Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Great Girlfriend Debate

Sorry it's been a while since my last article. Since I last wrote I've become a WFR, visited the entire southeast over Christmas break from school, not touched a single rock, and (most importantly) started dating a girl.

Now I know what you're thinking and you're probably right. Girlfriends have a way of distracting climbers from their most sincere passion of getting on top of big rocks and make them want to be productive members of society. It's for that very obsession that I've witnessed more than a few females (or males on rarer occasions) who've been dragged to the crag by their significant other in an attempt to justify and share their climbing experience.

Which brings us to this...


Climber girlfriends (or boyfriends) offer a wide range of benefits to the rock warrior in all of us. They're a built in belayer/encourager/partner in crime/spotter/cook/psych factory yeller/etc. But what if our significant others.... wait for it....

don'! (gasp!)

Well that's what I'm accustomed to seeing and honestly, I think it sucks. Running a free climbing gym for a university, I constantly experience newcomers trying out bouldering and route climbing with varying levels of success and follow up. After doing it for three years, I've started to notice some trends in the people who come back and those who never grace our walls again. Believe it or not, girlfriends who are persuaded into climbing by their boyfriends rarely ever make a return trip to the climbing area. And in really bad cases, they become embittered towards climbing and their boyfriend ruining not only the experience but also the relationship.

I was out at Leta one day when I saw a guy leading trad with his girlfriend (could have been wife) as a belayer. He was trying his luck at a 5.8/9 (i think) crack climb. It was not going well at all. First of all, he outweighed her by a good fifty pounds. He was probably 6'3" with a broad build and she was probably 5'7" and rather skinny. While she appeared to have some experience with belaying, she was by no means an expert and by no means excited to be there.

Dude took fall after fall on a single piece of gear he'd placed about fifteen feet off the ground. How he got that piece there I'll never know since I didn't see him get past it again. I think he may have been embarrassed by his newbiness since I was belaying my crusher friend on a 5.12 a few yards away. I feel rather comfortable calling him a newb because all his trad gear was real shiny. Each time he fell, he yelled at his girlfriend about her belaying technique as if she were to blame for his punting all over the route. He then proceeded to come off the route and help her anchor to a tree (she was complaining that belaying him was hurting her). He told her she was doing it wrong. I wanted to tell him that it probably had something to do with where she was standing and the fact that he was way bigger than her, but I also didn't want to be an ass.

Moral of the story is this: Making someone climb who doesn't want to is only going to make you have less fun and damage your relationship. 

I know that sounds kind of high-horsey and I must admit that I've taken my girlfriend to the climbing gym a few times*. But I think what's important is that we climbers remember that climbing is just PART of who we are. If your significant other WANTS to try climbing, then you have the great opportunity of sharing that part of your life with them, but if they don't want to then please don't make the rest of us look like idiots by forcing someone into our hobby.

Beth Rodden: Just one example of a badass climber chick!

*She loves it. Can't wait to take her outdoors for the first time.

So What Do You Think?!


  1. Very well written, Jordan. Prior to reading this I didn't have any biased view. But what you have just said is perfect. If a girl doesn't want to be there climbing with you, then don't force them.

    Glad to see your back on the blog. Keep up the good work. Can't wait to climb with you this semester!

  2. Congrats on the WFR!

    I met my fiance climbing. (I know, right!) I remember once, Kate and I were starting up a 3 pitch climb in Joshua Tree. (I know right! It was a savory John Long FA.) We started a bit late and were pretty much racing the horizon's shadow up the wall. I was negotiating some "committing" (by my standards) moves just off the belay on the second pitch, when Kate basically told me it was time to go down (she was WAY right). We bailed and got it the next day.

    After we finished the climb, we scrambled down the rock pile and were walking on the desert floor back to the car when Kate turned to me and said, "Do you smell that?"

    "Yeah, I think I do."

    "That's the smell of happiness."

    I didn't way luck out because Kate climbs. I lucked out because she notices stuff like that. And no, Kate wasn't being metaphorical. There really was a distinct smell in the air that day.

    I think that's my favorite climbing memory.

  3. That's an awesome story Ben. Just one more reason why I need to make the push into trad climbing. (to smell funny things)

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