Growing up in northeastern Ohio in the 1980’s with a climber in the family was rare. That was not my experience. I participated in traditional sports and never learned about rock climbing until I was nearly 19 years old. So I have only been able to share climbing with my family through stories, photographs, and short video clips that I have taken over the years.
That is not the case today. Over the past 20 years, climbing has evolved from a fringe activity for the eccentric and artistic, into a sport for the youth, a reason to be outside immersed in nature, and an engaging and fun way to remain athletically active for the masses. There are gyms in nearly every major city in the U.S. and climbers are exploring, establishing and securing outdoor climbing space every single day.
This being the case, my two sons and I climb together. We share the climbing experience inside at the local climbing gym once or twice a month and outside whenever they ask. I climb with 4 and 6-year-old boys who have been playing on rocks for as long as they could crawl. Being a Sterling Athlete and rope user means that I can focus on my boys and not on the gear needed to climb. They began wearing their street shoes, (until we destroyed them and real climbing shoes were encouraged) full body harnesses, and bike helmets. Top ropes were set on off-the-beaten track boulders and random cliff lines and away they climbed.
I never worried about them getting hurt while on the top rope. I always used a static line for them since swinging from an overhang was just as fun as trying to climb it. The durability and abrasion resistance of a modern, well-designed rope takes your mind off the safety on the fun.
This summer my sons are turning 5 and 7 and wanting to lead. The soon to be 7-year-old took his first lead falls on a couple routes that I recently bolted and he wasn’t concerned with the rope catching him. Instead, he was trying to figure out how to get to the top. When you trust your gear and your family trusts your gear then, and only then, are you free to focus on what’s important.
"Watch Rob Pizem's son Rowan climb his first tower"