Good adventure partners are hard to find. Someone who is in tune with your goals, reliably shows up on time, and can tolerate your smelly hiking boots is a keeper. In Colorado, you and your adventure buddy will not only challenge the high mountains, you’ll also endure hours trapped in traffic, and long drives to Rocky Mountain hinterlands. Mornings will be brain-disablingly early, some adventures will unexpectedly continue long after sunset, and there’s always the realistic possibility that one of you will forget your car keys on the summit.
But through thick and thin, an ideal partner will make the wilderness more fun, more safe, and get you psyched for the next adventure. Here’s some of the traits to look for in your perfect mountainous counterpart.
1. They Complain About the Right Things
No one likes a whiner (citation needed). True, there are things worth whining about (mostly traffic and marmots eating your gear). But once it’s go time, your ideal adventure partner won’t be complaining that the trail is too steep, the wind too cold, or the river too deep. They’ll complain nary a peep about a long belay or the fact you’re mashing through 7-foot tall willows in a septic-smelling swamp.
They will, however, let you know if there are real concerns—like their fingers are about to freeze off or they have a blister the size of the great spot of Jupiter on their heel. Mere statements, not complaints. Selective, tactful complaining can go a long way. If neither of you slept the night before because the tent blew over, it’s not really worth mentioning. If your tent is still standing but there’s a family of bears sleeping inside, then it’s ok to complain a little.
2. High Fart Tolerance
Chuckle if you will, but altitude does some funny things to your digestive tract. A true gentleman will at least half-unzip from his sleeping bag and aim his fart out an open tent door versus letting it rip and hoping that the insulating properties of his bag will somehow contain the funk of a half-dozen vaporized granola bars. And yes, it’s more lady-like to step off the trail and toot once your partner has passed rather than just lettin’ ‘er rip without warning, especially if it’s a steep trail and their face may be at butt level. Gas is just part of the mountain experience and your ideal partner will realize that you can’t stop them, you can only hope to contain them… for a while.
3. They Know How to Frame A Picture
It’s a lot of work to get to the top of that mountain. What’s worse than a friend who takes a picture that’s an extreme close up of your sweaty, weary face and a sliver of blue sky, and no identifying geography to be seen? That picture might has just as well have been taken at the duck pond or in the King Soopers parking lot. A good adventure buddy maximizes your heroic poses, or at least waits until you’re finished chewing your Snickers before taking the photo. They know that the person with the longer arms should take the selfie and sometimes it’s better to leave those sunglasses on.
4. They Know Your Tendencies
For me, altitude somehow activates the part of my brain that stores useless trivia, 1980s TV show jingles (I’m talking about obscure stuff here like I Married Dora and Small Wonder), and bad puns. Annoying? Yes. But my more intuitive partners know that if I’m not making my customary observation that “that moss has really taken a lichen to that rock”, I might be feeling off. It’s good to know when your buddies are acting out of character without having to ask. Knowing when the adventure isn’t fun anymore is just as important as knowing that you both have the stamina to endure a little extra Rocky Mountain suffering. A good partner will pick up on those unspoken clues.
5. Musical Compatibility
Here’s a hypothetical situation: you happen to like getting pumped up with sweet guitar riffs, blazing double bass drums, and a face-melting, shredding solo. They listening to some wimpy, acoustic guy in flannel strumming toothless tunes and whining about his feelings (see item #1). In fact, the music they like rarely mentions battling the grim reaper while wielding the sword of Odin under the full moon. So what do you do? Meet in the middle and listen to The Who? Audiobooks? Headphones? You’re likely going to be stuck in the car a lot, so whatever you decide, it will likely be a compromise. It might be worth sticking to podcasts. Or if you must, you can pretend to like their musical offerings (feel free to call it “so deep”) knowing full well you’ll be blasting the first four Black Sabbath albums as soon as you get home.
6. You Share a Similar Mindset
Ambitions in Colorado range from “damn the torpedoes, we’re making the summit” to “these flowers look nice, I think I’ll take a little nap”. Both are completely acceptable—as long as you and your partner are on the same page. A good adventure partner is in tune with what you’re expecting out of the day. Even if your goals differ, knowing that it’s ok to stray a bit from the original plan or to maintain laser focus will help the overall morale of the day. Somedays, you may want to hang in camp while she knocks out a trio of summits and vice-versa. As long as expectations are discussed beforehand, it will prevent bad feelings and nasty Facebook posts upon your return.
7. They Genuinely Like Your Dog
Personally, this one would be #1 on my list. Actually, it might be #2. #1 would be: you are my dog. But since both my pups already know they are my top adventure buddies, this is the next best thing. Note that this doesn’t mean they have to love your pooch—your friends may quietly opt out of certain hikes and if that’s the case, that may be the best for all involved. If they like your dog, they’ll let you know if they enjoy mountain time with them. If so, great! If not, they can burn in… no, wait. If not, you can plan for technical scrambles or simply make time for hikes without canine companions. Crazy as it may seem, some adventures are better done without your dogs.
8. They Don’t BS You About Their Abilities
In the heart of a dicey, exposed 4th class scramble is the wrong time for your buddy to announce to you that they actually don’t like climbing all that much, this is getting sketchy, and boy, heading down to catch the end of the Broncos games sounds like a great idea. Likewise, you owe it to your buddy to not say “I can ski about anything” and then balk when they point you down a 60-degree chute choked with boulders.
It’s one thing if they (or you) say, “I’m not sure if I’m up for it, but I’ll try”. It’s another to boast, “I’ll be fine!” when the evidence in your jockey shorts says otherwise. Be honest about what you’re really up for and ask your buddy what they are comfortable with. Not only is it safer, but it will also give you the chance to learn (or teach) someone how to overcome their fears or develop a new skill.
9. They Make You Laugh
Spend enough time in the mountains and you’ll learn to appreciate a bit of levity. For example, you break your derailleur clean off your bike at mile 20 of a 40-mile mountain bike loop. It’s going to be a long day. Having a partner who can lighten the mood when things are getting unpleasant can make a sufferfest a little more endurable. Make sure they know your sense of humor though, because this one can backfire and turn you into a raging ball of nasty. I can’t help but get a laugh when the line, “This was your stupid idea” is uttered. Well, at least when my truck isn’t stuck in a three foot rut on the side of the road.
10. They Own a Giant Mansion in a Ski Town You Are Welcome to Use at Any Time
Also, they are named Oprah.
Ok, maybe this one is reaching. A more modest request: they have an old tent and they’ll let you borrow if you need it. It’s nice to have friends in high places, but a buddy who will camp out with you in sub-zero temps in your Honda Accord in order to catch the first ski runs of a day is a true adventure companion worth keeping. If they happen to have four legs and are furry, even better!