My Climbing Partner Eats Chicken Liver

Actually, she eats a mixture of Natural Balance wet food and Blue Wilderness dry food. Millie is an athlete, she trains hard, and diet is an important part of any athlete’s complete routine.

I met Millie, my climbing partner, at Furburbia. We went into a tiny room to have a chat together away from all the other noisy campers. She climbed up my back and sat on my shoulders. It took about four seconds to realize we were now partners and would be going on many journeys together.

millie-cat-1

Our first climbing adventure together was in Joe’s Valley, bouldering. She was really tiny and had a tendency to jump on people and climb up to their shoulders. She did that to a few pretty girls, which showed me she loves me. That’s the giver in her. It eventually rained that day, and she sat on my shoulders growling as we hiked back to the truck. She wasn’t psyched, and it might not have been the best intro to climbing, but she kept with it.

quote-backcountry_logo“Millie has all the qualities a good climbing partner should have. She never complains, no matter how bad it gets. She takes big risks and doesn’t bitch when they don’t pan out.”

millie-Bouldering

Since then, we’ve been to Moe’s Valley, Indian Creek, Ferguson Canyon, Eastern Reef in The Swell, Stansbury Island many times, to Moab towers, slot canyons, and other places I’m forgetting. The most memorable trip is definitely always the one most recently taken. In this case it was the route “1000’ of Fun” in The Swell, a five-pitch climb we summited along with Millie’s friend Kenneth.

millieandkenneth

 (Left to right) Millie exploring Little Wild Horse Canyon near Goblin Valley. Kenneth looking for new routes in the Eastern Reef near the Southern Swell.

It’s a nice bonus that we enjoy the same kinds of climbing and prefer the same areas. I’m weak, and she doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so we tend to like similar routes: slabby tech routes that require more technique and balance than raw power. It makes planning trips pretty simple. She also gets along great with the rest of my friends in the climbing community. Everyone loves Millie—how could you not?

Millie has all the qualities a good climbing partner should have. She never complains, no matter how bad it gets. She always wants to go higher, and she pushes herself hard. But she also knows when to stop. When she’s done, she’s done. She’ll find a cave or climb a tree and won’t move until she’s rested. She takes big risks and doesn’t bitch when they don’t pan out. And she cuddles at night inside your sleeping bag and keeps you warm. She isn’t annoyingly mono-focused on climbing, either. She’s happy to explore slot canyons, caves, deserts, fields, etc.

millie-Gap

Downclimbing a boulder problem in Moe’s Valley.

quote-backcountry_logo

 “We camp in my truck; she peed in there one night, but she caught a mouse in there one night, too.”

Based on my experiences with Millie, here’s what I think you should look for in a climbing partner:

Attitude

You want an omni-positive attitude, someone that always sees the upside and the opportunities, seeks best next steps, is upbeat, and doesn’t get down and bitch and complain when shit doesn’t go their way.

Someone can have insane natural ability and the best training work ethic, be a fearless risk-taker, and go big … but if their attitude sucks, who wants to be stuck in a truck with them on a nine-hour road trip or trapped in a tent with them for four stormy days? Who wants to hear them cry about the route sucking or the weather being wrong? Nah. You want positivity, support, joy.

millie-attitude

Slab climbing on Stansbury Island.

Wisdom

It’s important to know when to ask for help. It’s important to know when you can’t lead this pitch and need your partner to, or can’t go forward and must retreat. It’s important to have the wisdom to make these choices even though you might want to reach a summit … true wisdom knows when to go home and try another day.

millie-Stoic

Further exploration in Little Wild Horse.

Desire

Constantly reaching new heights takes hard work. You want a partner with the desire to push beyond preconceived limits in order to grow.

millie-Desirev2

(Left to right) Bad weather on the approach to a Stansbury climb. Millie leading pitch 5 of 1000′ of Fun.

Dedication

In climbing, shit goes wrong often. Weather turns, you get lost, it gets dark, things turn out to be harder than you thought, ropes get caught—the list is endless. You want a partner who bears these events with patience and a level head, and when things go wrong, has the willingness to just keep moving.

millie-Winter

Winter attempt to summit Stansbury Mountain.

Giving Personality

Someone’s generally either a giver or a taker. You want partner who’s willing to carry their own gear, share their last drops of water with you, carry you out if you’re injured, wait for you when you’re struggling with a crux or project. A taker is a bad long-term partner.

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“Good partners support, encourage, and build.”

millie-Desert-Tower

Millie celebrating a successful aid climb of Devil’s Golf Ball in Moab.

Over the course of our climbing together, our relationship as climbing partners has evolved. Millie’s become accustomed to the routine. She gets psyched when the bags come out on Thursday night and we get ready for the weekend. She’s become more chill around camp and doesn’t wander off as much; she stays near and chases bees and lizards. When dogs enter camp she’s not as skittish; she still seeks my shoulders as a safe place, but generally doesn’t get as scared. We camp in my truck; she peed in there one night, but she caught a mouse in there one night, too.

millie-dyno-freesolo

(Clockwise from top left) Millie free soloing in Ferguson Canyon. Going for a dyno in Moe’s Valley. Enjoying the summit of 1000′ of Fun.

Final words of advice: When it comes to picking a climbing partner, don’t settle for less than what you know is right for you. Seek those who are stronger than you—those who will help you become not only a better climber, but maybe a better person.

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44Comments

Here's what the community has to say.

Jay Hampton

Jay Hampton

Best quotes ever... We camp in my truck; she peed in there one night, but she caught a mouse in there one night, too. Millie has all the qualities a good climbing partner should have. She never complains, no matter how bad it gets. She takes big risks and doesn't bitch when they don't pan out.

(7)

Nick Schlegel

Nick Schlegel

Is there such a thing as a first ascent for nonhumans? Does Millie have hundreds of first ascents?

(2)

Alex Quitiquit

Alex Quitiquit

The aptly named FFA's (FIRST FELINE ASCENT) of Millie - and fellow cat climber Kenneth. They are the Huber brothers of the feline kingdom.

(3)

Aaron Finley

Aaron Finley

Rad cat! I'm guessing it's also nice having her at base camp for snake-killing and what not.

(3)

Annie

Annie

Craig, this is SO awesome. Best BC.com article ever?

(3)

Allison

Allison

Ahhhh! I love this story so much! This is so awesome. Hiking/camping with a kitty? Move over, man's best friend...you've met your match! So glad you have this bundle of fluff to join in your adventures. My 5 kitties would be too skittish to handle the outdoors...they're afraid of the doorbell, LOL! Thanks for sharing! Best thing I've read this week!

(4)

Sonial

Sonial

Great article! I hope she has a full body harness! A neck collar may not be the way to go!! And watch her when there are coyotes around! We want lots more from Millie!

(3)

mkip825661

mkip825661

Millie's a great cat! I think people underestimate cats' loyalty. I would like to read about their climbs. I hope there is plenty of fresh water for Millie to keep hydrated.

(3)

Angel

Angel

Great story. Showed it to my cats. They were happy for Millie, but they went right back to sleep. :-(

(7)

Kipp

Kipp

Millie! This is gold from one of the most golden humans I know.

(1)

Suzanne

Suzanne

I recognize that tongue hanging out while Millie was climbing on Stansbury Island. We took our cat on a mere hike up the mountain by our home, once back & inside our cat collapsed. We take all of our cats for walks, it's only when they're really pooped, that the tongue comes out & panting ensues. I'm sure you're very conscientious about providing Millie with plenty of water & rests.

(1)

Michal Patten

Michal Patten

Craig, this piece is clever, endearing and amazing! I really enjoyed reading it. And give Millie a chin scratch for me.

(2)

Noah Singer

Noah Singer

Millie's got it going on. Craig's got it going on. Folks, take notes here on some lessons for life.

(4)

Robyn Watts

Robyn Watts

A purfectly executed and entertaining article! This has me wishing I would have been taking my adventurous boy with me to the crag. Enjoy your life with Millie - I think you both have snagged excellent partners!

(1)

buy2327138

buy2327138

Every weekend I leave my best friend home cause I think climbing with my cat just won't work. This article was a purfect read to change my mind. Great writing!

(1)

Colton Rice

Colton Rice

Is this the same cat that shoulder checked that dog that was attacking that kid? Millie gets the key to the city. Craig you're ok too I guess.

(1)

Hilary

Hilary

When was Millie born? I had a dog named Millie who passed away on May 20, 2013 and she LOVED climbing. Maybe Millie the cat is her incarnate.

(0)

wendy chioji

wendy chioji

Awesome story, awesome photos. I wonder if Millie knows my cat, Emmitt Smith? He doesn't climb, but he loves walkabout and he did win Dancing with the Stars.

(0)

Ashley Clement

Ashley Clement

I just showed this to my cat in hopes she'd join me next time. She yawned and rolled over so guess that settles it. climb on, Millie!

(0)

richy butler

richy butler

what a wonderful story, i have a cat called Millie myself which i saved, from starvation, (see YouTube, ...."Millicent the starving cat" ), ... i noticed in Graig's above photos there is an orange tabby cat, what is the relationship between, Millie and that cat as i thought it was only Millie in this story, so what is the significance of the second cat, thank you, regards Richy butler.

(0)

rayechelly

rayechelly

so amazing this cat is the shit almost one of those previous life things you never know

(0)