One of my goals for the kids’ outdoor education is for them to have at least a basic functional understanding of most of the major outdoor recreation disciplines. Sometimes this is easy. I grew up camping and hiking and have backpacked extensively since high school. This has given me a set of skills I feel very confident in handing down to my children. I have mountain biked off and on since my childhood, once again I feel qualified to teach some basic skills in this field. I hunted and fished enough as a kid to at least feel comfortable with these pursuits. However, the challenge lies in sharing sports I have never participated in.
Some sports offer an easy learning curve that can be experienced together. Skiing is one. Cross country skiing is a very low risk sport, flailing as a family as we learned the herring bone, or how to maintain control on descents presents a low risk for injury. Down hill skiing can be slowly mastered at resorts, working your way up in difficulty on the slopes. There are other sports that we have come to enjoy in which the risk of injury is much greater to the unprepared or ignorant. One example of this is rock climbing. So how does a parent handle this?
Rock climbing is something that has always held a fascination for me. Visions of big wall climbing in Yosemite or heading up the head wall of a mountain peak captured my imagination growing up. Unfortunately, growing up in Florida offered little opportunity to do this as a kid. During my college and graduate school years money was tight, and so any money left over for recreation tended to go to backpacking gear. Next came the challenges of young kids and I was committed to spending my outdoors time with them.
I have now found myself at 40 with enough kids old enough to enough to enjoy the sport, but lacking the skill set with which to teach them. Furthermore, I want to impart good habits to them as sloppy climbers have a tendency to become injured climbers. My first step was reading. I picked up several books on rock climbing ot get a basic idea of the language, equipment, knots, etc. Next, we bought a rope, harnesses, and belay devices and spent the winter rappelling out of our trees to become comfortable with the rope and learning our knots, etc. The kids and I then built a small bouldering wall in the shop to build grip strength. Finally, Jen and I hired a guide to learn to belay, set anchors, etc.
The two of us had to be in Boise for some outside commitments, so while there we spent a morning with Doug Colwell with Idaho Mountain Guides. This was a great time, giving us both confidence to get the kids out on some top roped routes. While we are nowhere near proficient at this point, we feel we are safe. Additional skills need to be gained to teach the kids, but we are progressing as a family and enjoying ourselves while we do it.
Your progression learning a sport as a family may look very different than ours, but the key is to go out and do it. Enjoy the outdoors in new ways. Push yourselves together as a family. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but work hard to do it right and safe so your kids will continue to appreciate all that being outside offers.