Rock Climbing School for Kids
Dave Kelly disagrees."As in almost every sport, the earlier they start, the better." Kelly is Assistant Manager of the EMS Climbing School (603-356-5433) in North Conway, New Hampshire. There, the nearby White Mountains are used both to train beginners and refine techniques for more advanced students. EMS' day-long classes accept children from 6 years and up with an adult escort, though Kelly concedes most child students are 10-17 years old.
Experts stress that beginners of any age can gain self-esteem from the sport. Yet few schools even cater to pre-teens. At Colorado Outward Bound (800-243-8520 or 303-837-0880), 14 is the minimum age. Parents with children 14+ can climb together as participants in popular "family" courses in mountaineering and river rafting. At Pacific Crest Outward Bound (800/547-3312) in Oregon, rock climbing technique is taught in intensive week-long courses to students 16+. Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (360-569-2227 from Late May - September and 253-627-6242 from October - Mid May) runs the famous climbing program at America's tallest peak, in Washington State. Here, the serious study of rock, snow and ice climbing techniques is reserved for over-18's -- hardly children anymore!
Want to ensure that your childrens' interest in the sport lasts into adulthood? The experts all agree: Don't push them. John Ross sums it up best: "This is a self-selecting activity. A twisted arm is going to end up in a bruised psyche along the way. "
Chelsea Piers and many gyms with indoor walls charge $15-$20 for 60-75 minute classes. Outdoor climbing schools typically assign one instructor to three students; full-day rates run $110-$175 per person, including shoes and equipment. And whether you and your kids are new to the sport or ready to take on the moves seen in the IMAX film The Body, check out Gary Joyce's excellent Climbing With Children (Menasha Ridge Press, 800-247-9437, $12.95). His advice comes from years of experience, his easy-to-follow instructions about gear come from expertise, and his good humor comes from his mantra "Keep it fun!"
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication