New Partners and the Wonder of the Climbing Community

Recently, I had a chance to bring two n00bs into the wonderful world of climbing as part of a weekly climbing group I joined when I first moved to Philadelphia. It was incredibly daunting trying to make new friends in a new city, much less friends who climb, but was and has been a great resource for me. After a few months participating in events, I got to start leading and planning my own events, including trips to the local climbing gym.

Tuesday, I met two people who'd never tried before with completely different abilities, levels of fear, and climbing. Granted it can be a little difficult - I'm not always prepared to spend a night I thought I'd spend climbing teaching - but we were all n00bs once. We had a blast, as per usual.

Fast forward a few days. I went back to Go Vertical (GV) last night, a pretty normal Thursday night occurrence, and planned on meeting Nina and her friend Linds, who has never climbed before. I got there a little early and sat on the floor in the middle of the gym goofing around waiting for them. After a while, I decided I should start bouldering, and got up with chalk bag in hand. As I stood up, a guy I recognized as a regular gym climber approached me and asked me if I was waiting for someone. When I replied I was, Eric said he was as well, introduced himself, and asked if I wanted to TR or lead with him until our friends arrived. I happily obliged, and we managed a handful of 5.7 and 5.8 warm-up climbs until Nina and Linds arrived.

It turns out Eric looked familiar for a number of reasons. Not only is he a regular at GV, he happens to work in my office building. Small world, eh? We've probably run into each other a dozen times. The point of these vignettes is to introduce a not-so-groundbreaking concept I've become acutely aware of over the past several months: the climbing community is full o
f friendly, generous, helpful people, most of whom are very interested in bonding with and helping each other.

Now, all of us climbers, we know this. I've talked about it a couple of times already, pers
onal experiences with helpful climbing buddies. We couldn't do any of it without a little help, and in some cases, without trusting another human being with our life. And that's a big deal. We're also bound to each other by a couple of other important concepts - trust and sharing knowledge. Although climbing can be competitive, and there are different schools of thought around everything, no new climber gets started without a little help, and no seasoned climber can advance without support. (Unless you're a free soloist, I suppose). Even for seasoned climbers, there has to have been a time when each had to ask someone about the location of a route, for beta, or for a belay.

Climbers, we just take care of each other.

So when Eric asked me if I wanted to climb with him, I hesitated, saying something silly about bouldering. Don't get me wrong, I love bouldering, but if I'd said no to him, it would've been because I was afraid. I was afraid, of course, I have introvert tendencies. I also don't like to be lowered super fast off climbs, and feel embarrassed telling belayers that... the fewer people I have to tell, the better. But I said yes, and it ended up being great.

Have you had chance encounters at the climbing gym, or elsewhere in your outdoor life? Made fast friends with someone because of a common interest?