28141 Diehl Road
18120 Harwood Ave.
North Wall Rock Climbing Gym
824 S. Main St.
Chris Claytor has been rock climbing for years, so when he and his wife Kelly had kids, it was only natural that their children join them on their adventures. Caitlin, 13, began climbing as soon as she was old enough to fit into a child’s harness, with Colin, 7, joining in later.
"We started them off on indoor facilities, where the risk is pretty well managed," says Chris, of Mt. Prospect. "It’s a fairly safe sport as adventure sports go."
With rock climbing’s popularity rising along with new walls at local gyms and schools, more families are turning to this sport as a healthy way to spend time together. "It’s really a sport for anybody and kids can start climbing pretty soon after they start walking," says Scott Williams, facility manager for Vertical Endeavors in Warrenville. "Once we can get them to fit into a full-body children’s harness, they can start scampering up the wall."
To get started, Williams recommends finding a facility devoted strictly to climbing. These gyms generally have automatic belaying systems that retract the rope automatically and gently let climbers down to the ground if they slip or get tired and let go.
"If a facility has automatic belay systems, families can get introduced as a whole and can climb next to each other," Williams says. But even before families strap themselves into harnesses, Williams says they should ask questions and get information about the facility’s climbing program.
"If you don’t feel comfortable after speaking or investigating, then that’s someplace you don’t want to invest in," Williams says. "Climbing is inherently a dangerous sport, so to control the environment and minimize the risk, you have to put some faith in the facility. If they’re top notch, they should be able to prove it."
Climbing generally runs about $15, with rental gear another $5-$10 per person.
"It’s not going to cost any more than taking your family to a movie," Williams says. "You can have a fun, family-based physical alternative. We’re a little bit more fun and adventurous than bowling."