By Micah Elconin

Whether you like it or not, climbing is generally a social activity. Someone has to hold the other end of the rope for those redpoint attempts and my guess is you’d rather have a few extra pads and a spot when topping out that high boulder problem.  

Finding a climbing partner can be challenging. The combination of busy schedules and divergent communication styles can make the logistics of linking up with someone, or anyone, feel almost impossible. Some fall into routine and tend to climb with the same people day in and day out because it’s easy and it works. Others seem to get lost in the process, opting to climb with an ever expanding swirl of random partners on a first come, first served basis.  

There’s nothing wrong with either of these strategies at face value. They both have merits. However, I do think that our climbing partnerships are important enough to deserve a certain level of attention and intention.   

Climbing partnerships are important. Yes, your partner quite literally keeps you alive every time you climb together. But beyond that they directly impact your performance, motivations, and further development. Jim Rohn is famous for noting, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Simply put, the people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention.

Stop and consider the five people who you spend the most time climbing with. Do these people inspire you? Do they behave in ways that you respect? Do they bring out the best in you? Do their goals align with your goals? Do you feel like you are learning (in a good way) by their example?  

When your answer is enthusiastically “yes” to the above questions, chances are you have landed a great climbing partner. Respect that relationship! 

I recently had an experience that really galvanized the importance of climbing partnerships. In March, I traveled to Lander, Wyoming to meet up with a group of other Climb Strong Coaches. About a dozen of us spent a few days climbing together in Sinks Canyon and the energy at the crag was incredible.  I was energized. I was supported.  I was inspired. And wouldn’t you know? The climbing sessions were about as good as I could have ever hoped for. To be pumped silly high on a route and have this crew rooting for me felt like one of those old Red Bull videos. The Climb Strong crew “gave me wings."

Of course, good partners don’t just encourage us, they also help teach us things by example. Here’s a short list of the education I enjoyed simply by climbing alongside these folks.


  • Get out of your comfort zone. Jacob went out of his way to get on a route that was far harder than anything else he’d tried at the crag. Despite having many of his peers/colleagues below, he went up and worked moves that made him uncomfortable. And he’s a better climber because of it. 
  • Smile. Chelsea went on a tear putting down hard routes left and right. No doubt she was trying hard up there - she may have even doubted herself on certain moves, but she was smiling the entire time. Try this out. Smile while you are performing. It’s amazing.
  • Recruit support for the plan. Before heading out to the crag, Taylor shared with the group that she was planning on trying to redpoint a specific project at the crag. She could have just played it safe and waited to see how she felt, but instead chose to create a plan and hold herself accountable for sticking to it.  
  • Stay humble.  At one point during the day I hear folks start to cheer and get behind Alex. I look up and see him really fighting to recover at a rest. He manages to get something back and then fires what looks to be a hard crux linking all the way to the chains. He smiles, shows a bit of stoke for the support, lowers to the ground and looks for his grigri to belay his partner. It wasn’t until later in the day that I learned from someone else that his redpoint was actually a first ascent.  
  • One more go. Joel works hard. His attempts are focused and he’s always looking for ways to improve. As the group finished up for the day and began heading down to cars and out for dinner and drinks, he opted to tie in and get in one more attempt. So while we hiked down the hill, he got in more “reps” on his project. I hear he sent it just a few days later. 
  • There’s always something you can do. Rachel injured her tricep just weeks before our trip. So anything more than casual pulling/pushing was not an option. Everyone would have understood if she opted to sit on the bench, but she sought out routes (or part of routes) where she could practice other movements. And she was stoked for everyone else the entire time.  


These are the kinds of people I want to climb with. Who do you want to climb with?

Not sure where to begin?

We have training plans available for any level athlete!

Climbing with great people quite literally accelerates our growth as climbers. And the opposite is true as well. I see climbers debating the merits of different exercises, hangboard protocols, or styles in hopes of finding the recipe that will help them get better. But I would argue that the people that we climb with may be more important than any of that! So, whatever your current methodology is for choosing partners on your climbing days, do yourself a favor and treat these decisions with respect. 

Furthermore, continually seek to become a better partner for the other people that you climb with. This is a two way street after all.  Look yourself in the mirror. Show up and behave in a way that you would expect from others. Again, a short list of a few places to start. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.  


  • It’s not always about you. Yes, you’ve got goals and you’re there to perform, but so is your partner! When your redpoint attempt doesn’t go the way you’d like, take a moment to think through your attempt and then file all that away. You’ve got someone to support. Show psych for your partner and their goals regardless of how you are feeling about your own. 
  • Respect other people's time. Regardless of how much free time you have or how flexible you are with your own plans, know that your partner (or other people at the crag) may have limited time to climb. It’s not the anyone should be rushing out there, but instead, just stay aware of the fact that other people may be waiting on you. Check in with your partner early and often. 
  • Belay/spot with the same focus you climb with. This should go without saying, but we all need the reminder from time to time.  
  • Hold partners accountable.  Seek to understand your partner’s goals for the day and, perhaps, how they fit into their long term goals. If they want to get on a specific project, then make sure they actually do so. And if they start to show some doubts or performance anxiety, kindly nudge them back on course.


Every year that goes by, I seem to have a bit more on my plate outside of climbing, so it takes more and more effort to motivate and coordinate for the additional social encounter that is rock climbing. It's really no different than trying to gain or even maintain strength or power. As I get older, it gets harder to stay ahead of the curve in these areas. There’s a million excuses I could offer up to let myself down easy, but I love climbing and have every intention of keeping at it. Time is short and I only have some many days left at the crag, so I’m going to keep prioritizing good partnerships. I hope you do as well.



Micah has cultivated his climbing practice for more than twenty years. Based in Eugene, Oregon he coaches local athletes through his business Good Stone, and offers remote coaching as a part of the team at Climb Strong. Micah has climbed all over the world including dozens of first ascents on the Central Coast of California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Despite entering his fourth decade in 2021, he continues to slowly, yet steadily, improve.

As a coach, Micah draws on a variety of experiences to support his athletes. He is well versed in climbing specific training modalities and holds multiple Performance Climbing Coach Certificates. He spent the first half of his twenties deeply committed to Ashtanga yoga practicing under the guidance of Steve Dwelley and Michele Nichols. He also spent 3 months at Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. As a former professional chef, Micah has extensive culinary experience and holds Nutrition Educator and Natural Chef’s certificates from Bauman College. He’s also earned an MBA in Entrepreneurship from University of Oregon and a BA in Philosophy from University of California at Santa Barbara.



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