After being robbed of two opportunities to get up the corridor last weekend due to work, I decided that it was going to be a climbing-rich weekend this week. Unfortunately, that spiteful wench, Mother Nature, decided to try and have an opinion too. After eight or nine days of amazing hot weather and sunshine, the weekend forecast started to look grim. Ever the optimist, however, I decided to take the promise of 'Saturday evening showers' very literally, and make plans to climb Saturday morning.
I have two daughters, 15 and 10 years old, and have been working on bringing them into the climbing world ever since December. My youngest is overwhelmingly enthusiastic, and jumps at any chance to climb, showing that legendary stubborness that seems to be a family trait. The older is less passionate, as her social circle has much more interesting activites available on a regular basis, which is certainly understandable at the age. I decided, however, that today would be a great day to get them their first experience outdoors.
At the last minute Princess Heather decided to bow out, citing the need for a spa day overcoming the need for a climb day. Uh-oh... Now here's a tricky situation... I belay. The children, not so much. Easy answer says that I need to head somewhere that I can set up top rope situations without leading any routes myself. There are certainly places that I can do that. I select Cal Cheak as my destination of choice for a number of reasons.
2. Super friendly climbing on Huckleberry Lane
3. Genereally very quiet location, shouldn't be rushed
4. Reasonablely short approach march
With that settled, we load up the car and hence forth. Upon arriving at the crag I quickly run up shelf road to set up top rope on A Walk on the Wild Side, a basic 5.5. I rappel down to the ladies and take stock of their preparations. The little one informs me that she's checked all the harnesses and everything is good to go. Can I climb first, please? Ok. Sounds good. She ties in and starts RUNNING up the rock, rapidly outpacing my belay and forcing me to shout at her to slow down! Once she's under control, I ask her sister to come over if she might like to learn a bit of belaying. She is interested, so I show her the correct technique to use a Gri-Gri. I totally have an ulterior motive here, because if she learns how to belay, I will be able to climb the routes when I want to move the rope to the next anchor.
Climb #1 in the books, we discover that letting go and lowering off are still the hardest part of climbing for a ten year old. It takes some serious coaxing to get her to remember proper technique for walking down, but we get there. Now sister has just informed me that she slept for about an hour last night, and hasn't eaten a bite yet today. Good. She is bowing out of climbing for the day, as she doesn't feel quite up for it. But she's excited to belay her little sister while she climbs.
Ok, here we go. Again the little monkey shoots up the route, trying to keep better movement with her feet despite the easy climb. Big sister has excellent technique on the Gri Gri, and I feel totally comfortable with her belaying. She lowers her sister off with control and skill, and it's gut check time for me. Do I walk up and around again, or do I trust the belay of a 15 year old? Not much of a choice, really. It's only a 5.5, but it's still climbing! Up I go, being careful not to hurry, and soon find myself at the anchor again.
Next up a big 5.6, A Little Bit of Squamish. Same result for the little one, although she takes a bit of pause at the steeper face. She's quite the climber, really. Up and over, using great underholds on the fractured flakes, she quickly and confidently moves to the top while her sister belays. A small spot of bother about half way up helps her learn that the shoes on her feet are totally excited to be helpful for her, and that's probably a very good thing.
The clouds are starting to look menacing, and time is ticking by, so I set up to tackle 'The Hard Way Home' which is a fun little 5.7 for the final climb of the day.
Again, she shoots up the start like a jackrabbit, outrunning her sister's belay, but quickly finds herself stumped. There's a tricky hole in the middle of this climb, and all of a sudden you're facing a spot where your body is forced into a very awkward position. Finally, something that slows her down. She struggles mightily, trying everything she can think of, before she's finally able to commit to a move that will bump her up to better holds. What an achievement!
I zip up to reclaim my gear one last time, quite enjoying my new belayer. I was tempted to take a little slip, just to see how she would react, but decided against it. Cleaning the station, I reflected on just how fun this might become. I rappelled off like I was thrown from the cliff, and had just finished coiling up the rope when I noticed that I had no quickdraws on my harness... Looked up and--DAMN. What nice decorations left behind on the wall.
What an idiot I am. I had to walk around and set up AGAIN on the same climb so I could retrieve my gear. Ah, Wade. Sometimes it's so easy to get lost in the moment. All packed up, and happy to share my passion with the next generation, we enjoyed a nice, relaxing car ride home.