Mother CrushersHow to Make Friends at the Climbing Gym
Making new friends is a skill we often emphasize with our children. But making friends as an adult? Not discussed nearly as much. When I moved to Ohio three years ago, I left my wonderfully supportive climbing community in Pennsylvania, and found myself at a brand new climbing gym with a need to meet some friends and climbing partners! The facility looked top-notch…but how were the people?? I am happy to say that the process went well, and I consider my climbing friends to be a second family. I’d love to share my experiences on how I made friends at the climbing gym for those that are finding themselves in a similar situation
Looking lost is ok, but also be brave and introduce yourself!
As a definite introvert, I was apprehensive about meeting new climbing partners when I first started climbing at a new gym. I may have looked a little lost walking around the gym hopping on auto belays here and there. It wasn’t exactly my intent to look lost, but it worked to my advantage. During my first few weeks of climbing, I had a few friendly people offer catches and ask if I’d like to climb together. I also introduced myself to the gym staff, and they were a great resource for making other introductions. They’re at the gym every day and know most of the climbers pretty well. If you are a ropes-loving climber and find yourself without a belay partner, I highly recommend joining a local climbing Facebook group or using the Partner Finder board – or whatever system your local gym uses. You can browse for fellow climbers with similar interests and schedules. Maybe you’ll find your perfect climbing match!
My best bit of advice though, is if you see a friendly face and think to yourself that they would be an excellent friend and climbing partner, be brave and say hello. This is a tough thing for me to do, but I am so grateful that one of my (now) closest friends and climbing partners did that for me. She saw me completing many laps on the auto belays and came over bravely and introduced herself. I’ve been climbing with her regularly now for three years, both in the gym and out at the crag. Randomly saying hello to a stranger at the gym just might be the start of a beautiful belaytionship!
Conversation starters – gear, route ratings, and beta
I have found that one of the best ice breakers for talking with other climbers is to find out their opinions on gear or the routes that they are climbing. It is no secret that climbing gear can be an investment. Getting advice from online reviews is helpful before spending money on a new harness or shoes, but getting advice from people actually using the gear at your local gym can be far superior. In addition to seeing gear used in action, having those conversations with fellow climbers can open the lines of communication for new friendships to form.
Another great conversation starter is talking about climbing itself. What did you think of that green stemming route? Do you have any beta for us shorter climbers? Was that route only rated a 10?!? I am sure the crux is more like an 11! While it is true that many climbers do not appreciate beta being sprayed at them while on the wall, discussing strategy and techniques on the ground can be a great way to learn more about climbing – and fellow climbers 🙂
Take advantage of established climbing resources and events
Perhaps you already have a great climbing partner, but you are looking to meet more climbers in the community. Many climbing gyms offer a range of skills classes, such as movement, rappelling, or lead climbing basics. The class sizes are usually fairly small, and by signing up you’ll meet some climbers who, at the very least, are interested in learning the same skills as you are. If it’s your children that have gotten you involved at the climbing gym, definitely take the time to talk to the other parents at drop-off and pick-up. I know that my family has made some lifelong friends through our involvement with youth climbing. There are also a TON of non-climbing events within the climbing community that are worth checking out if you are interested in meeting some new friends. You can attend a happy-hour meet-up at a local establishment or a holiday-themed party at the gym. You could attend a local crag cleanup, where you can simultaneously be a steward for the environment while you chat with other climbers – so many possibilities.
Climbers are an incredibly diverse, supportive, and inclusive group – and that is part of what makes climbing gyms such an excellent place to meet new friends. I hope these suggestions help you meet new friends or expand your personal climbing community. Here’s to new belaytionships!