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#33193 - 09/20/07 12:07 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: MarcC]
rime Offline

Registered: 08/24/06
Posts: 14
To me it seems like there are two issues regarding kids climbing - what type of climbing experience are they best fit for (physically and emotionally) and how can they be provided the experience that is appropriate for them in the safest way possible. Sorry MarcC, waiting until they are 18 to get them involved in adventurous/risky pursuits is ridiculous.

I do agree with your statement that climbing alone with a 6-year old is essentially soloing though. Speaking from personal experience, I think 6 is pretty young to do more than easy scrambling with an adult spotting and easy topropes (with a chest harness and not too high off the ground away from grown-ups). I think that a lot of climbers feel some kind of ego boost, like it is a reflection on themselves somehow, when their kids (or kids climbing with them) do well. I'm with Dizzy - the OP was psyched the kid made it but didn't mention anything about whether it was a great day - how do you describe the experience? "I took a 6-year old on High E and she cruised it!" or "I took a 6-year old on High E and she loved it!"

Given that, there certainly may be some 6-year olds who are competent enough to handle a wider range of climbing situations than scrambling/top-roping. Given the number of times I've seen parents belaying sobbing kids 10 feet off the ground, I would hope the realization that a 6-year old is "ready" for tougher climbing would be reached in a progressive way, not by throwing them into the situation without working up to it. To my mind, that would mean quite a bit of climbing for a 6-year old to have under their belt. Otherwise why risk the alternative - that they will have a miserable time and absolutely hate it.

Regarding keeping kids as safe as possible, my son is 10 1/2 and I was contemplating whether he and I could do a route together. Even if he was capable of belaying (not), my thoughts were that everything would have to go perfectly smoothly in order for him to really be safe and feel comfortable in the situation - i.e., I could NOT fall, no gear retrieval issues or wasps, possible pendulums, etc. You really can't predict that all those conditions will be met - even on an super-easy route you could solo, something could happen to you (going unconscious for whatever reason...hey, it COULD happen!, rock fall, injury) and then your child would be stuck there at a belay yelling for help and you would be a real idiot for getting the two of you in that situation. I have also found from top-roping that the greater the distance between you and a climbing child, the greater the difficulty in really communicating with them - it is harder for them to focus on what you are telling them because they are distracted by the exposure, rope, moves at hand, their fear, etc. So in any situation where you have to give them directions, it will be more difficult and you can't necessarily rely on their on-the-ground maturity.

My son has done a multi-pitch climb on a slab route where there were no issues with visibility/hearing. There were two adults and my son was in the middle, so if anything "happened" he would have had an adult with him or close by who was not occupied with leading or belaying. He loved it - it was kind of scary for him but it was also exciting and fun, and a real accomplishment for him that gave him a sense of strength and capability that is a good thing for someone working through being 10 1/2. I wouldn't want to save those kinds of things until he is 18.

Regarding injury, even death, well, that is a constant thought and balancing act. Should I let him walk down our long drive from the school bus alone or might someone scoop him up and I never see him again? Should I let him play a team sport when a kid in our area recently got hit in the head with a fast ball and got killed? Climbing holds the risk of injury and death for all climbers. Whether/how we face that as parents for our children is a difficult decision and requires constant reality/sanity checks. I guess in a way the OP sparked some of that for everyone participating here.

#33196 - 09/20/07 12:34 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: MarcC]
Smike Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/01/01
Posts: 3143
Loc: in your backyard
 Originally Posted By: MarcC
I'm not a parent (we forgot to have kids) and I don't like children,

Well its a good thing for you your parents liked kids...

#33197 - 09/20/07 12:44 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: Smike]
mworking Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/26/04
Posts: 764
Well said rime.

To me there is one difference between climbing outside with their parents and other sports. It that fatal and other mistakes are far more likely to be the parents fault.

That has been an issue for me, and I have not taken my 13yr old daughter on a muti-pitch climb. She is not an experienced climber though and I have not wanted to ask a trusted partner to devote the time to belay for us. Given the right circumstances I would climb with her sometime,

Edited by mworking (09/20/07 01:28 PM)

#33198 - 09/20/07 12:55 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: mworking]
RangerRob Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/06/00
Posts: 3765
Loc: Ulster County, NY
Yeah but no one has asked the really important question. Did you take the kid out to Bacchus that night and get them shitfaced?? If you did then you'd be a bad parent/guardian. Other than that...who gives a flying rat's ass what these people think.


#33204 - 09/20/07 01:44 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: RangerRob]
dalguard Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1515
Loc: CT
The things I was doing when I was 13. Belaying would have been the least of your worries.

#33211 - 09/20/07 02:58 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: dalguard]
retr2327 Offline

Registered: 06/14/07
Posts: 108
I think RG is right to argue that climbing may be less safe than people think it is, but I would support the right of every parent to make the decision as to whether or not he or she wanted to accept that risk for his or her child, as opposed to having the group or community make that decision. Parents make similar decisions as to when their kids are ready to SCUBA dive, ski race, etc., and that's as it should be.

And I recognize -- and accept -- that some parents are going to make a bad decision under those circumstances. Which is why I think Coppertone's point is ultimately the most important: when things do go wrong, god forbid it should be someone other than the parent on the other end of the rope. It will only make a terrible situation much worse.

All that aside, it's not clear how the High E trip was organized. A kid in the middle, with an adult above and below, is one thing; a kid as sole follower is quite another. Even apart from belay issues, gear removal, etc., High E is one of the most difficult climbs for the leader to communicate with the follower: the overhang seems to block the sound, so people on the ground can hear the leader, but the people on the ledge can't. It's also a notoriously intimidating and committing move (although probably much easier, in some ways, for small people).
It would be a very bad idea to have the child alone on that ledge following someone else.

#33215 - 09/20/07 05:51 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: retr2327]
rg@ofmc Online   content

Registered: 12/25/99
Posts: 2472
Loc: Poughkeepsie, NY
Nice points, rime. I was talking strictly about taking young children on multipitch trad climbs, and I didn't even begin to get into the question of whether or not they actually like the experience. Anyone who has spent any time in popular rock-climbing areas has seen parents pushing kids to do things the kids have no interest in and imposing adult values of accomplishment on what ought to be childhood endeavors, but of course one can find that at any children's sporting event.

As for retr2327's reference to parental rights, that is another slippery slope I'd rather not start down and never meant to invoke. I just think folks ought to think twice about whether it is "right" to take their young child on a multipitch outing---it is very far from a no-brainer in my opinion, no matter how talented the little tyke may be in the climbing gym, and the decision shouldn't be made casually.

Switching hats and joining the advocates for a moment (after all, I've already confessed to taking my daughter climbing when she was young) I still think a climb like High E is among the worst choices one could make. Of course, one has to have adults above and below the kid, but on High E the climber is still very isolated in mid-pitch, with very poor communication with belayer and supporter. The only set-up I'd consider adequate would be the two-follower system often used by parties of 3 climbing with double ropes, so that an adult climber, also belayed from above, could be climbing in close proximity to the child. (This may be what the party in question actually did, my comment here is a general one an is not necessarily aimed at the OP, who has provided no details of how they worked things out.)

#33222 - 09/20/07 08:33 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: rg@ofmc]
Kent Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/21/00
Posts: 1038
Loc: The Bayards
 Originally Posted By: rg@ofmc
The only set-up I'd consider adequate would be the two-follower system often used by parties of 3 climbing with double ropes, so that an adult climber, also belayed from above, could be climbing in close proximity to the child.

Ditto that as the lead belay ability of any six year old would seem questionable. A second adult along to belay the leader and then accompany the youngster when climbing seems like a good setup.

#33226 - 09/20/07 10:55 PM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: dalguard]
AOR Offline

Registered: 08/27/04
Posts: 392
The things I was doing when I was 13. Belaying would have been the least of your worries.

That has to be one of the funniest statements ever written here...and, so true.

Even at 13 (thanks to some rather unpleasant social exposures), the highest thing I wanted to climb was a bar stool.

#33230 - 09/21/07 02:30 AM Re: Youngest climber on High E? [Re: dalguard]
mworking Offline
old hand

Registered: 05/26/04
Posts: 764
 Originally Posted By: dalguard
The things I was doing when I was 13. Belaying would have been the least of your worries.

Things have changed since then and kids are generally far more dependent on their parents than when we were kids. I'm pretty sure my family very little problems today (to long to write about now). But, I predict some mighty dark storm clouds will blow over next year when she changes schools.

I do remember (most) all the things my younger sister did, and I'm not naive.

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