The truth about taking kids climbing
“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.” ― Yvon Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
My husband and I started climbing in our 20’s and quickly developed a love for it. We are fortunate to have a close group of friends both with kids and without that enjoying climbing together. Most of the group has been climbing together for years and having kids has not stopped their dedication and enjoyment of the sport. Climbing with young kids is a challenge and as the old probverb says “it takes a village”, but if you can find your village, climbing with kids is an adventure worth pursuing.
Family climbing adventures
My husband and I each take a night ‘off’ during the week to pursue our own interests and activities. Both of us usually go climbing which has ended up being a guys night out and ladies night out. These nights are spent in a local climbing gym and sometimes outside. We live by the Canadian Rocky Mountains which has an abundance of first class climbing. We love the social aspect of climbing as well as the physical and mental challenge. We are still discovering how to incorporate our passions into our lives as individuals and a family. I feel we’ve gotten pretty good at making climbing fun for everyone.
We took a little break from climbing outdoors the last few years mostly due to pregnancies. We now have a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old, which is crazy fun but also slightly crazy feeling at times. Climbing with babies is arguably easier than climbing with toddlers since they don’t move. I tried bouldering on maternity leave, which worked out well as the babies chilled out in their bucket seats or on the mats. On my weekly night out climbing we regularly see mom’s with a group of friends and a baby in a bucket seat or on a lap. I love the family vibe and community feel of everyone supporting each other to get on the wall or rock.
Bouldering with babies
Pop up tents are great for babies at a crag, they are protected by small rock fall by the covered tent / playpen. Food, diapers, toys and shade are all you really need for a baby when outside climbing. We have only had positive experiences climbing outdoors with kids, people stop to say hi and hang with the kids for a bit.
I used to wonder if we are being selfish doing what we love rather than possibly seeking out what our kids like but then I realized kids like almost anything. Once we are out hiking, camping, skiing or climbing I see how much fun our kids are having and all self-doubt disappears. We are passionate about sharing the things we love with our children and it is amazing to watch how they tackle these adventures with fresh eyes and curious minds.
Toddler rock climbing
Having two walking children that aren’t responsible enough to be given instructions and trusted to carry them out can make climbing with young kids dangerous. We have had friends successfully climb as a family (9 month and 3 year old) without adult support but it takes a lot of preparation and patience. I’m not sure if I’m ready to go climbing alone with the kids, we have only been out climbing as a family with friends around to assist. Having several hands available to entertain, hand out snacks, go for walks, keep them away from cliffs, etc. is amazing and we are very grateful for.
What the crag looks like with families, dogs, snacks, toys and plenty of rocks to play with
Our first climbing experience as a family was a three day camping and climbing trip in British Columbia, Canada. We were at one of our favorite camping and climb locations. The camping is free, the location beautiful and the hike to the crag is short (15 minutes without kids). We love finding free camping places and often use the Camp free in BC book. The approach to the climbing crag is steep and narrow. We were camping with several friends which also included a 7 month old and 3 year old. We were impressed (and a little amazed) that the three year old’s hiked to the crag without complaint.
Toddlers hiking to the crag
All of our outdoor pursuits including climbing are for fun only. Our kids are encourage to try new things but we have no expectations - she is only 3! The first time our daughter went up a wall we were hauling her mostly she wasn’t really grabbing and pulling herself up. We did instruct her to keep her hands and feet on the rock but she liked to spin round, bounce a little and just hang out. The next day we went back to the same climbing area but found a easier ‘scramble’ we roped the two 3 year olds up too. They CLIMBED and loved it!
Is a three year old too young to start climbing? No, I don’t think so. Are they going to ‘climb’. Not really. But the point of getting kids into activities is for fun and experiences not to become a pro.
If you climb and don’t have friends with kids or friends wanting to climb with you and your kids, let’s be honest not everyone may find it enjoyable, I’d recommend reaching out via facebook groups and climbing centres I’m sure you’ll find some like minded families looking to explore with others. It’s worth a try and a fun family outing!
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