We’re a climbing family now. A new climbing family, but one none the less.
So how did we become a family of rock jockeys? If you take a look at roster you might wonder how a disabled man, his non-athletic wife, and their 5 yr old son became climbers. The process is very interesting one that I’m about to explore.
In The Beginning……
I’ve always been an outdoorsy kind of guy. I grew up camping and hiking, I spent my senior year of high school in Colorado which gave me more exposure to better hiking terrain (I prefer strenuous elevation gain hiking) and always jumped at the chance to hit the trail. I was never one who had the opportunity or even the desire to climb sheer rock faces. I did however climb at 14er (14,000’+ summit) in Colorado and did some peak bagging on my own, this included some class 3 and class 4 scrambling: the closest I had come to climbing….ever. Then it happened, I was crippled in an accident and my days of athletic activity I thought had ended. At least on the levels I desired.
I did a hike or two after my accident but the experience was so exhausting and painful that regardless of the views and the sheer pleasure of hiking it was years before I ever hit the trail again. It would be years before I ever considered getting back to an outdoor life like the one I had.
A Reignited Fire
A few years after my wife and I were married I decided to put together a vacation, our first as a family. I opted to take us out west to Yellowstone National Park, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. While out there, to make a long story short, we hiked Elephant Back Mountain and I discovered that not only did I do FAR better then I expected, but also that my three year old son (almost four) finished strong too. There was a glimmer of hope that with some assistance (ankle and back braces….lots of braces) I could enjoy a life outdoors and maybe try something new.
It had always been a desire to climb alpine peaks, and in that same trip we visted Grand Teton National Park. As luck would have it that day was the best weather day we had experienced and in early June the Tetons were glistening in the sunshine thanks to snow cover galore. That sealed it for me, I would find a way to the top and I knew the only way was to learn to rock climb. So shortly upon returning home I made a great and mighty effort to get my hands on books and by way of the internet I did my own research. I began sharing this new found (and rekindled) desire with my wife, and a small spark from my fire lit her tinder.
Bringing Us All Together
Through the wonders of modern technology I began to share documentaries and videos of climbers and climbing destinations with my wife. Luckily for me, she loves foreign travel and I began to extol about the Swiss Alps, Patagonia, and other regions of South America especially. I talked about how we could do this as a family and how we could vacation, spend time together, and be active for relatively inexpensively compared to a typical vacation. I talked about the places we could go and things we could see, about how this would be great for instilling a natural and active lifestyle into our children.
Slowly she began to open up to the idea. I helped to open her mind even further by bribing her with presents of shiny, soft, and feminine gear that made her and our son’s experiences far more comfortable. This of course helped make the transition much easier. However at this time we had not done anything closely resembling climbing, so the plunge had to be taken, but we thought it best to dip into the kiddie pool. A local outfitter had a section of their store with a small bouldering cave. The ceiling were no more then 8′ high and the floor was padded and absorbed a large amount of force. We worked up a sweat and left with our forearms screaming but a glimmer in our eyes. We spent over an hour together having fun and sweating up a storm. We got a workout…and it didn’t even feel like a workout. There was something to this climbing this and we decided to pursue it further. We signed up for a class at this same outfitter and at a cost of $5 (they gave us a $5 coupon for purchases over $25 after the class was over) it was easy to make the move to being a climbing family.
The Finished Product
Here we are just a few short months after we started. Now we all climb and are members at the local climbing gym. We’ve all got climbing goals and my son is hooked (literally he throws up heel hooks like they’re going out of style). 2-3 times a week you can find us in the gym getting stronger and having fun. We’re talking about taking climbing focused trips and I’m thinking about competing in the 2013 Extremity Games. We subscribe to several climbing magazines, watch videos, follow athletes and are meeting new climbers on twitter and in the gym. We love the community feel of climbing and the opportunity it affords us to be together, get healthy, get outside, and stay active.
After encouraging my wife to read a few books the possibility even exists for her to consider taking up some modest alpine climbing in the future. She’s discovered her inner-athlete and we’re all defying our self conceived ideas of what we can and cannot do. My son watches the other climbers and I’m amazed by what he has picked up and how he’s getting stronger and going higher and harder with each passing week.
When I look back on how we got to this point I find a certain number of tipping points that helped us build a climbing family.
#1. It all starts with passion. Starting anything without passion only leads to one giving up because when it calls for your time and sacrifice you find that it’s just not as important if you’re not passionate about it to begin with.
#2. You must gain knowledge. I researched and read, studying and listened. I saw what it took and what I needed to do, I counted the costs and found a way to test my mettle before I wasted too much time.
#3. It helps to find multiple benefits. We were already a camping family, so adding hiking, and climbing just seemed logical and we could do all of that in one vacation and the gear could be used for multiple vacations making it cheaper in the long term. Add in the physical benefits, getting outside, being active and away from technology carried a lot of weight.
#4. Got to start slow. We slowly immersed ourselves into this new world and now it’s taking center stage. We sought out easy and inexpensive ways to introduce ourselves. Bought used books, read free websites, and rented gear cheap. We started bouldering which meant we only needed shoes and found a inexpensive class we both could attend.
#5. Make everyone comfortable. From gear to expectations ensure to it that everyone is comfortable with the pace and the practice. When all the family members are happy the chances increase of doing it again and again.
So whether it’s rock climbing, kayaking, BASE jumping, slacklining, or any other outdoor recreation you want to try out crafting an outdoor family is worth the time and effort, just be sure to take the right steps.
So until next time…….Climb On!