You've had the same climbing partner for three seasons; learned to deal with their peculiarities, even grown to love their dog. It's a marriage made in crag heaven. Then one day they meet their next significant other- their new climbing partner. That's it. That's all it takes. It's a break-up and the best way to get over it is to move on with someone else. The downside of rock climbing is that it's like tennis. You need a partner to play. Fortunately, there's always some signature climbing festival that sprouts come spring. Climbing fests are like speed dating events where after a ding of a bell, you've sampled the lot and usually found yourself a new partner, (and a new water bottle, chalk bag and routes to climb). You've also had one hell of a great time. After all, you're hanging out with a few hundred of your peers, climbing all day and rocking out all night.

 

Here are the top 5 climbing fests in the west for making connections:

HERA Climb4Life, Salt Lake City, UT, Sept. 15-18, 2011 When I signed up for the first HERA Salt Lake Climb4Life in 2002, I could count my outdoor rock climbing experience on one hand. I spent my summer days in a climbing gym with a woman who turned out to be one of those people you shouldn't trust to hold your latte let alone your belay. After she married and turned into a flaming Burner, I walked around the gym begging for belays. Then, I read the flyer. Pay a nominal registration fee and get two days of guided climbing where seasoned professionals set up the ropes and belay everyone. You don't need a partner; you don't even need gear as the use of everything from shoes to ropes is donated by Black Diamond. The organizers separate the 200 attendees into small groups according to your desired climbing level and location. All you have to do is show up and rope up. Even Never-Evers have a place. The pros also offer pointers and, with so many ropes hanging from the rock wall like a 70s beaded curtain, there's no waiting. In addition, there's yoga in the morning, massages in the afternoon and parties at night. I climbed 23 routes in two days and walked with commitments from two new partners. Polygamy's cool in Utah, right?

Red Rock Rendezvous , Red Rock National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, Nev. March 30 - April 1, 2012 Two days of climbing for every skill level, clinics from the world's best climbers, pancake breakfasts, slide shows, camping, parties and giveaways. Registration fills up fast so sign up early.

International Climber's Fest - Lander, Wyoming, July 6-10, 2011 Granite-filled trad climbs in the Wind River Range, limestone sport crags at Sinks Canyon and Wild Iris, climbing clinics, parties, slideshows, and countless raffles make this a fun-filled three-day weekend of climbing for all ability levels. This cliquey fest works better if you roadtrip with good friends.

Squamish Mountain Festival , Squamish, BC, July 13-17. The crags of Squamish attract climbers from all around the globe. Get on board for climbing, bouldering, yoga, a themed party, a film festival, photography contest, clinics, a Dyno comp, and its first ever trail run.

Pocatello Pump - Pocatello, Idaho, Sept. 17-18, 2011 One of the oldest rock climbing gatherings in the U.S., the Pump is a competition that's more like a two-day climbing spree for all abilities and ages. Highlights include an amazing swag giveaway and pig roast.