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Taking a Friend Climbing

By Baggy Richards

Every climber finds him or herself in a position where they want, or are expected to take a friend climbing. Often this means taking a complete beginner or novice climber on a multi-pitch route. Here are a few tips aimed to make sure you both have a great time and neither of you ends up dreading the idea of it happening again.


Taking a Friend Climbing

Your friend is likely to be either anxious or excited about the adventure that lies ahead, which is not a good state of mind for absorbing information. So avoid bombarding them with advice at the bottom of the crag. Tell them the simple things they need to know and then get them moving. Give them other pointers on the route (like for example explaining climbing calls). As each new situation arises talk to them and explain what's going on. It will make more sense 'in situ' and help lead to a more interesting and enjoyable day for them.


Taking a Friend Climbing

Think about the type of climbing a particular crag or route offers. Avoid using a venue that is too steep and look for a more 'slabby' crag, which allows your friend to build confidence. Although they may have climbed before, indoor walls have little relevance in the real world of multi pitch climbing. Obviously it's subjective but in principle - the more exposed the route, the lower the grade should be.


You may use double ropes when you climb yourself but in this instance they're likely to overcomplicate matters for your friend. Remember, any problems that occur will have to be solved by you so it's probably better to keep things simple and go for a full weight single rope.

Belay Plates

Make sure the belay plate is appropriate for the size of rope you have chosen and consider giving the belayer a more 'grabby' device which will be more forgiving if you slip off.


Consider the rack you take with the second's ability and experience in mind. Leave Cams, RP,s and other specialised equipment like offset nuts behind. These often prove awkward to remove and result in the second becoming tired or frustrated.


Taking a Friend Climbing

On each stance it is essential to maintain visual contact with the other climber. Just because a guidebook says to belay at a specific place doesn't mean you have to do so. However, wherever you choose, make your belay is suitable (i.e. not a hanging stance).


Create single point belays with 120cm slings (not 240cm slings ) when possible, making the stance simple and easy to understand.


Taking a Friend Climbing

Often the descent can be as tricky and sometimes even more daunting for your inexperienced friend. If they have no hillwalking or scrambling experience make sure that your descent will not become too harrowing and ruin a good day out. If in any doubt, choose a different venue.


Allow much more time than you would normally. And have a few contingency plans up your sleeve. Think in advance about what you will do if the weather changes, light fades, time runs out, or your friend simply gets cold feet.



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