Climbing, with kids!

Laura holding Cala on a sport climbing day at the Red.

We are super psyched to bring you another feature on a kickass climbing mom. We recently interviewed Laura, a mother of two (4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter), who is also a passionate climber. She and her husband have continued to get outside and climb with their kids since their firstborn was just 5 weeks old. Last year they even made a trip to Bishop and Yosemite (with a then 3-year-old boy and 15-month-old girl)! Laura blogs about her experiences on ClimbwithKids.com, but we wanted to find out just a little more about how her climbing life has changed with kids 🙂 See our interview with her below!

Name: Laura Miller
Age: 34
Years climbing: 10
Favorite type of climbing: It’s a tie between sport climbing and bouldering.
Children: 2 – a boy (4) and a girl (2)

What was your climbing lifestyle like before kids? My husband and I met at a climbing gym in Philly and took our vacations to Hueco Tanks, Colorado, Utah, Red Rocks, West Virginia, Rumney, the Gunks, etc.  We even honeymooned in Sardinia, (a great climbing & beach destination).  At first, we were just out of college/grad school and didn’t really feel like we had the time or money to go on a regular basis.  At the time, we were trying to be responsible, money saving adults. Blah.

Cala and Ryder hanging in a hammock at Roadside RRG

How did it change after Baby 1? Our first trip (with a 5-week-old Ryder) was to Cooper’s Rock in West Virginia.  My husband and a friend went bouldering while I hung out with them (and got on one or two easy climbs) carrying the baby in a Bjorn for the day.  I was totally worried about snakes & ticks but since he was so little he didn’t get put down much.  After that, I felt pretty out of shape and it took a while to feel like going climbing outdoors again. Work/life didn’t include climbing on a daily basis, particularly since the closest gym is 45 minutes away.  When my son was 10 months old I finally felt like I was fit enough to get on some real rock.  We took a week-long trip to Red Rocks, and brought my cousin out to nanny for us so that we could get some kid-free climbing in. We stayed in a condo/timeshare and it was the perfect family time/climbing time combination.

How did it change again after Baby 2? Of course, right when I was back in shape from the first, I became pregnant with the second. They are 20 months apart.  I am admittedly not hardcore enough to climb much while pregnant.  I didn’t enjoy it because I’d get so nervous.  I would mess around indoors on the boulders, but I wouldn’t go more than a few feet off the ground (and I’d down-climb) nor would I rope up.  I’m also a terrible pregnant person (super sick/nauseous/tired the whole time). Power to those women that can do it, but I’m just not one of them. After Cala was born I was so excited to get back on the rock I was quick to get back in shape and back outdoors.

What kinds of climbing trips have you taken with the kids? When Cala was 15 months (and Ryder was 3) we took them to Bishop and Yosemite for a 2-week climbing vacation.  Best vacation ever. We rented an RV . . .you can actually read the entire trip report on the blog (I created a separate section with just that trip) here: http://www.climbwithkids.com/2010catripreport

Camp IV, Yosemite with kids!

Do you take trips without the kids? I took a girl’s trip last year (kids stayed home with my husband) to Rumney. I think there’s something to be said about taking the time to climb without the kids now and then, too.  I found the Rumney trip gave me my individual climbing mojo back (I found it to be so empowering/motivating for me to climb with another woman – particularly since my partner had more stamina than I did/do). It’s definitely easier to climb at the upper limits of my abilities without kids around.

How do you manage the kids at the crag? Each crag is different.  We either have company (about ¼ of the time) or we make sure that we are at a safe location. Safe for us means no drop offs, no deep water, no falling rock etc.  Bouldering is clearly easier to manage as you aren’t tied in with limited mobility for emergency interventions.  Our kids are currently too mobile and too little to leave unattended or trust without supervision so we just have to keep one eye on them the whole time.  Here are our “deal breakers” when choosing a crag (and other problems we’ve encountered) link: http://www.climbwithkids.com/blog/2011/5/8/no-risk-no-reward-what-are-appropriate-risks-for-your-childr.html

Are your ways of keeping the kids safe and occupied constantly evolving? Absolutely.  Each age is so different.  It was definitely easier with one (less to carry) in some ways, though they are such good friends now that they entertain each other extremely well. As they get older, we’ll be able to trust their sense of self-preservation more.  For now, we have to avoid areas that aren’t kid friendly.

Ryder climbing in the garage

Do your children show any interest in climbing themselves? It’s funny to see how they take to the different types of climbing. They climb “kids sized” boulders outside (with a spot and a crash pad). Their climbing pursuits are really fueled by what they can jump off of, as they enjoy jumping off the boulder more than they do climbing it.  They rope up indoors occasionally but not on every visit.  It’s fun to see that they actually have technique (flagging, shifting their weight, turning their hips).

What have you found to be most challenging about climbing with kids? With kids, your attention is always split between climbing and making sure the kids aren’t falling off boulders, wandering away, getting stuck in trees, wandering underneath other climbers, and any other possible hazard a 2 and 4 year old can create for themselves. You can imagine how difficult it is to focus on leading a challenging route if the kids are yelling “mommy, mommy.”  Or how it breaks my husband’s concentration if I yell, “Ryder, don’t run under daddy while he’s climbing”.  Focus.  That’s the most challenging.  Oh, and the extra work it is to go with the kids.  One time in particular, I was so tired from the hike in (carrying a child without a pack) that I couldn’t climb. How annoying!  Also, we’ve changed our expectations. A good “day” of climbing used to be sun-up to sun-down with lots of sends, and all day at the crag.  Now a good “day” of climbing is a few hours of outdoor family time with a bit of climbing in the middle and happy, tired, dirty kids at the end.

What is the most rewarding part of climbing with kids? Doing what we love while with the coolest/best (little) people in our lives. We’re showing them the country, one forest/crag/park at a time.   I think that they’d say the best is the tent.  And getting dirty. Oh, and having lots of mommy/daddy days in a row.

What advice would you give to mothers of toddlers looking to take the kids outdoors for fun (for all!)? Change your expectations.  We can’t expect toddlers to hike for miles and/or occupy themselves for hours.  You might not get in as many climbs. Or climb quite as hard.  Some days you’ll be lucky to finish the warm up. It’s all worth it.

Thank you so much for sharing, Laura! We’ve been getting a lot of great feedback from Chicks who really appreciate hearing from women that their climbing life doesn’t have to be put on hold if they decide to have kids – it will just change in many different ways, which by all accounts from Laura and Erica last week – is a really good thing 🙂 Follow Laura’s adventures climbing with kids on her blog here, on Facebook here, or on Twitter here.

Are you a mom that has climbed with kids? We would love to hear from you too! Please drop a note at chicksclimbing[at]gmail.com if you’d be willing to talk with us at Chicks!

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