The CragMama wrote a great post about the Rules for Ropes when taking babies rock climbing. I agreed with every one of these rules when I read it, and I’ve often had them in mind when planning our outings. Well, on our trip to Combat Rock, I think we managed to break every single one in a short, 3 hour afternoon. Pretty impressive, no?
Rule 1: Bring an experienced extra partner.
Weeks agreed to sneak out with us on this trip again. For him, this was pretty crazy. He just started physical therapy for his two messed up knees, and he was squeezing us in between Bingo in Longmont and Dinner in Denver. But the plan was just for one long, easy route on sunny rock on a late Sunday afternoon. What could go wrong?
Rule 2: Know the area.
We have actually climbed at Combat Rock before. I remembered a quick 30 minute drive, solid white granite, a long fun climb, a short straight-forward approach, and a nice, open, flat area at the base of the rock. Perfect! Except, I’m now pretty sure that I was remembering the wrong place.
We took more than 45 minutes to drive there, making us terribly late. And without any cell coverage in the canyon, Weeks had actually given up on us (we passed his car on the way out and flagged him down). That short, straight-forward approach turned out to be steep, loose, over-grown and have some interesting scrambling that I wasn’t thrilled to see Mark doing with G clinging to his back in the carrier.
Rule 3: Safe baby placement.
Ok, I have no idea what climbing area I was remembering, but the base of Combat Rock is not kid-friendly. It was covered in deadfall logs, loose rock, steep ledges and probably poison ivy. We couldn’t even get to the bottom of the route we wanted for all of the steep scrambling required, and since we were already running so late, Mark tossed the rope down “near” the climb and decided to just adventure his way up the wall.
Weeks belayed while G and I played with sticks and rocks. At one point, I handed the baby a rock, checked on Mark’s progress and then looked down to see my baby COVERED in ants! Freak out time!
Mark had the trad rack and a well featured rock. He just led up in the general direction of the route, and eventually found the bolts. This resulted in some bad rope zig-zags and awful rope drag as he got higher. In fact, he took the entire 200ft of rope to reach the anchors.
There are mid-height anchors to the left and down of our route, so Mark could do two rappels to get down. But he needed somebody to climb and clean behind him. This left Weeks and I staring each other down.
If I climbed, Weeks would have driven all this way just to belay and babysit. And he’d be chasing an energetic toddler through unfriendly woods for at least half an hour. If Weeks climbed, I could stay with G and make sure he was generally safe, but we’d be putting more strain on Weeks’ knees than he ever intended.
I made Weeks climb.
Rule 4: Expect extra nursing.
Ok, well, G was weened last summer, so I’m going to expand this rule to “Pack extra food.” Which we didn’t do, because we were supposed to be finished with the route by dinner time! I did pack some snacks and baby food tubes, so G had enough in his stomach to keep him happy for the evening. But Weeks didn’t make it back down from the route until well after 6p, and Mark and I weren’t back to the car until 7p. Oops, so much for dinner!
Rule 5: Don’t be a moron!
The CragMama laments those days before babies, where you could brag about being benighted on a climb, or an epic descent in a storm with lightening crashing all around you. Well, as Weeks was finishing up on Combat Rock, the clouds started pouring in, the sun was getting low and temperatures chilled rapidly. I brought just enough warm layers to keep us comfortable until we could get out of there, but no headlamps or hats or mittens.
Plus, I’m pretty sure that we blew the “Don’t be a moron!” rule right out of the water when we assumed we could do a 130ft pitch of bolted climbing in two hours on a Sunday evening. Yeah, that was far too optimistic.
In the end…
The crazy thing is, everybody had so much fun! Mark was in a fantastic mood all evening. He had a long, beautiful climb under his belt for the weekend. Weeks also really enjoyed the route, and loved that he could go from high on a rocky mountain top to dinner at a mexican restaurant in town in the space of an hour (Colorado is pretty neat). G slept amazingly well Sunday night after getting to play outside all evening with sticks and rocks and climbing gear.
Life is often about assessing and dealing with risk. And when it comes to kids, it is so easy to just cocoon yourself in safety and refuse to move outside of that comfort zone. But fate will always throw curves in your road, whether it’s an unexpected epic when climbing or an unexpected career change. And as my mom says, you can either slam on the brakes and refuse to continue, or you can take those curves on two wheels screaming “Woo-HOO!” the whole way!
Though, we won’t be climbing at Combat Rock again for quite a while.