What Makes a Good Partner – Part II

| July 2, 2008

People have a variety of motives and agendas for ski mountaineering that should be taken into account. Making risky descents to impress someone or to shock themselves out of a broken relationship stupor usually leads to poor decisions. When in doubt, start out with some easier warm-up days.

Throughout the day, ski mountaineers ask each other questions that can be useful indicators of a partner’s mindset. Where do you want to go? What did you pack for lunch? Are you bringing a headlamp? There are no dumb questions – they are all signs of a new partner’s level of experience. Having your partner ask if you are wearing a “beeker” (instead of an avalanche beacon) should be a red light. Conversely, if your partners start out on a “mellow tour” with ropes, crampons and ice axes you might want to ask a few more questions. How quickly and efficiently a partner ties a climbing knot says a lot about his level of rope work experience. A potential partner asking absolutely no questions indicates either vast experience or blissful ignorance.

Scott Franklin smilin' in the dark.
Headlamps – you aren’t going far without them in the dark!  Scott Franklin @ 4:30am.

Many successful ski mountaineering partnerships involve a yin – yang dynamic where one person appears to be the leader and the other provides support. As with musical groups, the leader might get more attention, but without a band or partners there is nothing. Sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow, and it is good to be able to fulfill both roles.

Great partnerships don’t always get off to great starts. If there is a large disparity in abilities or experience, it takes time, effort and commitment on the weaker person’s part to improve, and patience on the other’s to make it work out. Although they take more time in the beginning, partnerships like these can develop into long lasting endeavors if there is a strong common bond. Lack of experience does not mean that a person can’t be a good partner–a willingness to learn, enthusiasm for getting out and setting realistic goals are more important.

Tomorrow – What Makes You a Good Partner
Does your partner have a headlamp? 15% off Petzl Tikka’s at Backcountry.com

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Category: 04 Partners

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

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