I watched as my 8-year-old girls slid into their climbing harnesses and started the short walk to Holiday Valley’s Climbing Forest—home to climbing challenges of varying difficulty.
As we entered the forest, the twins and their younger cousin were greeted by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable college-aged instructor who was tasked with not only showing folks how to climb safely, but also to encourage them to push beyond their fear and “get a little higher each time.”
He asked who wanted to go first. Isabel raised her hand. He hooked her harness to the safety cable and, with the other two yahoos watching, had her climb about 8 feet off the ground.
“Now, just let go and watch what happens.”
Isabel gave him a look like “Yeah, right. How dumb do you think I am?”
He smiled and said, “The rope attached to your harness is going to lower you gently to the ground. It’s really awesome—you’ll feel like you’re floating through the air.”
Isabel was still concerned. So he grabbed the end of the instructor rope and said, “I’ve got you. I’ll make sure nothing happens.”
Finally, she let go—a huge smile creasing her face as she did, indeed, float to the ground.
That was all it took. The other two quickly started bellowing for their turns and, like the pro he was, our instructor got them all quickly hooked up to their own trees.
Off they went.
They started by climbing just a few feet—maybe 8 or 9 feet and dropping to the ground. Then, the instructor started teasing them to see if they could go just a little higher and then let go.
And on and on it went. For two hours.
By the end of their session, they were climbing 30 feet to the very top of the trees (even the “advanced” trees), ringing the bell rigged at the top and dropping to the ground.
I watched in awe as these little kids quickly mastered the climbs and laughed out loud as they bragged about how “easy” it was. Their confidence grew and grew even as their energy lagged.
When it ended, their only complaint was that the harness chaffed their rear-ends—no doubt caused by the fact that the auto belay system had to accommodate folks of all sizes and weights—so little 45-pound bodies were actually constantly being pulled upward.
All in all, it was a great day.
This issue is dedicated to exactly this type of activity. As we see growth in climbing clubs and non-team oriented sports across the country, we thought it would be helpful to provide some ideas on how you can bring these activities safely to your community or, if you already have them, how you can program them to grow.
I hope you enjoy what we came up with.
If you did or if you did not, let us know.
Till Next Month…
Rodney J. Auth