Bringing Up The Boy
by Scott Peterson
It was a problem that would take some figuring out… My son had just started climbing with me and I wanted to give him the multi-pitch experience. But how to do it safely? I mulled over the logistics and what skills I was able to teach him up to this point. The plan started coming together after I found a competent climbing partner. I decided that we would climb as a party of three, with Noah, my son, climbing second and my partner John cleaning the route. The route would be the South East Face of Beacon Rock. This is a classic 5.7 route with only one pitch of actual 5.7.
My theory is that the more familiar people are with how the system works the safer they feel and the better they are able to climb. So, to prepare Noah we had been top roping with him belaying me for some time. He was familiar with rope management and his basic climbing skills were practiced. To assist him with what he would be required to as the second climber, I set up a ground school in the back yard. I slung runners on various objects in the yard. I clipped the rope through all these placements and put Noah on belay. With Noah trailing the second rope I had him unclip the lead rope and then clip the trailing rope that was attached to his harness with a locking carabiner to the carabiner on the runner. I talked him through how the system worked and how he would have to pay attention to the rope. We practiced this until he was comfortable with it.
I got him all psyched up and ready for the climb. I told him you make it to the top of this one and you will be changed.
Then I told him we would need to get an alpine start. He asked, “What’s that?” I brought him up to speed on what it meant. We would be up at 3:45 and in the car by 4:00 am. We would need to meet John at 5:00 at the parking lot.
We got to the parking lot, sorted our gear and set out on the climbers’ trail. We were on the rock by 6:00 am. John led out and we all got to the crux pitch. I planned on leading this and belay both John and Noah up at the same time with a Reverso. It was a good plan, except I put in too many pieces and did not get a very good line for the rope to follow. Rope drag… it was awful. It was like doing squats in the gym to get the rope to move. We got it done though.
I could hear Noah below me yelling up “Daddyeeeee!” He was frightened. I felt terrible. I thought that maybe I had traumatically scarred him for life. It turned out that John literally pulled him up and over the crux with one hand pulling Noah and the other on a crimper. We couldn’t have pulled it off without John. But, we all got to the belay and Noah was fine. He was laughing and joking. Really being a riot.
John led off on the next pitch and we were in it again with Noah in the middle. He was climbing slowly, but was getting it done. I led the 6th pitch and when Noah started up I was surprised how fast he was coming up. I looked down and he saw me. He was on a slab of rock and yelled up, “Hey, Dad check out this new move. It’s called a body smear.” He was laying spread eagled on the rock using the friction of his whole body. I roared with laughter.
We finally made it to the top and were told by a reliable source that Noah being 12 years old was probably the youngest climber to have finished that route. It was a very long day. It took us a total of 11 hours to finish the climb. It was a banner day for a boy and his Dad. I am so proud of him. I was able to share my love for climbing with my son and we have something we can remember for the rest of our lives. There were some enormous lessons I was able to teach him – climbing is such a great sport for that. So, I am still bringing up the boy, and we are doing it together.