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Most Efficient Techniques for Multi-pitch with Kids


Original Post
Christopher K. · · Summerlin, NV · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 170

Post on climbing magazine's facebook page yesterday had a story about a family taking their kids on a multi-pitch. The point of the post was to show a sketchy runout traverse and how that might be dangerous. My question doesn't have anything to do with that, but rather with a off-hand comment the author made about their plan for the climb and how there are "more efficient ways to do it."

In the past when I take kids multi-pitch climbing (where the child is too small to belay) I have done it like this:

Must have 2 adults. Adult 1 leads the pitch with adult 2 belaying. Assuming the climb has no risk of a pendulum swing, Adult 1 belays child up to him and child trails a second rope behind him. If there is a risk of a pendulum, both adults have the child on belay. Adult 1 then puts Adult 2 on belay and brings him up. The climb continues like this.

The author in the article mentions there may be a more efficient way than to do it like this. What techniques do you use or would recommend that would improve the described set up?

Rick Blair · · Denver · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 268

I think you pretty much nailed it. Always have an adult at the belay. For the big pendulum, just don't do a climb with kids where that is a feature.

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Off the top of my head, it seeems like having the two followers climbing simultaneously, would provide more security for the imp.

If the child had trouble unclipping the rope from a piece, or was too scared to move, the other adult would be right there to help.

Guy Keesee · · Moorpark, CA · Joined Mar 2008 · Points: 310

child abuse....

coldfinger · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 55

I would also add that watch what you feed the little you know whats.......

Too much sugar and especially caffeine is just asking for it.

Too little and they will bonk hard. Hydration key here too.

Biggest practical part is make sure they understand basic commands, and especially how to tie in/untie and what to do when reaching or leaving an anchor.

A very good rule is to tell them NEVER to start climbing until you start pulling up rope and its tight!!!

Yes you will have to pull up the slack, but if you use an auto block it really isn't any harder. Reason being it can be hard enough for experienced adults to communicate "on belay, off belay etc." but not all kids have loud voices and you don't have to worry if you teach them this.

M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,931

Stick 'em in your backpack (with their heads out of course) and solo.

Eric Engberg · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2009 · Points: 0
M Sprague wrote:Stick 'em in your backpack (with their heads out of course) and solo.
I have found if you put them in head first it muffles the squawks better
M Sprague · · New England · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 4,931
Eric Engberg wrote: I have found if you put them in head first it muffles the squawks better
But then they can't give you beta, Eric. Perhaps that is a plus though for the "purists"
ViperScale . · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 235
M Sprague wrote:Stick 'em in your backpack (with their heads out of course) and solo.
I have seen someone do this for real before... not free solo but climbing with kid in a pack.
Em Cos · · Boulder, CO · Joined Apr 2010 · Points: 5

Have the leader trail a second rope, 2nd adult and kid climb at the same time. This way the kid is never alone, even while climbing; the adult is right there to offer encouragement, beta, calm freak-outs, maybe a physical boost here and there. Assuming a straight up pitch, you can also have the adult on the rope that is running through gear, so the kid doesn't have to deal with unclipping at all. (depending on age/abilities, you eventually want them to learn to do these things, but I'm thinking for very small kids and/or first time out)

Efficiency bonus, kid and 2nd adult are climbing concurrently rather than consecutively.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70
FrankPS wrote:Off the top of my head, it seeems like having the two followers climbing simultaneously, would provide more security for the imp. If the child had trouble unclipping the rope from a piece, or was too scared to move, the other adult would be right there to help.
^^^^
This

however an alternative I have used (in part because I have two kids and only one wife) is for the second adult to climb on the same rope as child, either just below or just above. The older child climbs at the same time on the other rope.

"Above" works a little better on very easy routes with a very young child, as the adult can simply grab the rope and pull small up. If the difficulties might not end in a ledge, pull up through a grigri or trax

I have done a lot of long multi pitch with my kids from the age of 4.
Sirius · · Oakland, CA · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 600

Yep, Frank has the answer. We just climbed the Snake Dike w our 7-year-old like this; works like a charm. This is best if using an autoblock imo. I wouldn't do it without an autoblock actually (used the ATC Guide).

Re. traverses, depending on what you're dealing with, you can skip a few pieces on the wee lass'/lad's rope, and hopefully reduce the severity of the potential swing. That's how we did it on the traversing bits, also worked well (though she sent no falls, f yeah)

Simul-following w wee lass
Forrest Williams · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 25

Done a few climbs in eldo with my friends 5 now 6 year old. Two ropes with one adult climbing with the kid has worked nicely. Did hair city the other day. Super funny to have him climb me through the crux.

J. Albers · · Colorado · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,793
Sirius wrote:Yep, Frank has the answer. We just climbed the Snake Dike w our 7-year-old like this; works like a charm. This is best if using an autoblock imo. I wouldn't do it without an autoblock actually (used the ATC Guide). Re. traverses, depending on what you're dealing with, you can skip a few pieces on the wee lass'/lad's rope, and hopefully reduce the severity of the potential swing. That's how we did it on the traversing bits, worked like a charm (though she sent no falls, f yeah)
That's awesome man (and great pic to boot). Just curious, how did you deal with the miles of 3rd/4th class terrain above the technical pitches where most folks climb unroped? Did you belay for this somehow? Or did you just go for it? No judgement at all either way, just curious how it went for my own future reference.
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 40
David Coley wrote: the second adult to climb on the same rope as child ... just below. The older child climbs at the same time on the other rope. ... If the difficulties might not end in a ledge, pull up through a grigri or trax I have done a lot of long multi pitch with my kids from the age of 4.
I agree with a lot of what has been said on this thread, but this is what works best for us, with two parents and two kids.

-Double ropes.
-Older kid (now 9) on her own rope. Leaves the belay first.
-Younger kid (now 6) tied in just above mom on the other rope. Above her because we find that a shove on the butt can help him move through challenging sections, and if he falls he is less likely to pull her off the rock, and I can (and have) assist with hauling from above with a tibloc if necessary.
-Definitely auto block. I think family climbing would be extremely difficult without one.
-I found that the DMM Pivot was a minor tweak that removed a nagging point of stress for me in all of this, because it's so much easier, smoother, more reliable, to feed slack from than with a Reverso or Guide ATC. I was surprised at how big an improvement this was for me, psychologically, even being confident I could make it work with the other devices.

Great thread - more thoughts welcome!
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 40
J. Albers wrote: That's awesome man (and great pic to boot). Just curious, how did you deal with the miles of 3rd/4th class terrain above the technical pitches where most folks climb unroped? Did you belay for this somehow? Or did you just go for it? No judgement at all either way, just curious how it went for my own future reference.
I can't answer for the other guy, but for me I short rope the kids on the 3rd class.

Actually, this often feels like the crux, psychologically - the kids are so much more comfortable that getting them to slow down and walk carefully can take some doing!

lembert dome
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 40
Christopher K. wrote:Post on climbing magazine's facebook page yesterday had a story about a family taking their kids on a multi-pitch.
I'm not finding this - could you please send a link, or paste it in to the thread? Thanks!
Bill M · · Fort Collins, CO · Joined Jun 2010 · Points: 321
Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 998

Be Jim Herson is probably the most efficient way.

Edit:Link above!

Sirius · · Oakland, CA · Joined Nov 2003 · Points: 600

Hey J Albers, similar to mike again there, except we used a daisy to me on the first part of those upper slabs. Once we felt okay, still a good way below the summit, we took it off. Daisy back on for the cables descent (she went first, I kept clipped in to cables, slip would have been ugly but not the chop).

I'd done the cables a number of times, when up and when down, in the dark and in the light, when wet and when dry, inside the cables and out, and never thought much about them. This time they had my full attention you can bet. Did they get steeper and more slippery and generally menacing or is that being a dad.

Also short-roped one of the 4th class slab crossings before hitting the shoulder there on the approach.

Crux was all the hiking but not terrible. Climbing went fine and quickly. I'd put some anxious thought into the traverses and how she'd do but they were NBD. We got a permit and a canister and wilderness bivied near the Merced (didn't take the notch shortcut) the night before and the night after. Two 60m ropes: 9.8 and 8.8. Three cams, six slings, 4L water. Lots of jelly beans, the primo ones.

David Coley · · UK · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 70

Kids are underrated. They can do a lot.
My 12 year old did some of this ukclimbing.com/news/item/69…

and I've just had a trip to Greenland with a 14 year old.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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