Photo: Caleb Phillips

The greatest key to a victorious climbing trip starts and ends with an awesome crew. Sure, the climbing itself matters a lot, and yes, we’d all love to crush world-class climbs in amazing places … But even under those fortunate circumstances, the people you’re with are what ultimately make the experience. And if you’re new to climbing altogether, the community bringing you outdoors often turns out to be the reason you continue to climb.

Ideally, each friend (I hope you’re climbing with friends) brings something special to your crag dynamic. We can’t have it all, but man, if you can show up to a big ole’ pile of rocks with these 5 friends (or at the very least 1 of them)—you are destined for a memorable day of rock climbing:


1. The friend with the gear

Well, let’s be totally honest. Building a full trad rack, owning 5 crash pads, and sporting the sleekest ropes and quickdraws on the planet don’t exactly rank as the cheapest endeavors out there—especially if you’re new to climbing. However, without gear, a vast majority of climbing can’t (well, probably shouldn’t) happen.

These purchases—though generally always worth it—are a major commitment to the sport that often carries an all too painful slash into our meager bank accounts. The fundamental point being that if you’re friend has forgone a week of food to buy the gear that makes climbing possible, he/she is probably an awesome friend. Without this friend at the crag, you probably wouldn’t be climbing in the first place.


Related: How to Build a Trad Rack

trad gear

Photo: Matt Richter


2. The friend who knows safety

Another absolutely necessary pal to have at the crag, particularly as a beginner, is the friend who effectively got a degree in climbing safety. He/she serves as the encyclopedia to climbing; the expert of anchors, knots, rappelling, first aid, self-rescue, and all of the other topics many climbers are too lazy to research themselves. Instead of you saying,

yeah I should really read up on anchor-systems some time …

your friend sets up five mock anchors at the base of the route, scribbles detailed diagrams using chalk on the rock, and creates a S.E.R.E.N.E brochure using your Clif Bar wrapper. You want this friend because they go above and beyond to make sure you don’t kill yourself or others around you. Your insurance provider owes them one.


Related: On Being a Good Climbing Partner

belay partner

Photo: Iwona Kellie


 3. The friend who is straight up STOKED all of the time

Scenario 1:


… as you flail violently off of a 5.7 top rope but somehow, find yourself convinced to fearlessly project .12s later in the day.

Scenario 2:


… as you stare up at the choss-ridden side-of-the-highway boulders you found yourself at out of desperation to climb outside, only to perceive that you’ve found the rock quality of the Rocklands before your eyes.

Scenario 3:


… as you’re curled in a ball under five layers of down material, trying at all costs not to lose your fingers/toes to frostbite, while your friend is shirtless, scraping off ice to reach the top. You get inspired, and find some hidden power to try and send.

Basically, this friend raises the level of psych so high at the crag that you somehow push yourself far beyond the limits you’ve initially set. He/she also makes any undesirable weather conditions and unlucky encounters somehow transform from awful to fun. This friend makes you believe and want to be a better, more positive climber. This friend is awesome.


Photo: Matt Richter


4. The friend with the snacks

Climbers like food, a lot; but many of us really suck at thinking about what/how much we should actually bring to sustain ourselves for the highly physical outing of a climbing trip. Our brains are obviously more fixated on the rocks we will soon get to slather our hands over rather than the energy that will make that possible.

Unfortunately, more times than we’d all like to admit, we’ve relied on a Snickers bar and a bag of Chex Mix to satisfy our rabid hunger over the course of a weekend-long trip. Whoops: your body is now atrophying before your eyes.

Luckily—*flies into the rescue ‘friend with snacks’*—your comrade carrying a cooler full of delicious (and nutritious) food serves you a freshly made helping of quinoa kale salad, garnished with pomegranates and pine nuts, a Nalgene of freshly brewed iced tea, and of course, homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Need I say more about why you want this friend around?


Related: Nutrition Tips: Fueling for Optimal Climbing Performance


5. The friend with the beta

Acting as a wizard magically navigating you through the complicated terrain on the approach to the crag—deciphering precise locations of shrubs and indistinct mossy rocks—this friend manages to lead you to the climbs of your dreams. Moreover, when you’re struggling to make the first move on the route, he/she seamlessly explains exactly where to heel-hook and drop-knee your way up what seems an incomprehensible set of movements on the rock before you.

This friend also holds the wisdom to prime locations for tasty local eats, sunset-watching, and free camping. Again, the beta master serves as vital friend in contributing to the experience of a trip.

climbing beta

Photo: Matt Richter

In the end, all five of these friends are hugely important members of your climbing life, because without them, you’d likely be dead, hungry, or not climbing at all. Hopefully, you embody one or more of these roles among your crag crew. If not, you should at least aim to be the friend with the awesome crag dog or the ever-important parking lot beer provider.


Now to you

Which one of these friends at the crag are you? Tell us in the comments below!