As any parent, trying to keep my kids safe is always my highest priority. But how do you let your kids grow and progress knowing the dangers that exist with climbing and cleaning anchors?
Dani learning to anchor off, come off belay, thread her rope thru the rings, and set up for a rappel.
My approach has always been to teach. Some may think that kids are too young to learn to clean anchors, however I disagree. Kids learn skills at a remarkable pace.The challenge is getting them to slow down a process and break it down into manageable steps.
Understanding the dangers and minimizing risk are essential skills in rock climbing and in life.
As a father & belayer, some of my most stressful moments exist when my kids reach the top of a sport route, and call for slack. I know at that moment, the process of coming off belay has begun. Standing on the ground, helpless to protect my kids is an unnerving feeling and not for the faint of heart.
Something that I do with the kids is to have them talk me thru the steps as they are switching over and setting up for a rappel. Vocalization of each step helps ensure the proper sequence is followed and allows me know that errors are not being committed.
As with any skill set, practice, practice, practice. At height, errors can be fatal.
As a climbing family, we all understand the dangers very well. Mistakes at the crag can kill. Nasty lead falls can lead to months off recovering, twisted ankles from bouldering landings gone awry, scrapes and cuts are all part of climbing. Climbing is falling, falling is climbing.
Climbing outside is different than inside. No tape or colour coded holds to sequence the routes, loose rocks waiting to be dislodged, no padded floors, and no cleaning anchors as a brief list of differences.
Fear is your friend in terms of situational awareness. Fear reminds us to anchor off. Fear reminds us to ensure testing our rappel set up prior to coming off an anchor. Fear reminds us to set up a prusik cord as a back up for the rappel back down.
Demonstrating knowledge, patience and control is a critical element in my process of allowing my kids to enjoy new freedoms.
As a parent I always try to embrace my kids developing skills, but even more so, developing good safe practices allows me to enjoy our time climbing as a family. Cleaning anchors is an essential skill for any sport climber.
I will always recommend getting proper instruction from a certified instructor. Teaching the right way the first time is so much easier than trying to correct a bad habit later.
As parents we always strive to give our kids a solid foundation with life skills and education, climbing is no different. Climbing is inherently dangerous, but with proper instruction, lots of practice and some gentle encouragement, you can give your kids a gift that is immeasurable.........confidence.
And the better the instruction your krushers receive, you as a parent also gain.......a good night sleep knowing they have the skills and experience to be safe, no matter the altitude they are at.