Minimum age to climb


Original Post
Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,175

I thought I saw a pic of Chris Linder crushing V3 highball at 5 years old!? Anyway, tell me about some young kids climbing, what you did, how it went, etc. I've got a 5 year old that needs to start working on getting sponsored.

Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 958

Some kids dig it, some kids don't.  One of my daughters likes to climb, the other would rather chase butterflies. The most important thing (for us) is to let the kids set their own pace/limits as to what they want to climb. Usually a couple TR laps is all they are into before asking to go "explore". 

If it isn't fun for them, it isn't fun for me.  5 is a totally appropriate age to start.

I've always liked it. My mom even made me climb OW at age 6, to show me that climbing wasn't always Type 1 fun.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

I'll pretty much echo what Jason said. I have 3 daughters, they all started climbing when they were 4-5 years old, mostly in the gym. All 3 are different. One daughter finally has the drive to work on redpointing climbs now that she's 11. It's fun to see her get kind of mad when she falls at the same point again and again, wanting to get the send. Another will try hard sometimes. The 3rd, would probably be the best climber (she's crazy strong, just muscle and bones), but she's totally hot or cold depending on the day. I decided long ago not to push them beyond what they are comfortable because then it's not fun for them and they'll just resent me making them do stuff that is scary and not fun. 

Until it clicks for the kid, then all day time at the crag will likely get boring. They're probably good for 1-3 pitches then they want to do something else like chase butterflies. Just enjoy it and see where it goes. 

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

I will add a couple of helpful things. The La Sportiva Stickit shoes are the best for kids because you can buy them big and they have a cool closure system that snugs up the heel to push their toes forward to fill in gaps. Kids have an extremely low tolerance for small shoes and painful toes. One of my kids is ok with kind of tight shoes, the other 2 will complain the second that their toes do anything more than touch the end of the shoe. 

Use a full body harness until around age 6-8. It will help keep them upright if they fall. On that point, also make sure you're putting a helmet on them even for TR stuff outside. Kids are still getting their balance figured out and tend to smack their heads on more stuff, especially since you'll likely have them on low angle stuff outside. 

It is scary for most kids to get lowered from very high up the first few times. Practice low to the ground by teaching them to sit down in the harness and stick their legs out. I also found it helpful to have them grab the rope in front of them. They feel comforted having something to hold onto. Gradually work up higher and higher as they get more comfortable. 2 of my 3 were very nervous for a long time about the lowering from 35 ft. up. 

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,225
Ryan Hamilton wrote:

The La Sportiva Stickit shoes are the best for kids because you can buy them big and they have a cool closure system that snugs up the heel to push their toes forward to fill in gaps. 

Likewise for Butora Brava's.  They have a separate tensioner for the bridge and for the heel.  It means one pair can be worn a lot longer.  My kid likes them better and you can put different tension on the heel and foot that way.  THe velcro is also broader and doesn't wear out as bad (Stickit's are a little fuzzy/loose after some use).

The other nice thing about the Butoras is that they are $45, but I guess the Sportivas are only $48, so it really comes down to preference, I guess.

Rob T · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 10

My 4 yo has used both, fit in the LS stickit first, switched to the Butora when it fit him bc he liked the fit more. Back in the same pair of stickits now as he's outgrown the smaller butoras. 

Dynamic range is bigger on the LS shoes, butora seems like a better climbing shoe, but honestly, at this point we only have them to buy an extra hour at the crag.  

Ryan Nevius · · Estes Park, Colorado · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 904

Our 11 month old started trying to high-step the baseboards and toe into her baby gate, so we took her to the kids wall at the local bouldering gym. She only digs it for about 5 minutes at a time, but definitely digs it.

BrokenChairs BrettC · · Sultan, WA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 245

I started cragging with my son when he was 18 months old. I used to haul up a pack and play and everything; as a single Dad it was hard but worth it in the end.  He's now four and will climb up real rock or in the gym.  I used the full body harness until last season.  He is super motivated by dinosaur shaped holds!  Simple answer never to young; I started skiing when I was two or three so just passing the tradition along.  

Little slab master!!  My favorite moment was when he flexed his biceps at the gym and was like I'm going to be strong like Daddy.  (I'm not strong at all but it sure made me feel great) . He is pretty used to climbing now and I often find him climbing boulders when I'm not looking and when I see and I'm like what are you doing? "I'm climbing Dad".  Just go and enjoy it the struggle is real but worth it.  I never push him though when he's done he's done I got him a T-rex bike helmet to wear last season once his dome was big enough to actually fit in one.  shoes: at this point it doesn't really matter but I'm sure once he's a little older it will matter thanks for the above suggestions . I also started a thread to trade kids gear so just search for it and we can all pass along the fun for a little less $$. 

Idaho Ian · · Pocatello, ID · Joined Jan 2014 · Points: 5

My 4 year old has been climbing since she was 2 or so. We have a woody in the garage, so she just started climbing one day while watching me. She was topping out the flat section of wall at 8 feet after a couple months, but haven't gotten her to go any further since, even outside. Echoing everybody else, let them do it for fun and at their own pace. Encouragement is great, but a kid can burn out fast with the wrong motivation. 

We have had the nephew in a chest harness till 7, probably pretty similar with my daughter. Have bought Madrock kids shoes despite the fact I despise them otherwise. They work fine.

Hope it works out

George Perkins · · The Dungeon, NM · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 3,115

My daughter's 6 now. She loves bouldering in the gym, and a little bit outside.  No V3s though.

As early as 2, she started taking massive pendulum swings on the rope at our local overhanging sport cliffs and still loves that.

Starting at age 4, she and I have a couple of times now successfully climbed some 200' 5.6s with another partner leading, but with me also following tied in 10' below her to help assist her at the hard parts (no- I'm not going to fall), climbs with a cool summit and Cl.3 scramble off.  I think she liked the adventure of it, and of climbing with dad.

She'll play in the streams at the crags and talk crap to my climbing partners for hours no problem. (How old does she need to be to belay me with a gri-gri?) She enjoys it even more if there are other kids, so I like to try to go with other families.

However, we've been largely unsuccessful at having her be engaged with climbing easy shorter (<50') cragging/sport routes independently, and she's terrified of being lowered (especially on her own).  [edit 4 days later: she just TRed a 40' 5.7 on her own, and was lowered, and had fun; age 6]

She'll climb on a TR in the gym a little bit (still scared to be lowered), but would prefer to boulder indoors.  Not interested in pushing her, but would welcome reading more tips or advice in how to best share this activity with our kids.

Mike wand · · San Marcos · Joined Dec 2011 · Points: 25

I started climbing with my kids when they were young. I have two girls 3 and 6 and they just love climbing with me. When I take them to the crag I try to make it about them. Most of the time I don't even get my climbing shoes out of the pack. I started both at 2 years old. With young kids you need to have at least two adults. One to belay and the other to watch the other kids at the base. Make it fun and they will love climbing. 

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 938

C'mon Nick. You're slacking. I figured she'd be pounding pins on Salathe by now!

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 93

The best way I have found to help my boys (now 5 & 6) push past their fear is to climb up with them.  You can point out holds along the way, give them something to lean on (yourself) if they get scared, and when it comes time to lower, you can just pick them up while you both lower.  To accomplish this it would probably be best to set 2 ropes, and have 2 belayers (or 1 heavy belayer skilled at doing a double rope belay).  But I don't have that luxury and most likely you don't either...

What I did was to tie a double bowline with a huge loop of rope (like 6 ft) and with a super long tail (maybe 7 or 8 ft tail).  The kiddo gets tied in on the big loop, and you tie into the tail.  This way you each have your own separate strand of rope and if you fall, you (probably) won't pull your kiddo off the wall with you.  If you get the lengths or rope right, then when you get to the top (or as high as the kiddo wants to go), you will be able to just pick him up and cradle him while you lower (if he/she is too terrified to lean back).  Just make sure your belayer is heavy enough and to knot the brake strand.  Also keep in mind that if the route traverses a little (don't even climb a route that traverses significantly), you need to position yourself towards the pendulum so that if you fall, your rope doesn't sweep under your kiddo. 

Sorry I don't have a better picture, but you can see his tie in loop and the tail I am tied to (tail was about 1' too long in this picture).  

Another option is to let the kid climb alone on top rope, but to tie the end of the brake strand to the back of the kiddo's harness (so the rope forms a big loop).  Then if he/she is having trouble lowering you can tug on him to force him to lean back.   I didn't have much luck with this (I actually had to climb up and rescue my petrified child who thought I was trying to pull him down to his doom).

awolf · · New York, NY · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 5

I can't believe there are multiple pictures on this thread of children climbing or at the base of climbs without helmets on. It's one thing if you make that decision for yourself...

Levi Painter · · Boise, ID · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 0

The local gym will not let my son belay until he is 13.

Jon Frisby · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Feb 2013 · Points: 100

Tommy Caldwell's kid and Beth Rodden's kid crush boulders in Font and are 4 and 3, respectively

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 35

My kid has been up a bunch of multipitch routes, a few 5.12 sport routes, long hikes, and days out camping. He'll be born in August.

ViperScale · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2013 · Points: 230

I think it is kinda stupid that she is climbing with a helmet on but her kid doesn't. I am pretty sure her kid's head is alot more delicate than hers is.

cyclestupor · · Woodland Park, Colorado · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 93
awolf wrote:

I can't believe there are multiple pictures on this thread of children climbing or at the base of climbs without helmets on. It's one thing if you make that decision for yourself...

You are absolutely right.  My kid should have been wearing a helmet in that picture.  In this case, he was having problems with the strap on his helmet cutting into his neck, and refused to put it back on even after i adjusted it.  Maybe we should have just called it quits that day.  Hind sight is 20/20.

J. Albers · · Colorado · Joined Jul 2008 · Points: 1,793
awolf wrote:

I can't believe there are multiple pictures on this thread of children climbing or at the base of climbs without helmets on. It's one thing if you make that decision for yourself...

Sigh. Awesome thread going that doesn't need the helmet police casting judgement on the choices of others. When I see all of these pics, my reactions is excitement for all the kids enjoying being outside with their parents. Thanks to everyone who has posted, cool stuff!

Tony B · · Around Boulder, CO · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 23,225
J. Albers wrote:

Sigh. Awesome thread going that doesn't need the helmet police casting judgement on the choices of others. When I see all of these pics, my reactions is excitement for all the kids enjoying being outside with their parents. Thanks to everyone who has posted, cool stuff!

Yep.  I don't make my kid wear a helmet at the base of a short slab with nobody above her.  Flame on if you must, nanny-types, but I also let her run down the sidewalk at the playground without a helmet, and climb on the monkey bars & slides, etc...
I don't bubble wrap her for everything.  If I wear a helmet, she will.  And if she leads in the future, she will then too, at least until she's old enough to be in charge of herself.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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