*Guest Post* Genesis of a Climbing Family

    I am very excited to have Alyssa from The Kid Project on the blog today guesting about climbing.  Previously, we had Justin on the blog with his own tips about taking your kids rock climbing.  Alyssa now adds her own twist and personal family experience.  Again, climbing is not something we have done (yet) with our own kids, so I am learning here too (which is what I LOVE about having guest posters on the blog!)  As always, check out her bio at the end and feel free to leave her feedback in the comments.

    People ask us when we started climbing. They ask us when our kids started climbing. Sometimes they don’t ask, they say rather emphatically, “you cannot rock climb AND have  young kids. It doesn’t work.” And if I take a good hard look at having young kids and I am honest, then I will openly admit it is really hard. Draining, exhausting, astonishing, confusing, and abundant in dysfunction. I can see why they told us “it cannot happen.”

    When our first baby was born, I was told over and over, “get ready for some major life change, honey!” Vomit. While it was true, the lie hidden underneath their exasperated tone was that all I loved and enjoyed was about to be slayed on the proverbial altar. And I believed them. And my life was a like a self full-filled prophecy.

    But as the joy ebbed out of our lives, my husband and I decided to make a change. We needed a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively. For us it was climbing, camping, skiing- the active things that reminded us of the beauty of creation and the fun of having a family. It was “sink or swim” time. You either figure out how to bring the kids along, or you don’t. Simple as that.

    So…back to those original questions:

    When did we start climbing?
    Well, if there is one thing you can take away from this post it is this, you really can start climbing whenever. My husband and I climbed a little in college. But not enough to call ourselves “climbers.” We really started climbing after my second kid was born. And only started climbing outdoors after our third kid was born [and we moved to Utah]. Most parents who climb outdoors have been avid climbers for along time before starting a family. And often the expense, the gear, the unknown risks keep all the other people away. A lot of parents just simply don’t know how to start climbing, even if they want to. But if you want to, you can. Here is how:
    -Start at a local climbing gym. Rent the harness and shoes. Become well versed in belay, figure-eight knots, climbing grades, harnesses. Most gyms will teach you the basics for free.
    Hint: while climbing is super kid friendly, learning the basics is not. Get a sitter for those first few times so Mom and Dad can focus.
    -Find climbing friends. This can most likely be done while pursuing #1. Find someone who has climbed outdoors before. Start with top-roping* a few climbs outdoors with them and if that goes well, move onto sport* routes. [These climbing friends and families will also be invaluable as you go climbing as a family. Simply put, we would not be outdoors climbing with our kids, if it weren’t for the other families and friends that have joined us along the way.
    -Invest in your own gear. Climbing shoes. Harnesses. Ropes. Quick-draws. A local climbing store is probably the best. They will have a wealth of information on gear and your local climbing spots.
    When did our kids start climbing?
    Our kids started climbing at roughly the same age as all yours did. Between 8-10 months they started climbing the stairs. By the time they were walking, bookcases were well within their range. The best part about climbing is, there is no “age” they have to be. All kids naturally love to climb. Sure coordination helps. But our third baby was attempting to climb at the rock gym even before she could walk. She’d pull herself up a hold or two and tumbled back on the pads. It was great!
    As for “real” climbing. As soon as the harness fit, we were golden. A full body harness fit securely and comfortably on our kids somewhere around age 2. I am sure it depends on the size of the kid and your particular harness.
    Where it all begins… 
    Perhaps it is just us, but somewhere along the line, my husband and I had to take a good long look at what we really wanted out of life. There is no short answer to this. But we knew and know that the outdoors is a part of that. We would not be living true to ourselves if we didn’t at least try to bring our kids along in our love of outdoor adventures. And that is where it all started for us. With desire.
     “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

    If you’d like to see what a normal climbing day looks like for us, visit our post Crag-ing it with the Babies. (http://kidproject.org/2012/05/01/crag-ing-it-with-the-babies-repurposing-your-indoor-baby-gear/)

    *Top-rope climbing (or Top-roping) is a style in climbing in which a rope, used for the climber’s safety, runs from a belayer at the foot of a route through one or more carabiners connected to an anchor system at the top of the route and back down to the climber,[1]usually attaching to the climber by means of a harness. Assuming that the route is predominantly bottom-to-top; that the anchor holds; and that the belayer pays attention, the top-rope climber generally will not fall more than a short distance and can thus safely attempt even the most difficult routes. Most top-rope anchors can be reached through non-technical means, such as by hiking orscrambling to the top of the cliff. (Wikipedia.com)

    *Sport climbing is a form of rock climbing that relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock, and possibly bolts, for protection, (in contrast with traditional climbing, where the rock is typically devoid of fixed anchors and bolts, and where climbers must place removable protection as they climb). (Wikipedia.com)

    Hi! I’m Alyssa Erickson. I am a Jesus lover, wife, mom, rock climber, skier, and all around adventure lover with a passion for writing. I have my B.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Colorado and have been blogging for nearly two years. You can learn more about me over at The Kid Project or Lessons in Semantics, my two homes in the blogging world.

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