Chris and Ryan have been rocking climbing at Vertical World and YMCA since November. Chris has been wanting to go rock climbing outside for a long time. When Chris’ family came down this summer, Chris, Bryan, Brianna, and Michael hired a guide and they went rock climbing at Mt. Erie. The guide was able to show Chris how to build an anchor and to set up top rope. Chris felt comfortable enough with this new knowledge that he really wanted to take Ryan climbing outside.
There are a lot of challenges for us climbing outside. 1) We need to find a place that is easy enough for us to climb. 2) We need to find a place that you can walk up to to secure your top rope, since Chris hasn’t learned how to lead climb yet. 3) We needed to find a place that is fairly close to home. 4) We needed to find a place that had a decent belay area because we have small kids, we don’t want them falling off a cliff. 5) We needed a place that was easy enough to get too. Not much scrambling, no cliffs, and not too far.
Chris found us a spot that met all those requirements at Exit 38. Exit 38 is just what the name says, its an exit off of I90 heading east. There is nothing out there (except climbing, and a fireman training thingamajig.) Its by a river in the middle of the forest. Chris made us wake up early for this adventure…I’m not a huge fan of waking up to an alarm (and I am normally pretty good at not needing one…but this was even earlier than the kids wake up early) so I wasn’t the happiest about that. I didn’t understand why we needed to wake up so early to go rock climbing. (I’ll admit it made a little cranky!) Chris was excited and anxious to get out the door so we hurried and we were out!
We pulled up to the lot and it was already semi full. I think it was only 7 in the morning, and we were lucky to get a good parking spot! I now know why we needed to get up so early! We went potty and the outhouse they had at the parking lot (fairly nice!) and we wandered until we thought we found the trail. We hiked along the river a ways until we went up and through the trees. Finally we could see big rocks in the distance with people climbing on them. (Not too sure how long the hike is, definitely less than a mile. We hiked it, in about 15 minutes with two whinny kids.) We had found what we were looking for! We were going to climb “Gritscone” and in particular we climbed “So Easy I Forgot to Laugh” an easy 5.5. Chris basically used part of this route to climb up to make an anchor for “So Funny I Forgot to Rope Up.” a 5.7. Ryan started off on the 5.7 and he was doing great! He was making it look so easy. We were so proud of him!
Lillian did good at hanging. She is still working on her fear of heights and she is getting a lot more comfortable on the rope. If she is willing to get on the rope and swing we are happy! After the kids climbed some Chris asked me if I wanted to try. I was going to say no, but I thought, “Why not try it?” Chris and Ryan both love it. Lillian I think will really like it in time. I don’t want to go just to sit around. So I put on my harness and tied in. I was terrible! Like awful! This was a super slabby climb, so no foot holds or hand holds. I basically made it a few steps up and just hung there. I wasn’t having it and I was done. Even though I was terrible and made it only about 5 feet off the ground I decided then and there that every time we went outside to climb, I would try. I would not put pressure on myself (that’s no fun for me.) and I’d do my best. If I only made it five feet, thats OK because I was trying! The thought of it was actually fun and I knew if I could at least have footholds and handholds I could get further than five feet.
After trying to rock climb, I guess I felt empowered and more comfortable or something because I offered to belay Chris. I had never learned how to do it, but I’d watched Chris do it a thousand times and I watched the youtube videos with Chris. I had him show me how to belay him. With his gri gri+ (a climbing device that you use when belaying. It basically as an automatic brake built in so it would be hard to let him fall.) and a quick lesson I was feeling confident enough to let Chris climb. Belaying was actually easy and it was even fun! It was fun to watch Chris climb, and I knew he was excited that he would be able to climb on our outings, not just belay Ryan! I was glad that I got brave enough to learn how to do it!
Now when Chris was belaying me while I was climbing, and while I was belaying him while he was climbing that left our kids pretty much unsupervised. I needed to pay attention to belaying Chris so he wouldn’t fall. Exit 38 is actually great for this. The belay area is huge and no danger of falling off a cliff so the kids were free to play. We also brought their tablets so they could play them while they were climbing and that worked great. I always had them in my peripheral and I was talking to them constantly so I knew they were safe and near me. We also brought them snacks so they were set up pretty well! We also knew that if we climbed in more steep locations and we needed to make sure the kids were very close to us (so they wouldn’t fall) we could tie them into our harness and we’d know they were safe. Luckily Exit 38 has huge belay areas, so that wasn’t necessary.
Before we left both kids climbed the 5.5 and had a good time with that one. Lillian could do it easily and made it fairly high and Ryan said that one was too easy! But it was fun to see them play on the rocks like a jungle gym! This outdoor climbing adventure was a huge learning experience for us, especially me and I knew with my new attitude of trying to climb, and learning to belay Chris it would open the door for even better climbing adventures in the future!
I would recommend Exit 38 to those with kids. There is a fairly easy hike to get there, and there is tons of space for kids to play while they aren’t climbing! The downside of it, for me, is that it is more in the middle of nowhere. I think we would have climbed longer if we could have taken a break by going to lunch somewhere or doing something else for a bit, then coming back out climbing, but that is just my personal opinion! I would recommend getting there as early as you can as it fills up! There was a steady flow of climbers coming in the whole time we were there!