Climbing with your kids can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there. Watching your youngster scramble up the boulders on their way to being the next great climber can be amazing. But there’s lots to consider when taking your child out to the crag.
Find a Third
Having a third kid-friendly person is essential to actually climbing. This way there’s always someone to watch the child while the parent belays or climbs. Heading to the crag with another family can help this situation immensely as you can take turns climbing and watch the kids. Susie Christensen has climbed with her daughter Ainsley from Yosemite and the Grotto in Sonora to the Verdon Gorge in France and Wilderswill in Switzerland. ” It makes a huge difference to have a minimum of one extra person available to commit their attention to the kid. When Ainsley was a baby it was really critical to have an extra person who wasn’t climbing or belaying that could hold her or feed her if she was crying. Now that she’s older, a third person is helpful to keep her from wandering to dangerous areas (under other climbers, steep rocks/slopes, poison oak) and to keep her entertained.”
Have a contained space designated for the baby
Susie provided some excellent advice. “A separate space provides a place that the baby can 1) nap, 2) safely play and move around, and 3) contain food, books, toys, etc. A separate space is especially critical if you don’t have a third person with you. We’ve gone through a bunch of different “containers,” if you will: First we used what we called a “baby portaldge,” which was actually a little foldable, portable bassinet. This was awesome for about the first 6 months until she was able to scoot around and get out of it.
Next we moved on to a KidCo Pea Pod which is essentially a baby pop-up tent. We really liked this option because it was light, compact, and fully enclosed, which kept Ainsley in, and bugs, dirt, and whatever else, out. Once Ainsley was able to stand up, the Pea Pod was no longer sufficient for her. She hated being in it because she could only sit, and there wasn’t much room to crawl around. At this point, we started taking her pak-n-play with us to the crag….yes, all 22 lbs of it. This was great because she had a larger footprint to move around in and she could stand up in it.
After dragging the pak-n-play up and down multiple approaches and descents for about 4 months, we made the executive decision that it was way too heavy and way too bulky. We did a bunch of research and ended up purchasing a Phil&Ted’s Traveller Crib. It’s the lightest one on the market (only 7lbs) and completely collapsible. It’s basically the alpinists version of a pak-n-play, with a mesh top that can be zipped on, which is a huge bonus when it comes to naptime. We’ve had this for 3 months now and absolutely love it.”
Make Sure They Have Fun
When your child has a good time at the crag, it means they’ll want to go again. You’ll have another chance on your project and they’ll be on better behavior.
“Start them young, as young as 6 months,” said Michele Goodhew, who has brought her son Lander to Font, Bishop, Yosemite, Squamish and everywhere in between. Michele If it’s cold, hot, or the approach is long, reconsider your plans. Bring more supplies- food, water, layers, than you think you need.
“Keep a bag and outdoor clothing that is dedicated to just your weekend trips. Keep warm wool socks, warm sleepwear, hats, gloves, longjohns etc… in this bag. Keep this bag packed and ready to go so you don’t have to repack every weekend,” said Michele. “I would just wash stuff and put it right back in my bag.” A hungry, cold, thirsty exhausted kid will make climbing harder. Early climbing experiences need to be good for kids otherwise they may lose psych to go climbing in the long run.
Consider the Crag
You love your kids but at times their loud playing can be a huge distraction to other climbers. Be aware of your child’s volume and make sure you’re providing space for other climbers in terms of noise control and keeping the toy sprawl out of the way. Climbing with a young child at the crag can be ideal.
“The first six months of a baby’s life is kind of the honeymoon period for climbing with a kid since they still sleep a decent amount,” said Ironworks manager Lyn Verinsky, who’s son Conrad just started getting brought to the crag. “If they are nursing, you don’t have to worry about bringing food.”
For older children, rope crags might be less than perfect. At some sport crags, loose rocks can come off even the most popular routes. Even in the gym, climbers come flying off the wall and can knock over youngsters too close to the wall. “Bouldering has to be the easiest form of climbing but single pitch routes can work too with a pack n play,” said Michele.
Dogpatch Boulders offers a great kids play area for parents that want to boulder and let them child enjoy some fun time. Ironworks offers babysitting as well.