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Tips for young children climbers - lowering

Original Post
Larry S · · Easton, Pennsylvania · Joined May 2010 · Points: 840

I brought my two 3.5 year old boys climbing for the first time last week, on a nice little 5.0 slab angled about 45 degrees. They did well, better than I expected, climbed up to about 10 feet half a dozen times each, and they had a good time, but we had some nuisance problems lowering. The high tie in point of the kids harnesses (camp bambino) and the low angle of the slab made it impossible for them to achieve a "sit back" lowering position. They either rolled around onto their backsides and slid down or kinda crawled backwards on hands and knees.

Any parents have any tips for next time? 

Haley D · · Salt Lake City · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 175

When my kids were smaller I would attach the other end of the rope (if the route was short enough, a thin tag line works well too) to the back side of their harness so that I could give them a little 'assist' on the way down.

· · Unknown Hometown · Joined unknown · Points: 0

One thing I've done is tie a butter-fly knot 3 feet or so above their tie-in, and then clip into that with a long runner, then climb with them.  When it's time to lower, we just lower together as if we're doing a tandem rappel.  Sometimes they just dangle from the rope as I walk backwards down the rock.  That's not helpful for teaching them how to lower, but at this stage, the climbing is more important.

Another problem with what I suggest is that you will wear down the hardware at the TR master-point much quicker with the additional weight.  There are a few up-sides, though.  It's easier to instruct them if you're right by them.  And if they're too scared to come down, you can be there to peal them off the rock or help them down-climb/hold them.

Of course, I think it's most important to respect your kid's fears.  I don't make them do anything on the rock that they don't want to do.  Of course, if you have to get them down after they've climbed up a ways, you may have to take matters into your own hands.

Matthew Fienup · · Ventura, CA · Joined Feb 2006 · Points: 7,198

The most effective way to teach our boys to lower properly was a technique that the boys came to affectionately call "the Gondola." To do this, I would first counter-ascend up to the boy and clip myself to the tie-in knot using a PAS. Then we would lower together as I rappelled back to the ground.

The reason for calling this technique "the Gondola" is that their reward for demonstrating perfect lowering technique on the top half of the route was to sit back and "ride" down the second half. When they were little, they enjoyed this even more than the actual climbing!

Larry S · · Easton, Pennsylvania · Joined May 2010 · Points: 840

Thanks, I'll keep this in mind for next time we go.

Dan Evans · · Phoenix, AZ · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 85

Look up how to make a purcell prusik using static 7 mm cord, and fashion one for you and your kid(s). When you rappel, clip both you and your child's purcell into the same ATC device (with the child clipped in on top). Then just extend your purcell prusik so that you sit just beneath them and control the descent. They don't have to do anything except for enjoy the ride, and your combined body weight with two lockers through the rope will be like a normal rappel. This is a self-rescue technique that I utilize often with my climbing partners when we want to bail fast. The above method looks safe, but overly complex. I say to just keep it simple until they are competent and heavy enough to rappel on their own. The purcells are really nice to have because they can extend pretty far enabling you to clip in to anchors before committing to any sort of down climb, as oppose to a sling or fixed PAS system that is non-adjustable without exchanging lockers. Just to clarify, are you talking about lowering them off of a toprope with you on the ground? Or both rappelling? If it is an issue with them lowering on top rope, rope drag may be a hindering factor. Make sure the masterpoint is extended and freehanging with a direct line to you, the belayer. Otherwise, I think the tag line is a good idea.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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