Rock climbing can be a brilliant social activity and lead to incredible shared experiences but sometimes you just want to climb alone. Rock climbing without a partner can be done - check out the options.
First off - Yes it's completely possible to rock climb alone but it's not recommended. When you manage the rope yourself without anyone backing you up this is called rope soloing. There is also the most obvious way of climbing alone which is with no rope, no safety and fatal consequences - free soloing.
However, rock climbing alone by rope soloing isn't that common and requires a lot of experience with in-depth rope and safety systems. Free soloing is incredibly dangerous and you shouldn't do it. Instead of these, try some of our suggestions and alternatives to rock climbing on your own.
Find A Climbing Partner
Honestly one of the hardest things about rock climbing is finding a partner. Finding someone who belays safely, climbs about the right level, who will turn up on time (or at all), and that you'd be able to stand for a few hours can be really tough.
If you tend to be an introvert or just aren't into a certain gym or scene - we get it. But when you do find the right partner it can be awesome. Finding someone that shares your level of stoke and has similar goals can be really helpful in pushing you to climb more while enjoying it.
How To Find Climbing Partners
- Join a climbing club at your local gym, get involved and try climbing with a few different people over a few weeks
- Ask on local Facebook and Meetup climbing groups. These groups can be really helpful for a day out, a temporary gym buddy, or to go a bit further afield
- Ask a gym employee - Most know someone looking for a partner and some gyms have "buddy boards" for finding partners
- Go bouldering or use the auto belays at the gym with the intent to get chatting and find others in the same situation - it's really common and most climbers are actually super friendly
- Traveling? Finding new partners use FB groups or in hostels and campgrounds near climbing areas is very common and a great way to expand your climbing network.
- Join a mountaineering group - Less common these days but they often have access to specific clubhouses or bothys, and many organize trips
- Join a Uni/College group - Some allow graduates/alumni too!
- Subtly influence friends and family - Try slipping some climbing documentaries onto the Netflix queue and coincidentally stumble onto a good Groupon deal
Climbing gyms can be a pretty intimidating place sometimes. Power screams, weird unintentional grunts, and sweaty shirtless guys can be off putting. Don't be put off by any of this! It's mostly just a byproduct of trying hard. Most climbers are actually really nice, don't mean to be clichey or bro-ey and are totally open for a natter about our favorite activity.
Trust us - coming from someone with a terrible case of resting bitch face I am always up for chatting or helping out a newer climber.
Bouldering is an awesome way to climb alone without having to trust a partner with your life. Indoors bouldering is more popular than ever with new bouldering gyms popping up regularly. Try it out even if you've come from a more traditional background - you may well love it.
Gym bouldering is probably the most common introduction to the sport these days. It makes sense as you can do a lot of climbing in a small amount of time. You also don't need to go with a partner after you've done an introduction to the basics of safety. Find a local gym and book an intro course and you could be into a new sport within the week!
From here you can go outdoors, try roped climbing, and find like-minded people. Bouldering is very social and a brilliant activity on it's own. It's also totally fine to pop in earplugs and go alone. Many boulderers sport or trad climb outdoors so do chat to people and see what's good locally.
Can You Go Bouldering Alone Outdoors?
Outdoors bouldering can be done alone with a pad or two. We always recommend a spotter to help you land safely and to help if anything goes wrong though. Make sure you get the right pad and find out what you need with our bouldering pad buyer's guide.
If you're going it alone make sure you know the fall zone and where not to land. It's also a very good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back, and know how you'd get out or find help if you twisted an ankle or similar.
Deep Water Soloing
Sometimes known as DWS or Pscibloc. Climbing alone over deep water - like the sea - is super fun and mostly safe. It's mainly a holiday activity and there are some incredible places like Mallorca that are famous for it. You climb alone with shoes and a chalk bag, then when you fall you try to break the surface of the water with your feet first.
A lot of gyms now have auto belays. This is a drum device fixed to the top of a wall that pulls in a strong, flat rope as you climb, then lowers you slowly when you fall or weight it. Modern versions are incredibly safe and regularly safety checked. Once you've tried it a few feet off the floor you'll be able to trust it to the top.
Especially with COVID, gyms are finding that auto belays are getting very popular. Some are installing more units and paying attention to regularly setting new routes too. They are brilliant for climbing alone as you only need a tiny bit of training to use them and you can practice the same moves over and over.
Essentially you just clip the locking carabiner into your harness belay loop and then climb. It's safe, fun, and great for training endurance or as a form of cardio! Just don't hog the line...
The dark art of rope soloing is generally only used by die-hard climbers. It's useful only if you are guaranteed not to be able to find a climbing partner over the long term in a remote location, or if you'll be equipping new routes or continually working on hard projects.
It's possible to rope solo on top rope or lead belay. It's also possible to rope solo sports or trad routes with varying degrees of difficulty and extra faff. Pete Whittaker of the Wide Boyz rope solo'd El Capitan over a grueling 20 hours.
There are really no established and exact methods for rope soloing but there are enthusiasts out there with different set-ups. If you are newer to climbing we'd suggest a few years of experience with standard rope systems and various devices before going into rope soloing. If you are absolutely convinced this is the only way try googling for facebook groups but expect a lot of push back.
You've probably heard about free soloing from the film Free Solo with Alex Honnold. This is as simple as climbing gets but also as dangerous too. Very experienced and famous climbers stay away from free soloing - even at levels way below what they'd normally cruise through.
Free soloing is rock climbing alone without anything but maybe a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag. There are no partners to catch you, no ropes to secure yourself to, and nothing stopping a horrific fall.
Deaths from free soloing are common and there are many reasons why a fall can happen. Sometimes mistaken for free climbing. Basically don't do it. There are a great many ways to enjoy climbing and get the thrill of a possible fall while still being completely safe.
Why Rope Climb Alone?
Some people just prefer to do things alone. If you spend all day at a customer service job you probably need some downtime to recharge your social batteries. Sometimes you might not be comfortable with a stranger belaying you, or you have specific goals from climbing others don't share. There are plenty of reasons for wanting to go rock climbing alone.
Is It Weird To Climb Alone?
No, not at all. Lots of people go indoor rock climbing alone and no-one bats an eyelid. Personally I climb about half the time with a partner for a bit of motivation and a chat, and the other half bouldering or using autobelays/training rooms as more of a specific training exercise.
Can You Start Climbing Without A Partner?
Yes, you don't need a partner to join a learn to climb class. Don't feel you can't start climbing because your significant other doesn't want to. Contact your local gym and ask about a class and see if they have a regular climbing club for newer climbers and belayers.
Is It Easy To Find Rock Climbing Partners While Traveling Alone?
It's not always easy but it's very common. Find hostels and campgrounds near climbing areas, look for the tell-tale camper-vans, and join traveling or local rock climber groups. I've done it loads and it's a brilliant way to meet interesting people who like to travel, climb, and learn from others.