That Time I Tried Bouldering With My Kids

bouldering top

Last month, my kids and I tried hot yoga. It was a good way to spend time together, but it also allowed me to witness, real-time, as they each gained confidence in their own way.

This month, we decided to take up bouldering. How is that different from rock climbing? Good question. In short, bouldering is rock climbing without ropes or harnesses, on routes that are usually less than 20 feet high.

A Little Background

We live in an outdoorsy town. My kids’ public elementary school has a small climbing wall, which they use both for P.E. and for after-school rock climbing lessons. The local park has a pretty substantial rock wall, too, and we can find families roped in regularly throughout the summer. A few miles up the road, at an exit known by its number alone, is a destination for serious climbers. My son even went to rock climbing camp when he was seven.

And yet, I don’t climb.

I’m familiar enough, but not so much so that I could take my kids out to climb for a day. In fact, after my son’s camp, family interest in rock climbing pretty much fizzled.

Until recently.

How often do you get to stand on top of the world?

It was spring break, and my kids were dying—dying I tell you—to visit the “big climbing gym” downtown. Always up to try something new, we gave it a shot.

Are We In The Right Place?

We walked into the climbing gym looking for ropes. We expected to hear “on belay!” and wondered how it would work with three fairly novice climbers. Instead, we found wall after wall of climbing holds, with acres of mats underneath. It smelled like a climbing gym—all chalk and rubber and sweat—but we had inadvertently found a gym free of ropes. It was our introduction to bouldering.

Once the staff talked us through the safety lecture and parental supervision required—always look up in the climbing spaces, no sharp objects and no running—we were fitted with climbing shoes, handed a chalk bag and told to have fun.

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