, then you can switch to bouldering afterward.

When all is said and done, if you’re looking for a climbing partner, the climbing gym is the best place to connect! There will always be somebody that needs a partner and climbers are already friendly by nature. Take that first step, and reach out to those already within your climbing community. Attend community events at your local gym. Before you know it, you’ll not only have climbing partners, but great new friends.

We look forward to helping you meet new climbing partners and get plugged into the FA community!

By: Brooke Markley

FA Staff Spotlight: Mike Rosen

In this FA Spotlight, learn more about Mike Rosen, Routesetting Manager at First Ascent. Mike has been at FA since the beginning, teaching Learning To Lead classes and bringing the stoke. As a routesetter, he brings a creativity he previously applied to music to his route planning, keeping an eye on aesthetics as well as movement and flow. Read more below, and say hi next time you see Mike around the gym! 

How did you get into climbing?

I started climbing rock and plastic in 2014. I was looking for a physical outlet to escape day to day life. I’m glad I stumbled upon climbing because it changed my life.

What do you love about climbing?

The thought process required to efficiently climb is what I love most about the sport.

Bouldering or sport climbing?

I currently enjoy sport climbing over bouldering. I enjoy long routes because of the sense of the unknown as you make upward progress. Sport climbing feels like more of an adventure to me.

What is your favorite place to climb outdoors? Any other outdoor activities you enjoy?

Currently the Red River Gorge is my favorite crag. Long powerful steep over-hanging roofs are always a blast. If there’s a body of water nearby, I’ll take a dip. But climbing is my main source of outdoor adventure.

Do you have any particular climbing projects or fitness goals for this year?

As far as climbing and fitness goals go, I would just like to have the ability to get on lines that strike me as beautiful and inspiring, whether the line is 5.6 or 5.13c. I want to be able to feel like I can jump on anything, regardless of the grade.

What keeps you busy when you’re not climbing?

Cats.

What do you love about Chicago?

What I love most about Chicago is the great selection of food and drink. Any cuisine or cocktail, anytime.

What is your favorite Chicago spot for food, music, art or culture?

Currently Longman & Eagle is my favorite place to go for an occasional special meal.

What is something about you most people don’t know?

Most people don’t know that I was born in Bogota Colombia.

Anything else you want to say to the FA Community?

My main goal as a routesetter at FA is to ensure that all of our members and visitors see day to day success at our facilities. I hope you enjoy my routes and problems – I sure enjoy spinning dat plastic!