Climbing partnerships: How to avoid 4 horsemen of the apocalypse

Every so often during a coaching session it becomes apparent that there is a problem that is lying under the surface.

I often find that because it is not fair to blame ones climbing partner for ones climbing performance, most people that I coach try not to bring it to the surface or even admit it to themselves. And yet throughout the session the topic of their climbing partner will slowly become the elephant in the room as it rears its head subtly in conversation over and over again.

I have written this blog to share some thoughts about climbing and relationships, because truth be told, who you climb with and how you interact with them, can make a massive difference to your wellbeing and climbing performance just as much as it can to theirs.

So how do the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse feature in all of this?

Well lets start at the beginning with the gold standard, before we move on to looking at the problems….

A great climbing relationship.

Relationships are beautiful but they can also be messy. They require each person to adapt their behaviours, consider boundaries and reflect and evaluate.

A great climbing partner will work towards helping their partner feel safe and happy, so that they can put all of their focus into the here and now.

They will give expert attention to the feeling and needs of the individual, and will be responsive and adaptive. They will manage their behaviours and emotional state for the benefit of their partner. If the climber needs space and silence, the belayer will provide it for them. If the climber needs levity the belayer will shift into a jolly mood. Whatever it takes.

Moreover a great climbing partner will have in place a range of technical skills and physical abilities to be of best service at all times.

Climbing Relationship

Problematic Relationships

A problematic relationship is one where the feelings of trust and support don’t seem to flow both ways.

The climber will be spending their energy feeling anxious or nervous believing their partner  may not be placing their attention fixedly on their well being, or that their belayer may not have the technical or physical capabilities to help them reach their goal.

The climber may plough on regardless, but they will be holding something back. They will be unwilling to put 100% of their attention into their performance, because a significant amount of energy is spent lost in thoughts about their partner.

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