Rowan’s First Big Climb

Last weekend I took my oldest son (4.5 years) up a Flatiron in Boulder, CO. This was not a planned event nor a goal or even a wish on my part. It was more of an extension of my observing his interest in climbing. To be clear, I never suggest to my sons that we go climbing, nor do I ask them if they want to go. They have access to a garage wall at out house, to my Treadwall and to the thousands of sandstone boulders that surround our neighborhood. When they ask, I take them and when they don’t we go fishing or play ball or go on hikes or do crafts.

This last weekend was a three day weekend and a good opportunity for us. Rowan had been wanting to climb a lot lately and I gave him the chance either in the gym or outside in Unaweep Canyon. He would climb up the boulders at will and often need support on the first attempt and then redo the problem over and over on his own while I helped his brother throw rocks in the mud.

What I noticed was that he wanted to climb. He would go to the top of every boulder that he could (sometimes up to 25-30ft) and always asked to get on the highest walls at the gym. He would playfully smile his way to the top grabbing all the colors of the holds on the walls and even grab  a hanging quick draw when he couldn’t reach a good enough hold. He doesn’t have climbing shoes or carry chalk, but he climbs.

I like what I am seeing (not that he is climbing) but his passion for something and his commitment to try. Most of all I like that he is not restricted to a route or a color of a plastic hold on an indoor wall. He is just having fun. This was how it was when I began climbing at the New River Gorge. I didn’t have shoes or any equipment, I didn’t know that climbing in the sun didn’t help me on slopey or small holds, I didn’t have an agenda other than to try hard and have fun. Over the years, I enjoyed setting goals and accomplishing them. I had fun trying everyday, but the playfulness that I once had may have been pushed aside a little. As I watch my kids grow and change by the minute, I am glad for the opportunity to be apart of their journey of becoming who they are.

The Flatiron was just a blink for Rowan, but I kept my eyes open because it was pretty special. Like every climb for me, he cruised some portions, needed help on others and even cried a little in fear (I cry inside when I am afraid on routes). In the end though, he was asking when we could come back and do another big route. When that time comes, we will enjoy the planes flying overhead, the long and painful hike to the base of the wall, the crowds of other climbers inching their way up the wall, the scary unleashed dogs on the trail and the beauty of the area. Climbing is good so pass it along.

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