This is Part Three of our “How to Start Climbing” series. If you haven’t yet, check out Part One: Get Started at a Climbing Gym and Part Two: Your First Visit.

Ask any climber: one of the best parts of climbing is the people you meet along the way. Sure, you’ll need a partner if you’re going to top rope or lead climb, but having climbing partners is just as important if you’re bouldering – it’s your partner that will help you see what you can’t see and ultimately unlock the “beta” (the movement sequence required to get through a tough sequence) on a boulder problem you’re working on. And it’s our climbing partners that make climbing more fun, filling the down time between climbs with stories and laughs.

But if you’re just getting into this sport, how do you find people to climb with? Read on for some ideas on finding climbing partners:

Plug into your gym community

If it’s your first time at the gym and you don’t know anybody, try asking a staff member at your gym for help. They’ll know who’s new and who might be there alone and in need of a partner. Staff are usually be happy to help people get more connected at the gym.

At First Ascent, we try to give you an easy way to meet a bunch of new potential climbing partners by putting on New Member Meetups every month. These meetups are a perfect way to meet fellow FA climbers, both new and experienced, as well as some of the key staff members at that location.

At our roped climbing locations, we also use a whiteboard where climbers can put out a call for partners while they’re at the gym. You can write your name, what you’re climbing, and what you’re wearing so people can find you. Anybody also looking for a partner can check the board and go find a solo climbers in the ballpark of their ability and skill. We also offer harness tags that announce you’re looking for climbing partners (“Climb With Me!”) so belayers don’t even need to check the board. It’s an easy, low-pressure way to get introduced to new climbing friends, without having to approach climbing partners in cold-call fashion.

Go to climbing events

Another surefire way to find climbing friends and new belay partners is to attend community events. For example, last month we hosted FA Fest (our fourth anniversary party), where we held our “New Sends With New Friends” competition. Climbers who completed five routes or boulder problems with five people they’d never met before and got their names entered in a raffle to win prizes like Edelrid Crag Packs. No better way to incentivize you to climb socially! We also host the CrossTown Bouldering league, where you can sign up and get placed on a team to climb against the competition.

We’ve heard countless stories of people registering as an indy and getting placed on a team of climbers that ended up becoming their core group of friends – the crew they climb with, travel with, and even live with.

Find climbing partners on social media

Here in Chicago, the Greater Chicago Rock Climbing Community Facebook group is an excellent resource for finding climbing partners. In addition to all of the community building and sharing that happens there, it’s also a forum for finding a partner. They’ve even created a form for people to find climbing friends and belay partners. Just join up, follow the template pinned to the top of the Facebook group. Post that completed form to the group’s wall, and you’ll usually get at least a few responses from other climbers looking for partners within a few hours. Give it a try!

Create new climbers!

If you don’t already have climbing friends, why not create new climbers out of the friends you already have? You and your besties or even a sig o could have a whole new way of hanging out – no pun intended. All you’d need to do is text, call, bug them when you’re hanging out, at work, at your apartment, just to give it a try with you. At First Ascent, all members can bring in first time visitors for FREE, and they even earn some FA Bonus points for their effort. Side bonus: you’ll all be pretty close in skill level if you’re new as well, and you can all progress and go on adventures together.

Finding climbing friends and belay partners is one of the tougher things to do for many new climbers, but we promise it’s worth it — you’ll enjoy your climbing more, and you’ll have access to so much more if you make those connections, from outdoor sport climbing trips to a buddy to head to a restaurant with after you session. Of course, we always recommend checking a new belay partners’ skills as a safe belayer and climber (knots, double-backed harness, proper belay technique, etc.) when you’re just getting started. Once you’re past those checks, get out there and climb on!