How to Get Your Kids Passionate About Rock Climbing

Bring Your Kids to the Climbing Crag

Talking with some other climbing moms, we agreed that one of the likely keys to getting our kids so passionate about climbing was including them all the time, as much as possible, when we went climbing outdoors. Sure, indoor gym climbing makes climbing more accessible than ever, but it doesn’t teach the lessons of loving the outdoors and respecting nature. 

Climbing outside wasn’t a sport that we did to get away from the kids, so we didn’t leave them home. We also said no to electronic devices. Let their imagination run wild. I took an escape the belay workshop for 2 hours and my kids were busy playing nearby with a ziploc bag, and a small puddle from a spring with big acorns floating in it. It became their fish pond and fish store. So, even if they didn’t climb and played with sticks, rocks or played house among the boulders, they were outside and enjoying themselves while we climbed. Having peers along with us always helped. They wanted to try the climb that their friends got up.

Kids playing on a climbing trip to Rumney, NH

Our climbing kids at Rumney decided mica was currency, and collected chips from the ground (what they called “mining”) in ziploc bags.

They saw parents, adults and other kids loving the sport and having fun. We shared the excitement and passion with them. They learned that this was a good way to have fun.

Big group of climbing parents and climbing kids cragging at the New River Gorge on a Spring Break trip.

Parents & kids climbing at the New River Gorge on a Spring Break trip.

Climb with Other Families

Other kids from climbing families joined us so my kids had peers to climb with. They loved to meet up with their friends when we went climbing. Climbing wasn’t something only their parents did. It became their lifestyle too.

Once they were old enough to belay each other, we would set up top ropes, and the kids would have their own posse of buddies to top rope with. They enjoyed climbing with their peers much more than hanging out with adults.

My kids and their climbing posse.

My kids with their favorite climbing friends.

Road trips were especially fun. For spring break, we would meet at a far-away crag and reserve a group campground. The kids could all share a big tent together, with lots of giggling and good times. We’d spend the whole week climbing with our friends and the kids had their own friends too.

Climbing families hiking down into the New River Gorge.

Hiking down to the crag on our big spring break trip to climb at the New River Gorge with 8 kids (from ages 10 to 17) & 7 parents.

On Belay Mommy!

Sure, it means sacrificing some opportunities to do multipitch with your buddies, but when those little kids get older, you’ll see it’s worth it. Doing a multipitch with just me and my kids, seeing how excited they were, hearing them tell me how awesome a mommy I am and how much they love me – will always be among some of the best moments of my life. You know how you bond with your favorite climbing partner? Multiply that by 100 when your favorite climbing partner is your child.

Climbing with my kids on Bear's Reach at Lover's Leap, CA.

Our first multi-pitch together, just me & my kids, on Bear’s Reach at Lover’s Leap, CA.

Recently, when my older daughter was in her early 20s, she faced a dilemma when about to do her first trad lead in the Gunks. It gets so crowded at the Gunks that it’s good practice to use your partner’s name when shouting to each other. When she got up to the ledge, should she call out “off belay Mommy”, or use my first name, which she normally doesn’t use? She couldn’t decide. When she got to the  ledge, she called out, “Off Belay Mommy!” When I met her on the ledge, she explained, “You’re Mommy, you’re always Mommy. It feels weird calling you anything else, although it’s kind of embarrassing now that I’m in my 20s.” I love it!

What Happens to Climbing Kids?

Some kids will really take to climbing, some may not. A climbing couple I know had a son with great potential but after the age of about 12, he’d rather play video games with his buddies. But because he was exposed to it as a kid, when he gets older, he may want to revisit it on his own. Even if he doesn’t, hopefully he will have learned a respect for nature and love of the outdoors.

I was fortunate. Both of my kids fell in love with climbing. When they fall in love with the sport you’re passionate about, it is so wonderful to be able to share that joy with them. My kids have grown, but still love to climb and be in the outdoors. They recently spent a month backpacking the John Muir Trail together. They also complete in the USA Climbing collegiate competitions and my older one has made it to nationals twice already (once to the finals!). They can climb harder grades than me, but they still need mom to do the trad leading when we climb at our home crag, the Gunks. Glad to know I’m good for something!

My oldest kid competing in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship Finals.

My daughter competing in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship Finals.

Go Climb!

So find a group, set up some super easy kid stuff, some moderate or hard top ropes, exchange climbs, take turns belaying, climbing and amusing the kids, and have a great time! 

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Planning a Climbing Trip to Cuba – What Americans Need to Know

I had the privilege of traveling to Cuba to spend New Year’s Eve 2016-2017 in Havana, followed by 5 days in Viñales for rock climbing and to help the Cuban climbing community. It was an amazing experience which I had the joy of sharing with my two daughters. The climbing is fantastic, but what really impressed me was the cultural experience. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Rock Canyon, NV – Climbing Moderates With Kids

Just got back from a wonderful spring break trip to Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas, NV. While there, we sought out some of the more accessible moderate climbs. My daughter is now a teenager and can hike anything we can, but on two occasions we were with children and it made me think about what parents who bring their kids to Red Rocks will need to know.

Hazards for Kids at Red Rocks

First of all, the desert can be HOT and shade is often not available. Bring plenty of water, some to drink and some to pour over heads if a child gets close to overheating. My daughter doesn’t sweat much and is very susceptible to overheating. She brings a bandana to soak with water and wrap around her neck to keep her cool. We also picked up a cheap umbrella halfway through the trip to provide some portable shade during approaches. If you do this, make sure it has a wrist strap so it won’t get lost if rock scrambling is required. Avoid dark clothing and wear lightweight fabrics. Sweat wicking fabrics didn’t seem to really be as important here because the air was so dry, we barely noticed any sweating, because it evaporated almost immediately.

There aren’t many easily accessible areas with moderate climbs. The climbs in the canyons require at least a 40 minute hike across shade-free desert to get from the parking areas to the canyons. Therefore I don’t recommend any of the canyon areas unless your kid is very good at longer hikes and the weather is cooler. Most of the sport climbing areas require some sketchy rock scrambling, which may include drop offs or reachy down climbs where longer legs really help. It’s important to plan ahead and read the approach descriptions for whichever area you plan to visit, and judge whether your child can handle it. Climbing guidebooks are written for climbers, not kids, and what may seem like a casual scramble for adults can be very difficult for a kid. Ask for some beta from others if you’re not sure. Also, if you’re concerned about your child scrambling around and hurting themselves while you climb, then it’s best to have at least 3 adults in your party so there’s someone to watch any children while the other two adults are climbing/belaying.

Here’s my take on some of the areas we visited:

Willow Springs

This was by far my vote for best area for moderate trad climbs and for kids. The trail goes up and down a little, but is a short approach (maybe 10 minutes) and doesn’t require scrambling.

Willow Springs, Ragged Edges rock climbing area, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Willow Springs, Ragged Edges area from the road.

There’s a trail at the base of the climb with a few wider level areas for kids to hang out. There is an abundance of moderate 1 pitch trad climbs in the 5.4 to 5.11 range and most can be set up for top-roping after leading.

Trail at the base of the Willow Springs rock climbing area, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Trail at the base of the cliff (with my daughter back in 2013).

On our most recent trip in late March of 2015, we met up with my friend Dierdre (also known as Alex Honnold’s mother) who was there with her cousin and his 10 year old daughter. This petite young lady had no trouble hiking to the crag, and impressed us all with her successful ascent of the 1st pitch of a classic 5.7, “Ragged Edges,” this being her first trip climbing outdoors! Then again, she is actually related to Alex Honnold, so perhaps it’s genetic! The big hand jams required at the top of climb proved to be no big challenge for her, as she figured out how to stack her hands and ascend.

10 year old Judi on Ragged Edges (5.7) at Red Rock Canyon, NV.

10 year old Judi at the top of P1 of Ragged Edges (5.7).

Another climb at Willow Springs that’s a nice climb is a 5.5 named “Tonto.” However, the direct finish is an awkward grunty 5.7 chimney, and the 5.5 finish wanders off to the right and is harder to set up as a top-rope for young children who may not be up to re-clipping directionals on the way down.

Tonto, rock climb at the Willow Springs area of Red Rock Canyon, NV.

The down arrow is the direct 5.7 finish. The up arrows are the 5.5 line.

There are plenty more moderates on this cliff. Take a look at the Willow Springs section in Mountain Project to see what else is there.

Calico Basin

Calico Basin has many varied areas for sport or trad climbing, and one of the advantages is that it’s outside of the park, so you don’t have to do the entire loop road to leave this area. There is a 10-20 minute hike in, mostly on a well trodden mostly level trail. However, some of the climbs are on crags higher up off the trail and could be challenging for young children. There are a couple of 2 pitch classics on the Riding Hood Wall, but it’s a uphill slog of perhaps 15 minutes to the base of the climbs which my daughter overheated on during one hot day. There are a couple of nice 5.7’s on Gnat Man Crag, but it required some 4th class climbing up from Dickies Cliff to get there, and there are no fixed anchors so the last one down has to find the descent route down.

Gnat Man Crag at Red Rock Canyon, showing the rock climb Bottoms Up (5.7)

Gnat Man Crag, arrow points to Bottoms Up (5.7). You can see there’s scrambling required to approach this crag.

Immediately across from Gnat Man is Cow Lick Crag. It’s right off the trail without any steep uphill approaches and has 2 bolted sport lines that go at 5.7, and anchors on top so other climbs on this formation can be top-roped. This is a good choice if you have small children, as the base of the cliff is flat.

Cowlick Crag at Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Cowlick Crag

Calico Hills

There are 3 very popular sport climbing areas in the Calico Hills that have moderate climbs, 5.9 and under. However, they could be tricky to get to, so you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth it based on the age and ability of your kid(s).

Panty Wall

At the First Pullout is the Panty Wall. It’s very popular and in the sun all day. You can always see climbers on it from the First Pullout parking area. While the climbs are easier, the approach does require some scrambling and the base of the climb is a ramp which is wide enough for a comfortable belay, but is on an angle and drops off. It may not be suitable for very small active children.

The Panty Wall, Calico Hills 1st Pullout, Red Rocks, NV

The base of the Panty Wall.

The Panty Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

The Panty Wall.

The Magic Bus

The Magic Bus is another popular area with a number of moderate sport routes. It’s a 15-20 minute hike from the Second Pullout parking lot, but does require some scrambling and walking up and down exposed slabs. When we were there, a 5 year old boy was climbing with his parents next to us. They were a bit worried because he was scrambling around when they were climbing, but the base of the crag is nice and flat. Again, it’s not going to be an easy approach for small children, but older and agile kids should be OK.

Approach to the Magic Busclimbing area, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Approach to the Magic Bus

 

Looking down at the base of Magic Bus climbing area, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

Looking down at the base of Magic Bus.

The Magic Bus climbing area, Red Rock Canyon, NV

The Magic Bus

The Black Corridor

This very popular sport climbing spot is literally a narrow corridor and in the shade all day, making it climbable even in the summer. There are a number of 5.9s and harder here and the grades tend to be soft for us Gunks climbers. However I wouldn’t recommend this area if you have young kids. The corridor itself is flat and fine for kids if they don’t get in the way, as it’s crowded in there! But the approach has some tricky spots, walking across slabs over pools of water, and one tricky little climb (and down climb on the way back) that could be too much for a young child. I have enough trouble with this little climb when I’m wearing a pack! There’s another easy scramble or two to the Corridor, but the maneuvering around the sides of pools is what I think could be a problem for little ones.

The Black Corridor, Red Rock Canyon, NV.

The Black Corridor, crowded as usual.

 

Jasmine pulling on huecos on "Nightmare on Crude Street" 5.10d in the Black Corridor, Red Rocks.

My big kid Jasmine cranking on “Nightmare on Crude Street”, 5.10d in the Black Corridor.

I’m sure there are other areas in Red Rocks you may know of with a reasonable approach, moderate climbs and a safe cliff base for young kids but these are the ones I’ve personally had experience with. Please add other possible kid-friendly areas in the comments.

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Gunks Routes: Easter Time Too & Good Friday Climb

In honor of Easter weekend, I went to the Near Trapps to climb the appropriately named “Easter Time Too” and “Good Friday Climb“. They are both excellent climbs, sharing a bolt anchor at the top. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gunks Routes: Trapps – Triangle (5.9-) to Never Never Land (5.10a)

Here’s another two climbs next to each other where there’s an easier lead that allows you to top rope a harder classic, Triangle (5.9-) and Never Never Land (5.10a). Read the rest of this entry »

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Gunks Routes: Trapps – Double Chin (5.5)/Something Scary (5.10ab)/Double Clutch (5.9+)

Here’s one of the easier routes we can climb to set up harder top ropes, near the beginning of the Trapps cliff in the Gunks. Double Chin is only 5.5, and you can set up top ropes from there to some much harder and pumpy 5.9 and 5.10 climbers. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do My Chores – Win My Heart <3

Magnet on my refrigerator that says "No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes"Want to show me you care? Want to win my heart and earn my devotion?

Flowers are very nice, a romantic dinner is tasty, but to really turn me on, do my chores. Yes. It doesn’t sound sexy, it may sound like a housewife’s cliche, but it really is a turn-on! Read the rest of this entry »

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Restaurants in New Paltz

Main Street, downtown New Paltz. Photo by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Daniel_Case

Downtown New Paltz, NY

Restaurants in New Paltz

There are lots and lots of restaurants in New Paltz, catering to just about everyone’s taste. I’ve divided them up by type of food, and provided maps to show which are in which areas of New Paltz. There are many more restaurants than I’ve listed, but I only felt I should review those I’ve been to at least twice. Summary of my thoughts? Variety of beer and billards? Go to Bacchus. Microbrews and outside seating? Gilded Otter. Big TVs and sports watching? McGillicuddy’s. Asian food? Gomen Kudasai Japanese or Lemongrass Thai. Breakfast? Main Street Bistro or The Bakery. Best pizza? Rocco’s by the Stop’n’Shop. Romantic dinner out? A Tavola next to Rock and Snow. Read the rest of this entry »

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And So This Is Fifty

Cliffmama under the table after posing with her 50th birthday cake.

Pay no attention to the 50 year old under the table.

The strangest thing happened to me a week ago. I turned 50 years old. I don’t know how it could be possible. There’s no way I could be 50. I don’t feel it. I don’t look it. I don’t act like it. I’m sillier than my teenage daughters! So where did the years go? How did I end up where I am, and where are I going? Read the rest of this entry »

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My Daughter’s Marathon Death March in Japan

My Daughter is a Japanese Boy Scout

My 18 year old daughter is in Japan as an exchange student. It has been a life changing experience in so many ways for her. Besides the obvious guts it takes to travel to a foreign country, attend high school there and learn a new language, she also decided to join the boy scouts so she could get her outdoor adventure fix. Her first boy scout trip was to camp out in a typhoon so they could go vertical caving. She had never gone caving before but rappelling into a cave was no big deal for this experienced climber. She wore the right clothing too and was the only camper who wasn’t on the verge of getting hypothermic. She had to keep lending out her fleece jacket to warm up the other campers wearing cotton. The typhoon was blowing their tents away so they had to huddle in some small shed building. She thought it was AWESOME. That’s my girl! Read the rest of this entry »

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