Outdoor Dating, Part 1: What Works, What Doesn't
Text by Lizzy Scully, Photos by Steve Fassbinder (aka "Doom")
I went on one of my first climbing dates with, I’ll call him Mr. Sparkle Butt, to Rocky Mountain National Park. Our goal was to ascend The Diamond of Longs Peak, a difficult, vertical 1000-foot granite rock wall on the east face of that 14,259-foot mountain. In order to get there, we hiked four-plus miles, gained a few thousand feet in elevation, wandered up and over a half-mile-long boulder field, ascended a few-hundred-foot glacier, and then scrambled up another 600-foot chimney. It’s no easy adventure climbing the “Big D,” and it’s not something for the inexperienced climber. This would be Mr. Sparkle’s first time; it was probably my ninth or tenth trip.
Somewhere along the way, as the east face glowed golden red in the rising sun and a light wind rippled across Chasm Lake, I farted. I didn’t let loose a long, loud honk or anything monumental; it was just your standard beep beep. Mr. Sparkle Butt, appalled at my gaseousness, exclaimed:
“Oh my gawd. That’s so unladylike. I can’t date someone who farts!”
You can guess how long that relationship lasted.
I met my current boyfriend, Doom, while managing the marketing department at a mid-size outdoor company in Maine. He was one of the company’s athlete ambassadors/photographers. He sported an amusing mustache and lots of tattoos. Plus, he supplied us with a steady stream of photos of the outrageous bike/packraft/climbing adventures that he regularly embarked on. I immediately had a crush. We became friends via Facebook, text message and email. And when I finally moved back to Colorado I suggested we go rock climbing.
We met at a film festival, climbed a few days and went our separate ways, both of us dating other people. But, when we decided to climb a moderately difficult 1800-foot route in the Black Canyon together, things changed. I discovered that despite his limited six-year tenure as a rock climber, he was a super solid partner with energizer-bunny stamina. In me, he found someone with significant big wall free climbing experience who could lead the hard pitches. Mutual admiration and respect was born.
On our next date, we sport climbed and glamped at Penetente Canyon in the San Luis Valley. Things progressed, and we started to regularly meet for climbing/hot springing trysts. Finally he visited me on the Front Range, and we climbed the uber Eldorado Canyon classic climbing route, The Naked Edge. A few days later, he told me he loved me on the top of the First Flatiron, a 1000-foot sandstone slab in Boulder's foothills.
Doom and I recently moved in together in Mancos, Colo., so we’ve gone beyond “dating”. Now, we regularly put up first ascents of beautiful crack systems in sandstone in the Utah desert (at his secret area). And I’ve just started packrafting, so the adventure possibilities are endless.
So what did we do right when we first started dating? I've compiled a couple of my tips and tricks, along with some that I gleaned from friends on Facebook. If you have any ideas, tips or fun stories to share, I’d love to hear them. Please email me at email@example.com.
- Be Prepared (& discreet): I’m starting with this one because, well, you never know when things might turn from “just climbing or hiking” to “more than outdoor friends.” If you feel like there’s a chance you might get lucky on your date, make sure to bring a few key items on your adventure. Don’t be too obvious about it, but be ready with your most comfortable sleeping pads, a couple feather pillows stashed behind the seat, a clean blanket (I put clean sheets on the mattress in my car for my first overnight adventure with Steve!), some natural tea tree oil baby wipes and Pit Goo Natural Deodorant to freshen up before bed, and, just maybe, some Southern Butter Intimates stashed away in the glove box. Green Goo has a small variety pack so you can choose your style—massage oil, Backdoor Balm, Kiss On... My favorite is the Sandalwood and Cinnamon Intimate & Body Butter.
- Shared Values: Most of the time, outdoorswomen and men share similar values. However, “outdoorsy” people may include climbers, hikers, skiers (backcountry and resort), hunters, fishers, ATV’rs and more. Your motocross rider may feel differently about what constitutes “natural” compared to your Appalachian Trail thru hiker. And even if you are mostly on the same page, well… consider my friends and avid thru hikers, Heidi Madsen and Andrew Forestall. The newly dating couple stopped to take in a gorgeous spread of pink lady slippers while on the AT. “In a very noble attempt at romance, he picked one to present to me...,” she recalls. “He got a horrified tongue lashing on Leave No Trace principles and endangered species. I have not gotten another flower from him to this day, almost two years later.”
- Togetherness (or not): Understand from the get-go that you’re not going to do everything together. I couldn’t possibly keep up with Steve on his grueling 100-mile mountain bike, packraft and climbing tours, nor would I want to; he carries up to 140 pounds, doesn’t bathe for weeks and will power through no matter how gnarly the weather or terrain. Likewise, there are climbing routes Steve either can’t do with me because they are too hard, or he simply doesn’t want to do them because they aren’t remote enough.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the Glampeur’s Guide to Love in the Outdoors: Outdoor Dating, where we explore stories of expectations and how to know your date's limits.