Rock climbing can seem pretty intimidating, even downright scary. I mean who really wants to scale a vertical rock wall while relying on the safety of a harness and a seemingly thin rope. We do!! These days all sorts of people climb, young and old, guys and girls (even pregnant women). Rock climbing is becoming much more mainstream and accessible; it’s even been approved for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Whoop!
So how does a newbie family get started? If your family has little or no rock climbing experience here’s my beginner’s guide to learning how to rock climb with your kids.
Step 1: Find a Local Climbing Gym
For families wanting to learn how to rock climb, a climbing gym is the best place to start. Here you can rent equipment (shoes, harness, chalk bag), learn the basics of climbing and connect with other climbing families. Climbing gyms have programs in place for newbie families and kids. It’s the perfect place for kids (and adults) to gain confidence on a wall and feel comfortable being belayed and lowered on a rope. Most cities and bigger towns have at least one climbing gym. Here’s a list of climbing gyms in the Okanagan Valley:
- Beyond the Crux Climbing Gym (Kelowna, BC)
- Gneiss (Kelowna, BC)
- Hoodoo Adventure Climbing Gym (Penticton, BC)
- The Rock Garden (Vernon, BC)
For a worldwide list of indoor climbing gyms go to: World-wide Rock Climbing Gym & Artificial Wall Listing
Step 2: Learn the Fundamentals of Outdoor Sport Climbing (Take a Course!)
The transition from climbing in an indoor gym to climbing on rock is a big one, and the safest way to make this transition is to take a rock climbing course. A beginner rock climbing course will teach you how to belay, make anchor systems, stay safe and take care of your gear. These courses are offered by your local adventure company and usually rental gear is included. Depending on the ages of your kids you might be able to take a family rock climbing course.
Here are some companies in the Okanagan Valley that offer rock climbing courses:
Step 3: Get Geared Up
Somewhere between checking out the indoor climbing gym and taking a course you’ll likely have started accumulating climbing gear for your family. That’s great! Usually it starts with climbing shoes and harnesses for indoor climbing. Here’s a list a of the gear you will need to get started on your outdoor sport climbing adventures.: (* = be sure to try these on in the store for proper fit)
- climbing shoes* (for little kids or for bigger kids)
- climbing harnesses* (for little kids or for bigger kids)
- chalk bag + chalk
- locking carabiners
- belay device
- rappel device
- climbing rope + rope bag
- a guide book of your local crags
- a backpack to put it all in
- belay glasses (optional)
Step 4: Go Rock Climbing!
Once your family has gained confidence at the local gym, taken a rock climbing course and geared up – it’s time to go rock climbing! If you’re feeling nervous about getting out with your family I recommend teaming up with another experienced rock climber for your first times out. It’s always nice to have some extra helping hands, especially when there are kids climbing.
If you’re climbing at Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park in the Okanagan Valley, BC here are a few of our favourite spots to take our kids climbing: