Things to yell at your kids while they’re top roping

Things to yell at your kids while they’re top roping

“Stick your legs out! You’re going to scrape against the rock if you don’t….. stick your legs out!”

We took the kids climbing today at a local crag and it was reasonably successful. I had low expectations which always helps. They had a fun time and we spent most of the day outdoors, which is a success in my books.

As an adult and someone that is familiar with ropes, I don’t really think about it anymore, but rock climbing is weird! Rock climbing takes a lot of trust, in your partner, in the anchor, and in the gear. You can have complete trust in your partner or the anchor, but if you don’t trust that the gear is safe then the whole thing falls apart.

Most adults can look at a rope, and a harness, and some big metal rings and think “ok, this is good. If I fall the rope will go tight and the person on the other end will catch me. I’m good with this.” Kids don’t have that level of thinking, and even though I want to, we shouldn’t expect them to. They know that they are wearing a harness, which is tied to a rope which connects to another person whom they implicitly trust. However they don’t see the system as a whole, as a thing that will keep them safe.

So when my five-year-old son climbed up 50′ I was amazed, I was proud, I was elated! He totally crushed that 5.4!

Me: Ok let go of the rock, and lean back on the rope like we practiced!

(did I mention that we practiced at home? We set up an anchor in our unfinished basement and made them practice getting lowered. At home they did great!)

Logan: No! I don’t want to fall!

Me: You won’t fall, just stick your legs out like we practiced and I’ll lower you down

He holds tight to the harness and moves into a pencil shape: legs stiff and straight down, arms clenched against his belly

Me: If I lower you like that you’re going to scrape your whole face against the rock! It isn’t going to feel good, just stick your legs out.

To his credit, we managed to walk him down about 30′ of the route until the big bumpy steps ran out and he became completely stuck.

Me: You can do it, you’re doing great! (this was clearly a lie, but I hoped he’d fall for it… they sometimes do)

Me: I’ll eat all your snacks if you don’t come down (eats a some gummy bears we brought for bribes)

Me: I could tie this rope to the tree and go home you know?!

As much fun as it was yelling to him from the ground we clearly weren’t going to get anywhere this way. Fortunately, we had another top rope set up on a sporty little 5.5 next door which the younger girls (4 & 4.5) had been doing laps on. Another adult tied in and went up to rescue the poor stuck little boy.

It’s easy to forget how scary big things can be for little kids, and it’s good to remember that they’re doing their best up there. It’s also fun, just once in a while, to eat their snacks while they’re crushing a 5.4.


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