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For those of us out there that do not have friends/family members as adventurous as us or are few in numbers for our geographic region; we are forced to head online to find partners. For example, a great place to start is SummitPost.

When trying to find a trip partner for a hiking, mountaineering, alpine, rock or ice adventure, what are the necessary questions to ask one another and general guidelines to follow in order to ensure a successful trip is planned?

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Meet the people at the bar first? –  whatsisname Jan 18 at 18:09
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In the UK most climbing walls have climbing clubs which you can join. These are also good places to meet, like minded people and most people who join will have a good base level of skills. –  Liam Jan 18 at 19:41
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

To me, hiking is totally different from the rest of the activities on the list. A hike is just walking. The other possibilities require a lot more technical skill, gear, trust, and experience. In those cases, the most important thing to get a feel for is what the other person's experiences have been. For example, if you're looking for a partner for Ixtaccihuatl, someone who's done Shasta and Kilimanjaro probably has both the necessary snow skills and some relevant high-altitude experience.

In some cases, you might be better off looking for a partner at the location of the activity rather than online. For instance, if you want to do Whitney, you can probably easily turn up prospective partners at the hostel in Lone Pine.

You can try to get a feel for what the person's reputation is like. For example, if you're working through meetup.com, you can tell whether the person has led trips, whether the people who came on those trips left positive comments, and whether the person has been an organizer in the group for a while.

You can try to get some feel from the person's online persona and interactions what the person is like. Do they brag about that time they needed a helicopter rescue? Do they act like they need to prove they're cool? Do they spend a lot of time talking about how much fun it was getting drunk with their buddies around the campfire?

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While there's always more uncertainty in climbing with someone you don't directly know, don't discount finding partners online altogether. I've had great experiences (primarily rock climbing) with partners I ended up meeting online, and otherwise I wouldn't have climbed that day.

Some things you can do to make sure you stay safe:

  • Ask them for their experience: e.g., "How much multipitch climbing have you done?"
  • Look for evidence of their experience: perhaps they've been logging previous climbs on Mountain Project.
  • Plan for low-commitment, easy-bail options. If you end up not being comfortable climbing with them, it's better to be cragging than halfway up a 10 pitch climb with no easy descent.
  • Look for those 'tell-tale' signs. Those are different for everyone, but generally for me things like:
    • Did they bring the right gear? Not too much, not too little?
    • Are they efficient when racking up?
    • Did they pack the right food, water, etc...
    • How new is their gear? Too new and they may be inexperience, too old and they might not have actually climbed in some time.
    • Poor belay technique: there is no excuse for this, pack up immediately.
  • Climb together at a gym or meet for a beer beforehand.

Most climbers I've met online are great folks just looking to get outside.

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Appreciate the feedback, I'm looking for answers with a little more focus on pre-planning to avoid booking airfare to a remote place only to find out the individual is not capable of tackling the planned trip. –  AM_Hawk Jan 17 at 19:30
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I see. My only recommendation would be to try finding a partner online that lives in the same city, so that you can train together and make sure you're both skilled enough (don't forget the other person is probably just as wary of you!). –  Felix Jan 17 at 20:41
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