Ian reflects on the bumps, burns and bruises accumulated over the past season of rock climbing and what it all means.
It's been a bit of a reflective couple days. My mobility has been limited due to bouncing my ass off a ledge on Sat. Taking 6 inch steps leaves a guy with some time to think while he slowly, every so slowly makes his way across the house.
Had a great summer. Good routes with good friends. Some great adventures with new partners and some not-so-great times with both new and old partners.
The one thing that will definitely stand out is the amount of rope burn I accumulated this season. Each one a good visible reminder of a mistake made.
There are risks that we frequently discuss as climbers. Rock fall, placement of protection, rope management, etc.
I feel there is less discussion over partner selection and that may be one of the most critical decisions we can make.
Who do you trust with your life? What criteria do you use in evaluating a partner? Is it based purely on how able they are in sending the climb or do you plan for the worst case and choose partners based on their ability to cope when shit goes wrong?
I am a bit torn on this. At times I have strictly stuck to a graduated system of partner building. e.g. sport climbs, sport multi-pitch, easy gear multi-pitch before progressing onto any route with much objective risk.
Other times I've skipped a bunch of that based on my perception of their skills and suitability as a climbing partner. It's both been great and it's also led to me (literally) getting burned.
I've also ignored warning signs that someone may not be capable if things go wrong and climbed with them anyway due either to my desire to climb the route or based on friendship and how much I like them as person.
I've even told myself, "oh, I'll just be more careful" which is a strange lie to tell yourself.
It's foolishness to believe we can control all the risks we encounter while climbing. If we honestly acknowledge that some factors are completely beyond our control then it places a much greater importance on who we climb with.
I don't have a solid answer for myself at the moment but I believe I will lean towards being more cautious in my partner selection.
The margin between safe and injured can be a very small one. We owe it to ourselves and to the people that love us to make the best decisions we can.