A belay partner is necessary if you want to rope climb. But how do you find one?
By Ryan Halvorson
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
You’ve recently signed up for a membership and need to find someone who will tie in with you.
Your crew prefers to boulder but you’re ready to get on some ropes and nobody wants to join you.
Perhaps your regular gym buddy finally finished her van conversion and is off to travel the country, putting your belaytionship on indefinite hiatus.
Whatever the scenario, one thing remains the same: You need a belay partner. And while starting from scratch can be a challenging and potentially awkward endeavor, there are things you can do to simplify the process.
Front Desk Staff Are Your Friends
First and foremost, let the front desk staff know that you’re looking for a partner and they’ll get on the PA system to make an announcement, says Mesa Rim Front Desk Supervisor, Matt Gordon.
“If you’ve ever been in the gym on a Thursday night, you know there’s no shortage of people to climb with,” Gordon says. “A lot of people who have a belay partner found theirs through a shout-out; sometimes you’ll even find a partner for life.”
He adds that the front desk staff also make great resources because they essentially manage the gym’s hub.
Gordon says, “We see several hundred people every day so there’s a good chance we’ll know someone else who’s looking for a regular climbing partner. We may even climb with you when our shift is over!”
Check Out Meetup.com
If you’ve never used Meetup.com, it’s an online forum that connects people who have similar interests. The site is a good option for climbers looking to make new friends and belay partners.
“Meetup offers a way to meet a partner that alleviates some of the social roadblocks by allowing you to sign up online,” says Keegan Dimmick, Mesa Rim San Diego’s director of operations. “The meetup hosts are friendly and experienced and can help get you climbing.”
Meeting new people can be uncomfortable, however Meetup acts a bit like an ice-breaker because you’ve already “met” people from the group and you know who to look for when you head into the gym.
Several Reno groups meet regularly and they can also be helpful should you have interest in making the gym-to-crag transition, Gordon adds.
Take a Lesson
As a new member of Mesa Rim (and most climbing gyms), it’s required to obtain a certification in order to belay another person. This provides another opportunity to meet other people, says Dimmick; new climbers regularly complete lessons to get up to speed on belay technique.
“Belay lessons are a great place to meet because you’ll likely find someone else at your experience level,” he says. “This eliminates a lot of the insecurities around a new activity, and going through the lesson together gives you the reassurance that your belayer can be trusted.”
There are also a variety of climbing instruction classes that can help improve climbing technique and widen your climber circle.
Many gyms—including Mesa Rim—have a community board where people post about local events, items for sale, and interest in finding a belay partner.
“The Community Board has a belay partner sign-up sheet where you can write down your contact info, climbing level, preferred climbing style (top-rope or lead), and availability,” Gordon says. “With the belay partner sign-up sheet, all of the logistics are taken care of for you. Just find someone who fits your schedule and give them a call!”
The board isn’t just for beginners, Dimmick adds
“This can help more experienced climbers find their peers and use the gym to their maximum potential.”
Just Say Hi
This might be a bit of an ask for the introverted types, but the bouldering area is full of solo climbers who may be interested in top roping.
“As you’re resting between climbs, strike up a conversation with another boulderer,” suggests Fern Morales, Mesa Rim community relations specialist. “A lot of times climbers are in the gym alone hoping to top-rope and head to the bouldering area while they listen for a belay partner request. I’ve seen plenty of people find new partners–and new friends–by initiating a chat in the bouldering area.”
Mesa Rim Mission Valley Site Manager, Hunter Moffitt, also suggests looking around the tall walls for potential climbing partners.
“You can look to see if there are any groups of three on ropes that could use an extra belayer,” he says. “The climbing community is generally super friendly and although it may be a bit intimidating, ask around and you’ll find new belay partners in no time!”
Finding a belay partner will require some proactivity on your part, but the rewards for reaching out to others can get you on the ropes with a new friend in no time.