Exaggerating skills in climbing is dangerous. Knowing when it is time to be a student again is super important. The lucky thing is, climbers tend to always be psyched to share their knowledge. The times I have spent going over new knots with old friends is countless. It is commonplace for there to be anchors bolted to random walls in climbing campgrounds so people can teach systems to new climbers before they head out to the rock. For me, it’s the conversations before climbs with new partners where this ego vs safety thing has become most apparent. A friend once laughed on the top of a ridgeline that, in the weeks leading up to the outing, I had downplayed my abilities too much. In the world of multi pitch trad, it felt fair for me, a sport climber, to do so. I would always rather pleasantly surprise a new partner with my know-how than put them in a crappy situation that they weren’t expecting. I have also been on the opposite side of that spectrum. Friends who I had never climbed with said they knew what they were doing, only to get hours off course to their “home crag” and then show up without owning a belay device. Confidence in someone’s lead belaying when they don’t know that a GriGri needs a locking biner is terrifyingly low.
A friend once suggested that I never go up a wall expecting to use every skill I know. She said I should always have knowledge tucked away to use when something goes wrong. I liked the simplicity of that. It has made me ask more questions around picnic tables to friends with more experience. Maybe it’s what made me underplay my abilities before that weird traversy climb up in Linville. I knew how to do that climb if everything went right, but would have needed my partner’s knowledge if things went awry. I only know what I know, but with the right headspace, that bank of information can grow without ever stopping. This sport is incredible. I’m excited to be a lifelong student of it.
(Note: To not throw anyone under the bus, no friends pictured above are gumbies who put me in crappy situations because of their egos…)