Can You Rock Climb Without a Partner?

Rock climbing is an intense workout that will easily push every muscle in your body to its absolute limits. When you have become somewhat experienced, get more time to enjoy your hobbies, or just don’t have someone you know that is as intense about the sport, you will want to practice more. However, if you’re inexperienced, you may wonder whether or not you can go and practice alone.

You can rock climb alone, with several courses in gyms built specifically so that you can climb alone. There are courses out in the wild that you should be able to enjoy as well. When you are more comfortable to climb, you can go to courses you already know and have completed alone to do some solo climbing.

There are more reasons you would go solo climbing, and it is something you can do for more than just practicing new skills you may want to refine. There are several sports and versions of the hobby that require you to climb alone or with almost no one there to catch you should you fall. Knowing why climbing partners are involved, the dangers of climbing and which types of climbing you should attempt to solo first are important.

Here are all the facts, the do’s, and the don’ts of solo climbing.

What is the purpose of a climbing partner?

When you are climbing any vertical face, you will face the challenge that all people have, falling and not being able to stop yourself. Luckily, there will be someone to stop you from falling when you are still learning in a gym or on lower grade hills.

In most climbing experiences where you are learning or making mistakes, a climbing partner will act as a belayer, putting tension in the safety ropes. This is done to prevent you from falling very far when you inevitably slip and fall. Everyone does this, and experts attempting to climb new mountains will usually still climb with a partner.

A climbing partner is there to help you if you slip, hurt yourself, or if anything else goes wrong. Even if you are capable of climbing any mountain on earth with your eyes closed, it only takes one small mistake to end up in a situation where you have to cut off your arm because no one else is there to help you.

What are the most popular types of rock climbing?

While there are many ways you can go out and climb the world around you, knowing what they all are will make a big difference. Sometimes you enter a hobby and are railed into only doing one type, when there may be other parts of the hobby you would like more or just as much. Rock climbing is no different, and many of these different types of rock climbing operate on the solo climbing method.

  • Solo Climbing: Seen as the way to practice daily, solo climbing is done on climbs that are rated at lower levels than your leading climb ability. This allows you to practice new techniques and just generally train. Usually, people who do solo climbing will have a local climbing spot that they enjoy and frequent three to four times a week.
  • Aid Climbing: This is the recommended way to take on large cliffs, impossible heights, or new adventures. Aid climbing involves ropes, jigs, pulleys, and a friend that knows just as much as you do about climbing. It is best to do aid in climbing with someone you know and trust as someone who moves unpredictably can be dangerous.
  • Sport Climbing: Sport climbing can be done in the wild with anchors already set in the rock or done in a gym. Either way, sport climbing is all about reaching impossible heights, using impossible grips, or moving at seemingly impossible speeds. Many sports climbers are at the best of their physical fitness and can easily climb up vertical surfaces that few if no other people can climb.
  • Bouldering: Seen as a way of training for sport climbing or just for practice in normal climbing, bouldering involves exactly what the name implies. Climbing up, over, and around a large boulder to eventually reach the top. These climbers rely entirely on their wrists and grips’ strength and are some of the best climbers in the world. Usually, they can swing their full body weight on nothing but a rock outcropping the size of a penny.
  • Lead Climbing: The most commonly seen type of climbing in movies, lead climbing involves a few people climbing together. One person will climb in the front of the party, setting anchors and pulleys, while being tied to the others in the group with a cord. As they move up the mountain, the group’s collective friction will help save anyone that may fall.
  • Traditional Climbing: Like lead climbing, traditional climbing involves a group of people going up a mountain together. However, these climbers will move more as a unit, setting anchors in different areas, and once they are done with their climb, they will remove all anchors.

How dangerous is it to rock climb alone?

The dangers of rock climbing alone is different in each situation, with some climbers being able to climb the same cliff thousands of times without ever getting hurt. Other climbers never feel safe rock climbing alone, and many times the danger of climbing alone is not realized until it is too late.

It is dangerous to rock climb entirely alone, which is not what solo climbing is at all, you may be able to almost walk up a cliff face, but that does not mean nothing will go wrong. Even when going solo up a mountain, many climbers will have a few friends at the top or bottom to act as spotters. These people are there to save you if something does go wrong, and you are knocked unconscious or stuck.

Most of the stories rock climbers have of people dying while rock climbing is about people that tackled a mountain entirely alone. Solo climbing only means climbing up a mountain or wall without a rope or someone to help you. It does not mean you are actually physically alone while climbing up the wall.

Why is a partner important?

Partners are the single most important thing you should have with you when you are rock climbing, not just because they are good for conversation. Usually, a partner will be able to spot a danger you are not aware of, or they will be able to help you get down a mountain if something goes wrong.

Even the best climbers, the ones that can scale a mountain in only a few minutes, will have a partner nearby, making sure nothing goes wrong. When you attempt more difficult climbs, the climbing partner will help create tension in the ropes, set anchors properly, and help you overcome some of the harder to climb areas.

The best way to overcome any mountain challenge you may face is to have someone there that will easily show you what you are doing wrong. One of the most fascinating things you will experience while climbing is when you are stuck on a seemingly impossible ledge, and your climbing partner suggests a way that you had not thought of to overcome the challenge.

What are the most common dangers of climbing alone?

There are a lot of dangers that you will encounter while climbing. Often, people are not aware of these dangers and will regularly run into them without being prepared. Some of the dangers you will face have to be accounted for a long time before you climb and may cause your entire climbing trip to be canceled.

However, only a few of these dangers will follow you into the gym, where environments are controlled and few if no animals can bother your climbing practice:

Extreme Temperatures

The most common thing that climbers forget about mountains and sheer cliffs is getting extremely hot while climbing. No vegetation can keep you cool, and many times, the people who plan on climbing up these mountains forget to plan for this. Even a shaded sun from cloud cover can burn scorching, and when you are halfway up a mountain and suddenly start blazing, you are usually in trouble.

The danger is two-fold, not only will you burn your skin, which can have a long list of negative effects, but the rock face your climbing can also start baking you. If you are not prepared for this, and the temperature is too high, you may soon pass out while climbing up the wall. Even if you have completed the climb a thousand times before, you can easily be in danger of passing out while climbing on a hot day.

Weather Changes

The second thing that inexperienced climbers forget to do is check the weather predictions for the day, choosing to climb while blindly trusting that everything will stay perfect. If you are climbing and the weather suddenly becomes windy, you will be buffeted and blown off the cliff.

If it starts raining, you will slip and fall. If the sun burns too hot, you may pass out. If there is suddenly more cloud cover, you may find it harder to see. The weather is the biggest danger of climbing on any cliff face in the wild, and if you are not checking that it will change then, you are in constant danger of being caught off guard. Not even your climbing partner will forgive you if they are suddenly lost in the woods, soaking wet.


This is a danger for the wildest of places but should never be underestimated. The wild around us is always pressing closer to society, and when you go rock climbing, you are actively going where the wild things are. When you are on a cliff face, the biggest danger you will face will be from small insects. These can bite and sting and, in the worst-case scenarios, be poisonous.

While you are still on the ground, bears, lions, and other larger animals may not always be willing to ignore you. If you are entirely alone, this danger increases, which is why going to a group is always the best. Even just one friend being there will mean you are no longer in danger of being attacked, especially if you are loud.

Equipment Failure

While solo climbing, you still have some equipment you are using. Ironically it is the equipment that is most likely to fail. Your hands and feet are the most important parts of your equipment, and when climbing, you can overexert these and cause them to fail, which makes equipment failure the most likely thing to happen to any climber.

If you are climbing with a friend and have lines anchored into the wall, it is always good practice to check the ropes, pulleys, and everything else before climbing. This means that you won’t get into real trouble halfway up the mountain when one of you slips, and there is a much larger equipment failure that pulls everyone off the side of the cliff.


Hot weather, hard exercise, and unexpected dangers can make it hard for you to climb up a mountain. Which usually means you are sweating quite a bit, that means that the equipment you are carrying with you requires one essential piece that must be there. Water, many people that live slow lives realize the dangers of not having water.

If you are rock climbing, dehydration will set in even if you are super fit and healthy. Having water at the top of the mountain, at the bottom, and a bottle on your person is the only way to prevent this. Dehydration can cause your muscles to seize, which has a direct knock-on effect on your ability to climb, so rather have too much water than being left hanging, high and dry.

Disasters and Accidents

The very definition of disasters and accidents is that they cannot be planned for. If you are climbing with every preparation on earth, there are still things that you cannot plan for. A snowstorm might blow in from the top of the mountain, rockslides could cause big dangers, or you may suddenly find yourself facing something no one expected.

It is impossible to plan for most of these events, and accepting that you cannot always be in control is the only way to get out of these situations alive.

What types of climbs should you attempt alone?

If you have to climb alone because your friends are busy or cannot find an immediate climbing partner, you can still attempt some basic climbs. These would be the ones that a master climber only takes a few minutes to complete, but you should still not go to too difficult climbs.

Preferably you should stay and keep climbing on the climbing wall in your local gym. This will mean you have something soft to land on, and if you break something, someone will be there to call an ambulance. While your adrenaline may push you to try something much harder, you should not give in and attempt something that could cause serious damage should you fail.

Climbing alone is only done by people who do rock climbing as a sport, usually to refine one specific technique and know the dangers should something go wrong. As previously stated, most rock climbers that die are those who attempted to climb something entirely alone, usually breaking something and getting stuck on the side of a cliff.


Solo climbing is something that all rock climbers eventually do; however, this does not mean climbing alone. You should have someone on the ground or the top of the mountain waiting for you, giving you peace of mind that someone is there if something goes wrong.

Just be sure you don’t use gloves; they may look cool, but rarely do they actually help your climbing!

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