Lessons from Dating in the Climbing World

climbing dating

In today’s post guest contributor, Anna, shares her sage advice for dating in the climbing world.

“I saw this guy climbing at the wall last night, and he looked so hot on the wall, but then he came down and I thought ‘My God, that’s a face only a mother can love!'” – yes, my friend actually said that to me once. This perfectly describes dating in the climbing world – they all look just so hot mid-climb, but things aren’t always what they seem, and coming down to earth can be a major anticlimax.

When I first started climbing, my brother, who got me into the sport in the first place, told me I would never have a problem finding a boyfriend as a female climber. It is true that many couples throughout history found true love through their love of climbing and adventure. Take for example Robert and Miriam Underhill, now considered two of the great pioneers in American mountaineering; Bradford and Barbara Washburn, the first husband-and-wife team to summit Denali in 1947; and more recently Bob and Antonie Ewing, who got married after climbing to the 900-foot summit of the South Peak of Seneca Rocks in West Virginia in 2012.

This kind of romance may well await each one of us just around the corner. Yet it is in my capacity as a female climber that I have spent the longest part of my adult life being single. And it hasn’t been for lack of trying. I have dated climbers, as have my female climbing buddies, and we have learnt a lot in the process.

climbing dating

If you both love climbing, you won’t necessarily love each other  

When I first fell in love with climbing, I automatically assumed that I would also fall in love with any male climber that happened to ask me out on a date. After all, if we shared a passion, how could we possibly not be the perfect match?

I was wrong, but it took a good chunk of time to figure that out. It turned out that if a boy and a girl have the same idea of a perfect weekend it doesn’t automatically make them a perfect match. Turns out there is also a huge amount of other stuff involved, like chemistry, emotional compatibility, and future expectations.

If you like what you see on the wall, that may not be the case off the wall  

As climbers, we are disproportionally attracted to strong muscles and good climbing technique, but that in itself is not enough to ensure a ‘happily ever after’. Even the least attractive of men or women can turn into the hottest thing in the world once they get on the wall and flash that V8 or 7c lead right in front of your eyes. But they will always eventually have to come back down to earth, and so will your imagination.

climbing dating

All your dates become climbing dates  

Another common issue is that when climbers want to ask you out on a date they invite you…climbing. This feels nice at first, because it’s familiar and something you both enjoy, but in the long run it can easily ruin the burgeoning relationship.

For one thing, you don’t want to date someone who has no other interests in life whatsoever apart from climbing (and if you think you do, I dare you to try!). Apart from that, you will be constantly surrounded by other climbers you both know on your dates at the gym or the crag, even if you originally plan to just go as a couple. And yes, they will know and remember every argument you’ve had since you started dating!

If you take a ‘newbie’ date to the climbing gym, prepare for disappointment   

You may try to buck the trend and date non-climbers. Be careful then, when they ask you to take them climbing with you – and they will at some point. This seems like a nice idea at first, but boy is it hard to watch a newbie struggle on a V0 when that newbie is a boy you *thought* you fancied. As gender-stereotypical as this may be, some part of me wants to see the man I’m with being stronger and physically more able than I am. That can easily put you off your latest potential partner!

And if you break up with a climber…  

…you don’t get to do the whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing, because your ex will climb at your gym on the same days as you every week, guaranteed. And he/she will turn up at all the same crags as you on the same weekends. Even if it’s not your local crag. Because, Sod’s law!

climbing dating

The solution?  

Move cities. Move countries. Or at least move gyms. Or, as a friend suggested, go to crags that are so hard to approach you are unlikely to encounter any people there at all, let alone your ex.

Ok, here’s some serious advice…  

Some of these issues are unavoidable, but there are definitely things you can do to salvage a climbing relationship or avoid a breakup being more difficult that it needs to be.

  1. Think about what you want in a partner – do you even want to date a climber?
  1. If you decide you do – don’t despair! Dating in such a small community is bound to be fraught with some dangers, but it can also lead to unforgettable experiences, and you may just find that special someone through shared interest.
  1. When you find your guy (or gal), try not to climb together all the time; find other climbing friends and don’t rely on your other half as your sole climbing partner.
  1. Go on actual dates, not just climbing dates. Go to the theater or see a movie, or something.
  1. Avoid dating regulars from your gym. It really can go very wrong! (And yes, I know this one is easier said than done.)
  1. Only take non-climbing dates to the climbing gym once you like them enough to not be swayed by their incompetence on the wall!

Climb on!
Anna

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13 thoughts on “Lessons from Dating in the Climbing World

  1. Canuck Climber says:

    This is so funny and true! I thought about taking a non-climber to the gym one time, but then decided against it because I didn’t want to watch him struggle on the wall… But after reading this I don’t feel so guilty about it, hahaha!!

  2. Caro says:

    Great article, so true, SO true.

  3. ilamis says:

    Haha! This is so true..I’m turning into 31 now and I also have spent the last 1.5 year being single. As a climber I have dated climbers and been asked for friends-with-benefit relationship as well :/. I came to the same conclusion, cause what you see on the wall doesn’t necessarily mean something charming when it comes to dating.
    I live in Sweden and guys here are very introvert and hardly ask a girl out. I’m from Iran and very extrovert and social..I need to change country apparently otherwise I will end up being single.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way! haha I hope the post doesn’t come across too negative though – there are obviously very cool things about dating climbers. Like, as my brother told me, there is very little competition 😉 and you find out so much more about them on a multi-pitch than during a dinner date! haha

  5. Isa says:

    I do agree that it is important to have climbing partners outside of your significant other. I know for me, personally, it has really helped my relationship. My boyfriend can get frustrated and impatient with me when we climb together, and since that takes away all the fun in the sport, I make it a point that he is not my sole climbing partner. He is very respectful and accepting of this, since he’s a boulderer anyway and enjoys his bro time on the wall, sans girlfriend lol.
    As for the newbie comment… the only thing I have to say is that if you are bringing a non-climber date to the gym, don’t just show-off, but actually teach your date how to climb… it’s painful enough to see the individual struggle, even more when the experienced party does nothing about it. Make it a bonding experience.

    • I totally agree about not showing off when you take newbies to the gym – I would never do that, it makes me feel really silly doing that!

      Good that you don’t climb with your partner all the time – climbing is also, to a huge extent, about making new friends, so sticking to one guy is just not worth it!

  6. Ruhro says:

    My boyfriend and I were just climbing partners for 1.5 years before we started dating. It can be so hard to find a dedicated ropes partner who wants to train at the gym, we didn’t want to mess that up!

  7. Lucy says:

    Having been in relationships with 2 climbers, and 2 non-climbers, I can relate to this so well, but in the end have decided I basically have to date a climber. If a guy doesn’t engage at all in what I spend 75% of my time doing, it’s just not gonna work. At the moment I’ve hit the sweet spot of finding a climber who climbs at a different gym so we don’t overlap too much, but can still use each other’s guest passes. It’s basically perfect.

  8. steve says:

    ‘some part of me wants to see the man I’m with being stronger and physically more able than I am’

    I’ve often wondered about that. In pretty much every climbing couple I see the male is the better climber. This seems true even for most top women climbers. For someone like Ashima Shiraishi the pool of potential partners is going to be small indeed.

    • AlchemiSteve says:

      Remember–gender roles are bad and a “social construct”….until the convenience factor sets in. Sadly, the author made it obvious that they are quite snobby and “cherry pick” about the gender expectations. Yet I’m sure she’s written blogs about why she hates it when men tell her she’s not “built” for a particular challenge. But for some reason, she expects men to be her superior (??)

      I’ve had to be an on/off again climber, and I’ve dated a woman who was an experienced climber by a few more years. I’ve been a volunteer fire fighter and EMS, and I’ve seen accidents occur in climbing gyms and deal with PTSD, so I do have some fears of climbing even though I push to get better at it. We only went climbing on three occasions and she said I was getting better, when we had stopped she eventually said that i was slowing her down. Needless to say, a picky first-world woman who complains about gender roles–still wanted me to have that gender role about being more ‘physically able’ than she.

      It’s extremely obnoxious.

      This is the part about the climbing community

      • AlchemiSteve says:

        excuse me. that is the part of the climbing community that you see the absolute worst in people. Here’s the thing about climbing, we don’t have to do it anymore for survival as did our ancestors.

        Having the free time to afford to go climbing is a huge luxury. For anybody, man or woman, to judge a new climber because the sport is new to them, is exceedingly shallow. Now if the person plays video games all day and doesn’t get outside, that’s one thing. But if you’re a 25 mile a day cyclist, or avid runner but climbing is something you have to be ‘measured up’ to on the first attempt–it makes you not want to socialize with other climbers.

        Don’t get me wrong, the men who treat women as if they can’t climb are even worse.

  9. Rachel says:

    Love it! My boyfriend (now fiance!) brought me to the climbing gym when we started dating 3 years ago. I love being with him, I love climbing, and now our lives revolve around climbing for the weekend, but we developed a connection outside of the sport. This emphasizes climbing as a special hobby for us to do together, and for us to do apart from one another when we can’t get to the gym together during the week.

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