(Climbing) Partner Disappointments, Delusions and...


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Trad climber
New York, NY
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 10, 2006 - 11:28am PT
....Downright Fiascos

I had a day yesterday that just....didn't go all that well. All things considered, I got off very easy on the "I'll not be climbing with you again" scale, but it occurred to me this morning that it might make for an interesting topic to hear stories for the Supertopian populace on such experiences. After all, for the most part, when it comes to climbing, this group has done it bigger, better, faster and/or first; thus, the stories which must abound should make for fascinating(and climbing-related!) reading.

I was going to suggest that stories of heroic saves, selflessness, moments of incredible intuition that changed the course of events, and other positive experiences also be told, but maybe there should be a separate thread for that one. If someone has a story in that front that they'd like to add, maybe they will want to start another thread - or put it here if they prefer. Either way is good.....

Big Wall climber
San Luis Obispo CA
Apr 10, 2006 - 11:52am PT
Some people are just reckless and dangerous, for no good reason at all.

The first time I climbed the Snake Dike (80's) was with this gung-ho, semper-fi-do-or-die Marine. As I seconded up one pitch, I was astonished to find a set of belay bolts a bit below where he'd stopped. The topo and the old Roper's guide were both quite clear: there is no way to place gear on the Dike, and there are only bolts at the belay stations.

When I got to his "belay", it was nothing but a small sling over a tiny chickenhead knob, which looked like it would break off if you stood on it. The guy had passed up the belay bolts, so he could lead up another thirty feet! We had about a thousand feet of air, with nothing but this one knob to keep us on the wall.

I just resigned myself to the fact that I was going to free-solo the next pitch, my first free solo, ever. At the time, I was about a 5.8 leader, but 5.4 unroped was WAY beyond what I felt comfortable doing.

I never climbed with that guy again.

Sport climber
St. Louis
Apr 10, 2006 - 12:00pm PT
Had a friend coming to town who wanted to go outside and climb. I'd quizzed this individual on their skill level and they assured me what they could and couldn't do.

We drive 2.5 hours, hike in, get to the warm up, where they then exclaim "oh, I've never belayed someone who leads. Only someone who topropes" My heart sinks, but I (foolishly) instruct them on how to lead belay. I wasn't tremendously worried since this climb was a warm up for me and I'd done it many times before.

I start of up the climb and realize quickly that this person has no control over their limbs and I will be soloing this. More than soloing, I'm going to climb this with the added twist of fighting being pulled of the rock by someone who I now believe has NEVER touched a rope before ever.

I've never been so scared in my life. When I got safely back to earth, I picked up our stuff and we went home. Lesson learned.

Social climber
Davis, CA
Apr 10, 2006 - 12:05pm PT
Nice Crimpie! I bet lots of climbers have a very similar story...

A little to the left of right
Apr 10, 2006 - 12:23pm PT
Several years ago, I met a great woman who was looking to get out of the gym, and onto rock. She also wanted to do trad lines. "Great" I thought, she's fun, attractive, and wants to do gear routes. So I take her out to Red Rock, and decide a nice easy climb, that I can sew up, is in order. The more pro she cleans, the more she learns right? We stroll over to Peaches, and get set up, when she informs me she has never given a lead belay. No problem, we go over the details, get her standing right next to the face, she seems to have it down pat.

Now peaches is very easy,(5.6ish), but still a fun climb, with a very enjoyable crux traverse on sandy slab. The climb is going perfect, lots of solid placements, and she is giving me plenty of slack. It's like she knows exactly when I need it, fantasitic belay, I am psyched. So I tiptoe through the slab, and can now see over a little bulge, and there she is; sitting on top of a boulder, 10 feet from the face, and no rope in sight. Turns out she never stopped feeding out slack, and had the whole rope through the gri gri by the time I was 30 feet up the route. Definately did wonders for my confidence in my abilities, but kinda soured our climbing relationship.

I learned that day, that my penis should have no say when I am choosing my climbing partners.

Apr 10, 2006 - 12:30pm PT
Hahaha LOL Rob that is funny, she feed the whole rope through the grigri and then sat down.

Airhead .....

Trad climber
the south
Apr 10, 2006 - 12:31pm PT
Terrie, I'm going to break our little understanding and chide you a bit.

You know enough to not get in those situations by now.

Even if we can't be friends, (your choice not mine)I still want you to remain in one piece and enjoy your climbing.

This probably would serve better if posted on that other site, but here it is.

So as a new or relatively new climber, there are some things to consider. One is, Trad climbing is not bouldering or sport or gym climbing. There are many ways to screw up in trad, compared to bouldering or sport or gym climbing. Add multi pitch and you can get into real trouble fast.

The old saying is that if you make it though two years wihout killing yourself or getting killed you will be OK. I'm not so sure anymore, because so many people refuse to educate themselves or to seek education from qualified individuals.

Even though I an against teaching climbing on the internet, there are still a few things you can learn that MIGHT really help you stay safe.

How to choose a partner.

1. Watch them belay someone else. You have to know what good belaying is for this to work, haha! But basically, if you see that brake hand coming off the brake line, look for someone else. Now, I have seen guys who have climbed for 30 years using terrible belay practices, but, it still is not good. THe only difference is that the 30 year guy might just know what and when he can get away with stuff. He also might not. BUT, the NOOB has no idea what he's doing, he thinks everything is just fine.

There are other belay errors to be sure, you have to watch closely. Now, here's the second thing: IF you see someone committing egregious belay errors, you casually and in a nice way mention something about it to them, and you obeserve their response. IF they are glad you pointed out a flaw and correct it, good. IF they react in any other way, keep moving.

Another example of this is, say this potential partner is leading, and their leg is trapped between the rope and the wall. YOu are obligated to say something. If they react badly to your comment, they are an idiot. Don't climb with em. Someone that is too stupid to be glad you pointed out a potentially disasterous mistake is too stupid to be around. They are going to ruin someone's day sooner or later. Don't let it be yours.

2. Too much talk, not enough action. This is ALWAYS a bad sign. They Brag. Some climbers are characters, they talk a lot. Other climbers are very quiet. But good climbers will do what they say they can do, and they don't need to try to impress you with talk. There's a difference in a funny anecdote and a self agrandizing tale.

3. They try to get you to do things you are not ready for. There is a fine line here, but in the end, it will boil down to, you are not prepared, they do not really prepare you, and then they try to get you to do something you are not comfortable doing. The key is, someone who is really good will make sure that you are ready technically before they want you to do something new. Someone who is an idiot will just want you to do it because they say so, whether you have had the instruction and practice or not.

A person who is willing to let someone lead trad without first making sure that that someone can competently place the gear needed for the particular climb in question is downright dangerous. A person who puts people in new situations and purposely neglects to properly instruct those people or even leaves out some information or fails to give them the proper gear for the climb just to see what they will do is close to sadistic, and definitely stupid.

I realize some of this is stuff you have to see the potential partner doing, but some is stuff that you could pick up on in say, a PM email or telephone conversation.

I'll borrow a page from the crimposter here, and say that if your intuition tells you somethign is wrong, then it is wrong, and you should move on.

Well before this gets too long, I'll just say that even thoug hyou would liek to have experienced partners, there is sa differnece in good experience adn lucking out over a long period of time, haha!

Some have survived because they are careful and thoughtful, others have survived because they are skillful climbers and never had to deal with anythign too awful, and still others have gotten by purely on luck. All three will tend to think they are doing just fine thank you.

I climb with one fellow about whom it is said that god keeps him alive for the entertainment value. I climb with another who is as hard a climber as I can keep up with, and yet he was also an AMGA schooled (not grandfathered) guide and he NEVER takes risks that are unacceptable, he keeps the whole party safe, and yet he has put up some very scary and serious routes.

One last comment. IF your potential partner is also a moutaineer, there is a great chance that they are much more comfortable with certain situations than they should be. A mountaineering attitude is fine when you are mountaineering, but cragging is different. People die mountaineering all the time, but in cragging nobody has to die. Some climbers fail to adjust from mountaineering standards to cragging standards.

Oh well, that's a good morning rant.

Terrie, tell your story!!!

Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Apr 10, 2006 - 12:40pm PT
The first (and only) time I attempted Cap I met up with these two guys (cant remember their names). This was 1976. I did some climbing with them the day before we set out on the Salathe Wall. Some stuff down by Reeds, I remember leading Siberian Swarm Screw. They seemed to be competent and okay climbers.

The next day we start up the Cap (fixing pitches). These guys had both assured me that they had done the Nose before (not together but with separate parties). I had done the Leaning Tower and Washington Column South Face.

The three of us took turns leading. The second day we get up to Heart Ledge and it starts sprinkling. They wanted to bail because they said it was going to start bucketing. I told them that firstly, I had checked the forecasts and secondly that it was a typical spring precipitation and that it would stop shortly. But no, they wanted to bail, so we rapped off.

Of course, it did stop sprinkling (hell, it wasnt even rain as such) and the weather was brilliant for the remainder of the day and subsequent days. Pissed me of and I saw that they used me. I bought most of the provisions (food, drink and grass), as well as having much of the gear. Never climbed with those jokers again. Cest la vie, we live and we learn.

I never have climbed Cap, though I will someday. More than once.

(PS I was suppose to do the West Face with Peter Barton, but then Dale said he'd partner Peter, so Peter, quite sensibly I suppose, opted for the better and more experienced partner. Unfortunately... a sad day, he never made it to the face. RIP Peter.)

Trad climber
New York, NY
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 10, 2006 - 12:48pm PT
My experience yesterday was the culmination of events, due to the fact that I had my dog out with us. I take full responsibilty for my part of the story, but what I felt was a sign that our partnership would never be a true one, was when I slipped off a boulder, trying to carry my dog through a talus field I had said was too difficult to navigate, and my partner ignored the scream that I emitted. Not even an "Are you okay?"

My partner had gone ahead because I said I needed to pee. I'd assumed he meant he'd go out of sight and I would be able to catch up. But instead, he hightailed it back to the trail, which was where I found him later, talking on his cell-phone.

As I said - I take responsibility for my end. And I wasn't hurt in the slip, though my entire shin scraped raw along a boulders edge. But, as my leg slipped, I rememeber the thought of "oh sh#t.....what will be the result of this?" My scream was the emotion of that, and a conscious alert to my parter who I knew was ahead on the trail. I didn't know what the fall was going to be, but it occurred to me that if I hit my head, I might be knocked unconscious. Or that I could twsit my ankle or break my leg. I thought it was a good idea to alert the partner..... Amazing that this much consciousness can occur in what has to be less than two seconds time.

As I said, I luckily wasn't hurt, and Teddy and I found the real trail which was easy terrain. I got back to the road and waited for my partner to finish his call, and asked if he had heard me scream. He said he had heard me arguing with my dog(which I had been, trying to persuade him to jump over a log and onto the boulder I fell off).

I looked him in the eye, and said "You didn't hear me scream?" here was no possible way that a person could have heard the conversation I had been having with the dog, and not the scream I had made. And his eyes betrayed him.

Now, I do understand he was pissy because there had been problems in the day. I had already refused one talus-filled because it was too diffucult to carry a dog through. And I even would understand listening after hearing the scream and thinking "well, at least the bitch isn't hurt" and not waiting for me to catch up.

But, to completely ignore it, which was what happened, is wrong. Really wrong. When I had fallen, I was so shocked not to hear "Terrie! Are you okay!?"

My leg definitely hurt, and I P&Med some pretty big swear words, in part because I wasn't sure yet if I was damaged. I even called out my partners name.


Like I said, this is nothing, in comparison to some of the things that can go wrong. But, a partnership is a partnership, and I know that:

1) I would not leave my partner in difficult terrain, carrying more than half the load, on an area they had said was going to be a problem.
2) I would NEVER ignore a shocked scream, obviously made during an accident, no matter how pissy I felt during the day(and by the way, this partner actually gave no indication that they had had anything but a fine ofd day at the crag. But I know that if it was me, I wouldn't have been a happy camper, so I can only assume they were affected. As well, I had earlier told them I'd buy dinner, and that they didn't have to replace the biner of mine they'd dropped when they sketched on lead earlier in the day....because I assumed I had made for a less than stellar day and wanted to make good at least as best I could.)

To me, this was a passive-agressive response, and frankly I'd have felt a hell of a lot better had the person said "Yeah, I heard you scream. Yeah, I heard you bitch afterward, but then I heard you pick up and continue on, and I was secretly glad you got smacked around because it was a shitty day and it was all your fault. But I'm glad you're not hurt."

So.....what the hell. Like I said, I got off easy. But, I take my parnerships seriously, and I know I will resnt this person for this. As well, they are not humble and I knew this has potential for trouble. So in a way, I think I am making more of this that others might, because I sense ominous possibilities. Climbing is dangerous, and all. I like to have complete trust in my partners.

Social climber
Davis, CA
Apr 10, 2006 - 01:17pm PT
I dunno happi, are you sure you're partner isn't telling a similar story about partner disappointments somewhere else?

Carrying a dog across a talus field when you're going climbing? WTF?

Apr 10, 2006 - 01:30pm PT
Nevertheless. What a dick. At least you're not married to him. ?


Social climber
The West
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:02pm PT
If you haven't carried a dog (preferably large) over talus, (preferably in the rain) to or from climbing,

You haven't lived.

Social climber
Davis, CA
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:09pm PT
Fine by me.

But, I've stuck myself more than once with a partner who claims to be motivated to get out and climb. Only to find out that they they are the World's Slowest Hiker. Or they dick around at the car. Or delay some other way. Or spend all day babysitting a dog. Or want to do 2 pitches and go home.

I'm the first to admit that there are plenty of climbers out there like that. I'll also admit that IT TOTALLY MAKES ME CRAZY. Partners who waste my time suck.

Truth be told, that's why I like sport climbing so much. There just isn't so much nonsense. There isn't such a production. There's less excuses. You just climb.

Apr 10, 2006 - 02:14pm PT
Ive climbed not once but 3 times with convicted psychokiller and thief Luke the Fluke Stong.The first time hes in the parking lot talking 5.12.So we go to Latin swing etc.He does not climb1 foot off the ground..Second time ,the Fish and I need another belayer to man the backrope......To be continued
Dingus Milktoast

Apr 10, 2006 - 02:15pm PT
A minor point of clarification...

dogs are not considered 'part of the load.' Certainly not part of the community load. Unless it was HIS dog, lol.

Dingus Milktoast

Apr 10, 2006 - 02:16pm PT
BTW, I'm ususally the one getting written about, as in

never again!


Social climber
The West
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:19pm PT
a good partner not only doesn't dawdle, is ready, and motivated, but brings these things out in you.

Climbing with such indivuals makes the occasional forays with the other kind all the more painful.

Not always practical, put it's good to select new partners from people you've already 'seen' in action.

I think a lot of soloing stems from partner impatience, it has for me.

Trad climber
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:26pm PT
Back in the 90's in Austin I had a rope gun named An. Standing about 5'4" and of some far east persuasion that I never discerned, An amazingly lead 12's comfortably, and was readily available as a partner. I was always willing to give a belay if he could set something up that I could flail on.

An was also a ladies man, but had an ego that wouldn't allow him do date women taller than he, which pretty muched limited him to date women that were also of some far east persuasion. An was constantly bringing new women to go climbing with us (often their first time), which I normally didn't mind. He'd usually lead up something really hard, with me belaying and the new love interest watching, then I'd follow on TR, with the new girl belaying (normally on a gri-gri), and An nearby giving proper belay lessons. And by nearby, I mean the type of lessons were he would be standing right behind here, a la a tennis lesson.

The girls that An were bringing seemed to get smaller and smaller in progression, to where the one he brought on this fateful day was maybe 4'10", and weighed 80 pounds.

The normal climbs that we'd set up on the greenbelt were taken, so we decided on a climb called meet the flintstones, a 5.9 that I have never led. Somehow, An swindles me into leading this (I was leading low 11's at the time), and further swindles me into letting this girl belay me (It's well below your ability, you'll have no problems).

I tie in, she puts me on belay, Then I do the math: Me = 2.5*( 80lb Asian girl), and decides she needs a ground anchor. there's nothing really close to the wal, but we find a good set of rocks a ways out, and sling her belay loop to the rock, and I set up.

I Climb up past this cave some 75 feet, clip a draw to the last bolt, pull up the rope, My left foot slips off, and I take flight just before I clip the rope in. I fall past the ankle shattering ledge on the cave, missing it somehow, 20 some feet in total.

I look down and see the girl about 6 feet in the air, not even making any bend in the straight line that was created between the rocks the ground anchor was attached to and the first bolt. She managed to keep a death grip on the free end of the ATC. She was literally hanging by the ATC on the underside of this line, looking like she was on a tyrolean. An, on the other hand, was double over on the ground. He was standing right behind her for the fall, with the ground anchor line running between his legs for his belay instruction. Anchor sling came taught, and smacked him right in the junk. Not a move one normally uses to impress the ladies.

With some help of neaby climbers, she lowers me. I don't think I ever climbed with An again.


Trad climber
the south
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:29pm PT
Well I'm glad you are OK, Terrie.

BTW, remember our discussion about the dog-in-a-pack? I met someone yesterday who has done it, LOL! It works. That dog has even rappeled. I really think with a little effort you could get Teddie to get in the pack. HE's not nearly as stubborn as you are, after all, hehe.

Terrie, I know you are very careful about who you hang out with, so I have to wonder how you got into this situation in the first place.

I also wonder, was this the first time you met with this person?

Maybe not, but for those first meetings, I'd advise EASY GROUND, such as, in your case, Peterskill. Someone who pooh-poohs the idea of meeting on easy ground for a get aquainted and on the same page climbing day might just be one of those people you don't need to be climbing with.

BTW, easy ground means the approach as well. I would think twice about agreeing to go class 4 or even class 3 approaching with someone I did not know I could trust. The classic example around the south would be the approach at Tallulah, where you could easily screw up and die.

HAHA, even with someone you can trust, it can be serious. Once a funny fellow and I were on a 'trail' in NC, he was leading the way and I was following. He missed the turn and came close (but not too close) to leading us off a cliff. OF course I have never let him forget it.

Another time in NC a very well known climber in our group came close to crushing his head when he slipped on some loose rock and sild into a depression, followed by rocks big enough to crush his head. One did hit his wrist and one his ankle, but the one aimed at his head stopped just to the left or right as they tell it. Of course that time there was no trail ,and this guy had been going up this scree for years Without incident.

Fortunately, unlike your 'friend', Terrie, the infamous RRK was close enough to see or hear what happened and he went over and pulled the guy out.

I guess the theme of this post is that climbing is safer than walking on the trail? And LOTS safer than tow trucks, or slacklines, ROTFLMAO!


Trad climber
Lee, NH
Apr 10, 2006 - 02:38pm PT
My first date with my (now) wife was out climbing. I was terribly impressed that the first day she touched rock, wearing hiking boots and a swami, she did 8 pitches of climbing with no fussing or falls -- just about hiking up Calypso and Pseudo Sidetrack in Eldo. I've told that story with pride many times.

Until I read this thread today, though, I never thought of the fact that she hadn't belayed before, either.

(Not a story of disappointment I guess.)

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