You've probably seen pictures of ice climbers, all decked out with sharp things strapped to their feet and more sharp objects in their hands as they tear their way up frozen waterfalls using said sharp objects. You may have even tried this crazy sport yourself. But most likely you've never thought of taking your kids ice climbing. If you haven't, you (and your kiddos) are missing out on an experience of a lifetime.
Ice climbing is a difficult sport, and like rock climbing, it requires mental strength as well as physical strength. Luckily our children naturally excel at both. If you're thinking of taking your children ice climbing there are a few things you should keep in mind before you go.
As with most outdoor activities there is a certain amount of risk that comes along with this. However, I firmly believe that like most things, ice climbing is as safe or as dangerous as you want it to be. Make sure they wear a helmet. ALWAYS. Especially at the base of the climbs to protect from falling ice. You want to make sure that either you or someone with you is experienced in judging ice conditions and setting up anchors for your child to top rope on. If you don't know anyone, there are many amazing guide services out there that you can work with.
Keep them warm and comfortable
A cold kid is an unhappy kid, and this applies to any outdoor winter activity. Dress them in layers like you would yourself. Companies like Smartwool and Icebreaker have great base layer options for kids. Also, bring hand warmers for them to keep in their mittens when they are taking a break from climbing. Bring a thermos full of hot cocoa for them to have, these are little things that can go a long ways to make or break your day out.
Get creative with gear
There isn't much made specifically for kids when it comes to ice climbing. You're going to have to get creative. They don't make mountaineering boots small enough for some kids, so use ski boots instead. They are already crampon compatible allowing for more options in that department; and they are considerably bigger than your child's foot which makes it makes it more likely you'll get a good fit with a crampon. You can find smaller tools like the Grivel Little Monster or Alp Monster that are more kid friendly or you can use a lighter tool with the extra grip on it so they can choke up on the tool when swinging it. When I took my son, he used a normal sized adult ice tool that just had a shortened shaft making it easier for him to handle.
Be encouraging, keep it fun
This is another no brainer, but sometimes we as parents can get overly invested in what our children are doing and we lose track of what's important — having fun. Ice climbing isn't for everyone. If your kiddo isn't having fun, don't push it. Let them run around and play in the snow and take a break from the climbing. You can always offer them another turn later on. If they want to climb and are struggling, make sure to be encouraging. Don't just tell them what to do, get up there with them and show them. And make sure that they know just exactly how awesome they are for doing what they are doing.
Pack in the H20 and sustenance
The approach hike can be difficult and the climbing itself is hard work. Your kiddos are going to be burning through the calories. Make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks. We don't always think about drinking water in the winter, but we still need to be vigilant about keeping our kiddos hydrated regardless of the season. Keep in mind that it's cold and things like Clif bars can become a solid block and hurt little teeth, though you can keep them tucked into an inside jacket pocket so they don't freeze. Pack a second thermos of their favorite soup, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are always a good option.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional, just an adventurous parent raising two adventurous kiddos. Climbing is an inherently dangerous sport and if you have any doubt about your abilities, do not hesitate to seek the professional services of a guide company.
-Haley is the mother of two children and writes about everything and anything to do with the outdoors at Climb Run Lift Mom.