Papa, when can we go ice climbing?

I've climbed a lot of ice over the years, but since my kids were born I haven't been doing much, preferring to spend my personal time on the rock. Then last fall the ice formed up like I hadn't seen in a decade, and I had to dust off my tools. After I came home from the first ascent of an ice climb on the Diamond on Longs Peak, my 6-year-old daughter asked me, "Papa, when can we go ice climbing?"

Now, her question made me ask myself the question, "Is it safe to take a 6 year old ice climbing?"

Well, if it was to Vail on a busy weekend, perhaps not, but considering my dad took me ice climbing for the first time when I was about her age, and instilled an acute sense of risk in me from the time I was a little boy which has probably kept me alive in crazy adventures all over the globe, I decided we should give it a try.

I took apart an old pair of crampons and wired them together to fit her ski boots.

And today we went chippin'.

The first go, she didn't use a tool, and just focused on her feet.

The first go, she didn't use a tool, and just focused on her feet.

Then she discovered the best thing about ice climbing: tea with lots of honey in it!

Then she discovered the best thing about ice climbing: tea with lots of honey in it!

Then it was time to get a little jiggy with it. Glad I saved my old hummingbird hammer from the 80s. Perfect for the little arms.

Then it was time to get a little jiggy with it. Glad I saved my old hummingbird hammer from the 80s. Perfect for the little arms.

Then, I thought she'd be done. But no, she had her eye on the mixed climb to the left and had to have a go on it as well. Then she did it 3 more times. At this point, I began to wonder what kind of monster I'd unleashed. Not only was she climbing ice and rock in crampons, but she was really enjoying it!

Then, I thought she'd be done. But no, she had her eye on the mixed climb to the left and had to have a go on it as well. Then she did it 3 more times. At this point, I began to wonder what kind of monster I'd unleashed. Not only was she climbing ice and rock in crampons, but she was really enjoying it!

Then she wanted to try a little dry-tooling problem further left. So I placed some cams in a crack and let her have at it.

Then she wanted to try a little dry-tooling problem further left. So I placed some cams in a crack and let her have at it.

The thing that blew me away more than anything was just how much fun she had!

The thing that blew me away more than anything was just how much fun she had!

Just a few weeks ago there was a discussion on an online climbing forum about taking kids ice climbing. Of course comments were all over the charts. But one of them against taking kids ice climbing said, "Let them have a normal childhood!"

Well, if a normal childhood these days is XBox, Facebook, iThings and standardized testing, I'll vote for ice climbing!

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