/ Young climbers and trad leads/headpointing
Only half joking really. I make mental notes of holiday destinations every time I see an awesome photo or video of somewhere. Similarly I would expect that children who are into climbing will watch lots of online clips and when they see trad, decide whether they are interested in finding out about it. If they are, I'm sure they would ask the climbing community they are surrounded by and get into it that way.
What kind of a world would you like to live in ?
1) One where people take an interest in the safety of young people they don't even have anything to do with but with genuine motivations and a sense of concern at possible outside influences.
2) A world where people watch on line videos of young people climbing hard routes hoping for a You've Been Framed style fall and not giving a toss about the reasons why that child was on a potentially dangerous route.
All I know is I was trying dangerous ish routes up to E5 when I was 15 with not very much experience outdoors really and it did me no harm, if anything I think it made a massive impact on my climbing, those memories are some of the best I have and I enjoyed myself climbing more then I ever have since.
So many people go on about how wall climbers arent real climbers and should get out on real rock and go climbing, if the young climbers in question can already climb well and if something is well within the ability of the climber and they want to attempt it then I can't see an issue. Young climbers have been doing it for years, a friend of mine climbed E8 at 17 surly this is not much different really. people like dawes were doing hard things very young (maybe not 13 but that was a fair while ago now) No one is holding guns to anyone's heads and making people do it.
Young people bounce better.
These 'daily mail' style concerns to me illustrate the cotton wool society that was part of my motivation to be a climber in the first place (with a bottom up, stay at the bottom profile similar to yours). Unlike you, I celebrate children approaching trad climbing responsibly, with agreement of their parents (anyone who is not their guardian/parent who is climbing with them is in loco-parentis anyway). This potential irresponible behaviour just doesnt seem to be happening in significant quantities: just the opposite in fact the kids I know who trad climb seem to be benefitting in many ways from their particpation.
My father was a school judo peripatetic teacher and he helped channel quite a few 'very rough' kids energy through sport, which I know helped them become reponsible adults rather than most likely ending up in jail. I've climbed with kids from fun climbers to people who ended up in the british bouldering team and their approach to any significant risk seemed sensible enough (at least in the highest performer's case as it applied to his climbing). If I were you I'd be a lot more worried about gangs, knives, joy riding and other crazy shit that kids who need more excitement in their lives get up to.
When I was in my early teens, when we weren't mucking around on building sites, climbing scaffolding, jumping off roofs into builders sand, riding bmx (badly) over ramps we'd build ourselves, and climbing trees, we were filling ourselves full of alcohol, cannabis, barbiturates, speed, glue, gas and mushrooms. Sometimes we combined the two persuits.
Luckily, most of us survived. I broke my back once falling out of a tree, but other than that came away unscathed... but if I ever had children, I think I'd rather they were getting a buzz from learning to assess risk properly and push themselves to the limit trad climbing than following my path.
We should learn from other sports and 'coming of age' laws. For example in Judo, choke holds are not taught or used until kids reach a certain age. There are rules about when kids can leave school, how old they have to be to decide about medical procedures and when they car drive a car.
I'd say until they are 16 organised climbing should focus on improving technique and strength rather than dealing with serious danger. No problem with taking kids on well protected trad routes to learn about placing gear, ropework and so on. However, the organised sport should discourage elite under 16s competing with each other to see who can get the highest E number trad route in the same way as there is a competition to get to 8a on sport climbs.
"I'd say until they are 16...." You can say what you like, many young climbers and their parents disagree about trad climbing and it's their life and there is no mass evidence of harm from this. Again like The Mail you are trying to generate a moral panic from virtually thin air: there is no evidence whatsoever these young climbers with talent are problematic in the risks they take, let alone competing with each others for big E numbers. There is however a recognised problem with overtraining indoors and that has responses from the BMC and other organisations involved with junior competitions.
i think given the small numbers of people falling into the category, its unlikely that "mass evidence of harm" will ever exist
Bruce alluded to a case he said he was aware of where there was a fatality, but didn't provide any further details
society in general does accept that there are activities where participation below a certain age is restricted due to the risks and lack of capacity in legal terms to decide to be exposed to them
i don't know whether this does or should fall into this category, but i think accusations of Daily mail moral panic-mongering are unhelpful and polarise a valid debate
Any kid dying or getting hurt on a hard trad route would be headline news and there are plenty of ascents now. They seem to me to be making sensible choices and mainly climbing well within themselves (unlike millions of kids who do/did really stupid dangerous stuff in their young lives)
The Daily Mail alludes things all the time. I'm not saying Bruce is making it up but lets see the facts first.
Society age limits things based on evidence. There are lots of risk sports judged fine for kids as evidence indicates no requirement for a ban. I watched a junior judo comp the other day (my best mate had his team in a college down the road)...lots of minor bumps and a few sprains; way more than I see in a junior climbing comp.
but like i said, there is probably no evidence now. bold trad can generate low frequency but high consequence outcomes. the comparison to judo is perhaps relevant if Tom's assertion that techniques allowed in adult competition are banned for children. not sure about other sports; when are children allowed to compete in white water kayaking, or full contact rugby with scrums (i remember this at school, not sure what age i was, or if it has changed, its been a while!)
yes, the judgements are right nearly all the time, but no system of risk assessment is perfect, and the consequence of a rare misjudgement could be very serious. i'm sitting on the fence on this, but i can see valid arguments on both sides, and characterising people who take an opposing view as mail reading reactionaries looks uncomfortably like an ad hominem,
> However, the organised sport should discourage elite under 16s competing with each other to see who can get the highest E number trad route
Has this actually happened?
yes, kids will do dangerous stuff, its what they do!
the key point is society's response, and how formal participation is regulated
i dont know enough about how this is tackled in other areas to form a valid opinion re: trad climbing, but from a non-sport angle, a simple age limit is probably not useful, and it will depend upon the person. its a big responsibility on the shoulders of the adults supervising though,
When I was 13-14 years old I was in the British junior climbing team and was doing 7b'ish indoors. I did also get out on rock fairly early on, climbing with my dad and some locals at the wall. We never did anything super hard but I was leading VS to E2'ish routes and think I did the odd E3-E4 here and there after top roping. Even then though I had the same very conservative approach to leading as I have now, I didn't lead anything I wasn't sure I could do and if I'd top roped something harder I would have a good think before taking on the lead and only go ahead if I felt I had it wired enough. In fact I remember my dad being a lot more gung-ho with trad than I was, at the age of 12 I stopped him on a 30ft lead fall at Trowbarrow just a few feet off the deck with me in the air tight against the sling anchoring me to the ground due to him setting off up a wide crack with no big gear :)
So I wouldn't be surprised if young teenagers operating in the mid to higher E grades today take a surprisingly grown up attitude to their trad head pointing etc.
The only issue I'd take and I'm not sure if this applies directly is kids (or adults)is getting strong in the wall then just moving directly onto the rock not knowing how to place gear or rig belays and assuming them can jump strait on E grades, but once you are sure you know what you're doing there is no reason not to step up to stuff that is closer to the limit of what you can actually climb. I reckon in the UK a lot of climbing talent is wasted by people spending years in the sub VS level grade range thinking they have to serve some kind of apprentice before getting E grades done. I've taken a few friends out climbing most of which were doing HVS - E1 within their first season.
It's almost as if there is no right or wrong answer and things have to be judged on an individual basis. How will we cope with that on an internet forum ? ;0)
As for the Judo rules, what if you have a judo prodigy who is good enough to compete internationally at 15 ? They would be at a major disadvantage ( i guess, i know nothing about judo ). Would the judo community accept they are a different case and allow them to learn the choke holds ?
I think it's a similar case with kids who are able to soak up the learning and have a natural ability in climbing. They are different than the 'norm'.
Kids who are gifted in certain areas, and show the appropriate maturity, will be able to cope with the decisions needed. Who decides they have the maturity ? The adults who look after them.
A young, gifted, climber may well believe they are invincible and want to onsight E10. I am sure parents/coaches etc. would reign them in.
That's it in a nutshell i reckon - simple ;0)
> Has this actually happened?
Not as far as I know. But I think it is a likely consequence of reports like "13 year old climbs E6". There will be 14 year olds in the elite group thinking they should be climbing E7 to stay competitive and 12 year olds wondering if they can get to E6 even younger.
People deck out and get serious injuries on sub E grade climbs all the time, climbing carries a danger regardless of technical difficulty. I'd rather send a kid up a bold E4 I knew he could walk up than a weaker kid up a bold HS I reckoned he'd 50-50 fall off any day.
+1 and well said.
debate was triggered because it was a bold E grade climb i think
otherwise, entirely agree,
I have been helping a young very good sport climber try trad climbing, and the approach we have taken is to use easy climbs, around s-vs to prectice gear palcement. The problem lies in the easier climbs being regarded as "scrambles" being so far below their technical ability (comfortable 7b outside with one 8a redpoint). We have had the odd excursion to HVS/E1. The vague plan is try the bottom end E grades next year (E1-3). No real rush to chase high E numbers.
What does concerm me a little is any race to become the youngest to try so and so. I think is where the adults/more experienced climbers have to get involved and help manage risk/expectations
> As for the Judo rules, what if you have a judo prodigy who is good enough to compete internationally at 15 ? They would be at a major disadvantage ( i guess, i know nothing about judo ). Would the judo community accept they are a different case and allow them to learn the choke holds ?
In Judo (national as well as international) you are limited to your own age category for exactly that reason. At the youngest competition levels chokeholds, armlocks, counterthrows towards the back and a whole bunch of other techniques are banned. They are then gradually introduced in older age classes (IIRC counterthrows first). Of course you train these things before you reach the age bracket where they become legal.
The key difference to climbing is that these Judo techniques endanger your opponent not yourself, hence the much more urgent need for regulation. That said, I will certainly not let my son climb some high E grade chop route (or the Elbe sandstone equivalent) in two or three years time, even if he might by then technically be able to do it.
"but like I said there is probably no evidence now." but like I said there is: quite a few kids have done mid extreme headpoints (not that the grade matters it's the ability vs grade that is the real issue) and these folk usually fit in the competition scene and youth coaching of their local walls and national bodies and are surounded by experinced wise heads. Hence, it seems to me you're the one ignoring the existing views that trad is OK for kids with good guideance and parental permission. The irony is this view of yours, and the way you argue it, is itself a form of ad hominem attack; one which is common in the Mail when dealing with expert views they don't like. Bring me some critics who climb with or train high perfomance kids and think there are serious problems with current trad approaches, or accidents stats that relate to poor risk assessment in trad and I might change my mind.
good grief, offwidth, are you having a bad day or something...?!
i may not train high performance climbers, but my work involves dealing with low frequency, high consequence events, the sort that often make at least local news if mistakes are made; so risk assessment in high stakes situations is something i am very familiar with
and just because no one has got seriously hurt yet doesn't mean very much in this context, other than to say that its is still a small group of participants overall, and the supervision is clearly good and know what they are doing. however, no one calls it right 100% of the time though, and with enough participants and enough time, problems may well occur at some point
that doesn't mean its the wrong approach, and i'm not actually arguing against under 16s participating in this sort of climbing. if you'd read my other posts you'd see i don;t have a strong view one way or other, and something like the current approach is a sensible way to work
but that doesn't mean that there are not valid concerns about the role of publicity and sponsorship, and how this may develop in future- the story that started this was a story because of the age of the climber- or that people who disagree with you are worthy of character slurs,
> [> Has this actually happened?]
> Not as far as I know. But I think it is a likely consequence of reports like "13 year old climbs E6". There will be 14 year olds in the elite group thinking they should be climbing E7 to stay competitive and 12 year olds wondering if they can get to E6 even younger.
But if it's a not a problem with them climbing harder then it's not a problem if they want to compete over it.
yes, it does, self evidently, and our legal system recognises this.
but age is more than just a number, and the legal system increasingly recognises this too eg gillick competency (though its not meant to be called that any more...)
climbing gives young people a maturity to judge risks like this
yes, i agree, and i seem to be being mistaken for someone that's against this!
i'm not, but its not just as simple as "if they're good enough, they're old enough" either
other sports must have had to deal with this issue, we've heard about judo, what do other sports where there is an element of risk do? eg kayaking, rugby, boxing, horse riding...?
Don't know what age you can go pro in boxing but they have the amateur headguards and bigger gloves as amateurs.
A lad i went to school with turned pro at rugby at 16. I don't think he played for the 1st XV at that stage but was paid ( in kind at that time with things like driving lessons and his first car ) and certainly played in senior games. I would expect there is a 16 yr rule for it but am not certain.
I started rugby at 11 and can't remember it being anything other than full contact with scrums from the start. It never did us any harm, apart from when that scrum collapsed and my collar bone snapped.
Why pick on high performance young climbers, why not look into something more risky that's not regulated first, where there are plenty of reported accidents: young people riding horses or open water swimming or kayaking? There are potential risks in many sports, we all know this and accidenst will happen but just saying this isn't getting us anywhere useful. The usual context these kids climb in is lower risk than I suspect some folk understand (because they dont know how talented they really are and the limits imposed on them by parents and older climbing peers and the training and coaching support they recieve). Why I am a little passionate is I know some of these trainers and some of the young climbers and know their parents care greatly and like-it-or-not some postings seem to hint at irresponsible behaviour based on pure speculation when I see just the opposite. Also because of my background where the not insignificant risks of the sport I grew up with in my family (Judo) saved kids I knew from the social dustbin and who now are professionals and still good friends. Go to any poor area in the UK and look around the rough estates and see what kids there face: climbing is one of the ways out... the excitement attracts but the discipline for those hooked can change people's lives.
offwidth, i think your passion and personal connection is skewing the way you are reading this thread. i'm not 'picking' on anyone, and the reason climbing is being primarily discussed is that this is ukclimbing and we are climbers...!
if you look at my posts, i have specifically asked for info from anyone involved in other sports to see how they address the issue of risk for young participants in the games they play. and i fully appreciate the potential transformative experience that climbing and other sports may bring to peoples' lives. but low risk does not = no risk, and i think its reasonable for people to raise this as an issue, without saying the adults directly involved are being reckless or bad parents
i've missed the hints of irresponsibility on this thread, didnt follow the others closely, the concerns i've read people raise are how the involvement of sponsorship and undeniable media interest may or may not influence things in future.
in other sports, where big money is at stake, there are cases where parents *have* failed to put the welfare of children first. i am categorically *not* saying thats whats happening here, but to deny that there is the potential for it to happen in future is risky to my mind, and an open discussion, without name calling or points scoring, over the participation of children in the riskier aspects of climbing strikes me as a good idea,
What percentage of the many more parents in the inner city have failed to put the welfare of their children first compared to those in sport?? Sponsorship and media are nice easy targets but some folk need finance to help them focus on their sport, those who will gain most often need the cash most.
I also get outdoors trading atleast once a fortnight (obviously not now) and im now leading about E3. I have never seen anyone else my age trad climbing though? Strange.
The '6b' move will likely be solid 6c for someone of his reach and the E6 bit will still be very soft as E6 headpoints go: you commit at the crux to reach a jug and then face an easyish 6a unprotected arete above a bad landing that is not technically hard for an E6 to start with and easier still when you know how. I'm a complete punter and attempting to second this route nearly got the crux after a few goes then pulled over it after a few more tries as my fingers were fading. I then flashed the arete section with tiredish fingers and failed on the finish (common with an E2) as I didn't realise it was a dyno for most. I know this route from personnal experience (etched in you might say) as a 'less talented climber' and know someone who is a technical star probably won't struggle at all to headpoint it. The world in general is usually clueless on risk issues as faced by climbers.
I doubt it. Most of the hard climbing kids I see at the walls I doubt very few of them are even remotely interested in outdoors in the same way the young ones in my gym are not interested in olympic weight lifting either. There are a lot of factors at play with younger folk such as initial cost, transport to and from crags, balancing with the social life a kid and teen normally has, age restrictions with joining climbing and mountaineering clubs etc. I can't imagine I will ever see the group of 15 lads with their tops off at the TCA in glasgow week in week out standing about at Auchinstarry in the rain, muck, dust and midges fiddling about with gear. Different scene.
> What percentage of the many more parents in the inner city have failed to put the welfare of their children first compared to those in sport?? Sponsorship and media are nice easy targets but some folk need finance to help them focus on their sport, those who will gain most often need the cash most.
In reply to Offwidth:
i think we are talking at cross purposes
bad behaviour in one area doesn't condone it in another
again, and labouring the point to destruction, not suggesting there has been any bad behaviour here
i thought with the creation of this new thread, there might be room for a sober evaluation of the issues around the subject, setting aside personal allegiances, and extrapolations from personal experience to represent all possible scenarios; considering the way other sports manage issues of risk and young participants; and considering potential impacts money and the media may have in future; but it would seem that there isn't.
i've said a number of times, i have no preconceived view on it, and am not opposed to well supervised involvement, though it does worry me that the very small but real risks of this do not appear to be being openly acknowledged.
anyhow, its no personal matter to me, i'm not gifted enough to have to worry about this myself, and its unlikely any of my kids will be! so i'm not sure i've much more to add on the subject,
My line is that risk assessment itself is risky in isolation and if on the whole the life benefits for someone increase significantly because they become fulfilled and responsible that's overall a good thing they took that risk. There is little point tackling the small bad bahaviours before the monster ones within the same system. Although not often in the monster size there are still bigger issues in the way some beginners are introduced to climbing than the comparitively careful handling of young stars learning trad. Reducing risks is complicated in climbing anyhow, as it's part of why we climb (similar in some other sports too).
It's pretty insulting to suggest because some are passionate about views partly because of knowing people functioning in this area responsibly, that said views become worthless. It is also pretty naive to expect just 'sober debate' here on UKC.
You talk about lacking preconceptions then worry about these mysterious characters not openly acknowledging risks with young stars. I really can't understand where these folk are, as if anything the young high performers and their entourages that I've met seem way better in honesty in this respect than the average climber. Climbing is dangerous and they know it and don't intend to get hurt if they can avoid it.
Anyhow, I meant to link this earlier but forgot:
Im sure they would welcome further ideas and constructive critisism.
Youngsters can be introduced to outdoor trad climbing through courses, where they are under the supervision of adults. Or informally by more experienced climbers, who will probably be adults. But if they just grab some gear and head for a crag, how do you propose to stop them?
Personally I've enjoyed hearing about others' experiences of being introduced to climbing at relatively high levels; I'm still not sure about how the sport would be judged by those outside climbing, and management of risk with super-talented youngsters. I would still rather be a 12 year old climbing a 6a headpoint than an adult watching them, but I would agree that broad generalisations, and anything stronger than guidelines would be ineffective and probably unnecessary.
> But if they just grab some gear and head for a crag, how do you propose to stop them?
I don't think anyone is saying young climbers should be stopped from climbing hard/dangerous trad routes - if they are well under 16 it's up to their parents and coach. Older kids could just go somewhere with their friends and climb a route without asking anyone.
The potential problem is when success of a young climber on a hard trad route gets reported and forms part of the climbing CV in the same way as competition wins or success on difficult sport routes. This could set a benchmark for the level of danger kids have to accept if they want to keep up with their peers in the 'elite' group.
This is a troll, right?
What "support mechanisms" do they need, except perhaps a lift in the car for those who live far from the crags?
Can you back this claim up with any sort of evidence? I disagree that this exists.
*Could* - Again based on what evidence? This seems completely anecdotal.
These kids are young talents and get help from all sorts of folk (mainly on indoor stuff). You should know better for taking pot shots at kids: cheap and sad.
I'm not taking potshots at the kids, that's a dishonest remark as you know if you have read what I've posted, I've said just the opposite on the other thread... I'm taking potshots at people like you who I think are advising them badly - hiding behind the kids rather than accepting the comments for yourself is what is "cheap and sad".
If you really wanted to "help" them, you'd be helping them get out of torrid spots like indoor walls and into the hills so they could get into proper climbing. The money they'd save on walls could help pay for the gear and petrol but at their age they can't drive.
And as for their need of coaching, judging by the results already they could be giving pointers to most adults on the climbing side.
> Can you back this claim up with any sort of evidence? I disagree that this exists.
I'm saying that competition is likely to develop as a result of reports like "13 year old climbs E6" not that it has already developed. It's a prediction about the future not a factual statement about the past.
The evidence that "13 year old climbs E6" this year is likely to motivate a 12 year old to try and climb E6 next year is the entire history of climbing and competitive sport and in particular the immediate history of young climbers getting to F8a on sport routes.
Lets be clear... I don't advise or train talented kids; Ive just seen this happening and don't see any major problems. I have climbed with some kids along with their parents or friends and mainly outside. I have also had a long standing interest in University clubs being a gear sec and trip organiser for over a decade: so the safe introduction of students to climbing became a keen interest of mine and explains part of why I became involved with guidebooks and the BMC. I've seen plenty of problems with student clubs and through my guidebook work with school kids in outdoor groups...lets deal with those real problems first rather than fantasy problems about our young talents.
I have no clue why you would regard an indoor wall as a torrid spot...a very odd view indeed. They are a good place to go when it rains, a useful training resource an ideal quick hit if you don't live in the hills and if your not wealthy and in a city away from any crags often the cheapest way to climb.
As for the coaching, like the climbing it's their genuine choice whats the problem?
It seems to me the ones running the greatest risks aren't the highly talented youngsters doing what are probably carefully assessed routes under the supervision of extremely competent and experienced older climbers. It's the average climbers who receive little or no coaching, who go out with adults who don't have much idea themselves, or who go out unsupervised who are more likely to get into trouble.
This isn't a regulated sport and you can't stop people from climbing routes because they're too young - there isn't a body with that authority, and there's no way of preventing it anyway. Equally you can't prevent significant ascents from being reported - even if this were desirable and if UKC and magazines imposed self-censorship it would still get out on the internet.
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