“On Choosing a Crag (Part 1)” discussed some tips for choosing a great crag with a perfect approach. This is the continuation of that post – applying those ideas to real life scenarios. The following is a compilation of several baby and kid-friendly climbing areas that our family frequents throughout the Southeast.
STARTER CRAGS - From local jaunts to world-class rock, these areas are great first time crags suitable for the whole family, regardless of age.
- Pilot Mountain, NC - Certainly not a destination crag, but easy access and short approaches make it a great first-time spot.
- Sandrock, AL - the Alabama version of Pilot Mt, but even shorter approaches.
- New River Gorge, WV (Junkyard, Bridge Buttress) – Short approaches on great rock. Both are primarily trad areas that also have easy top access, so be prepared to fight off the crowds of top-ropers.
- Red River Gorge, KY (Volunteer Wall at Pendergrass, *Roadside) – More great rock with an easy approach and several nice flat areas (*Its definitely worth noting that Roadside is currently closed at the moment, so until further notice DO NOT climb there…for more info check out this link)!
- The Obed, TN (Lilly Bluffs) - The approach is moderately steep in some areas, but no scrambling is required. The cliff base is wide and flat for the most part.
Keep in mind that starter crags like this are perfect for more than just small families – odds are you’ll be sharing ropes with boy scouts, meetup groups, and guiding services. If you’re not in the mood to battle the crowds, consider going on a weekday for your first time out so that you can figure out the logistics without the added stress of searching for open routes.
THE NEXT STEP – Chances are after you’ve gotten a few trips under your belt, you’ll have developed a system that works for your family, and you’ll feel more comfortable maneuvering the trails with your child in carrier. You’ll probably be ready to expand your repertoire of climbing areas. The following areas won’t be as crowded, but the trade off isa more difficult approach.
- Red River Gorge, KY (Muir Valley) A long steep hike, but no scrambling is involved. Lots of different walls within the same area so you can try to avoid crowds. Much of the cliff base is flat.
- New River Gorge, WV (Sandstonia) – Long hike that is strenuous and very steep in places, it can be especially treacherous when wet. Some parts along the base have a lot of open space, but others are pretty narrow/rocky.
- New River Gorge, WV (The Brain at Beauty Mountain) – A short hike with a very steep (only about 30 feet or so) initial descent, along with a very tame stream crossing…also keep an eye out for poison ivy. The base is totally flat with plenty of room.
READY FOR A CHALLENGE – The following are areas that are definitely not good choices for a first outing together as a family, or even for children/babies without much experience hiking or traveling in a backpack. Our family really enjoys climbing in these areas, so we’ve gotten creative and found ways to make the approach safe. (Don’t forget #5 of the Cragbaby’s Rules for the Ropes: Don’t be a Moron!) If you want specifics about how we handled a particular area, let me know!
- Summersville Lake, WV – Longish approach that is somewhat steep, but with fairly moderate terrain. There is a small stream crossing, a bit of boulder hopping, as well as a 15 foot wooden ladder. The area around the cliff base is flat in places but in others drops off into a lake with calm but really deep water (but it makes a nice spot for older kids and adults to cool off at the end of a hard day’s climbing!)
- New River Gorge, WV (Endless Wall) – Both the Fern Point and Honeymooner’s entrances involve tall ladders. I always gear up before descending, and shuffle 2 personal anchors as I go down the rungs. The routes are spread out and crowds are usually not a problem. There are a lot of flat areas around the base, but getting around requires some scrambling through boulder fields.
- The Obed, TN (South Clear Creek) – The hike is long and steep, with a couple of 5th class moves. There is one section at the base involving a traverse along a hand rail (Again, I gear up beforehand and anchor in as I go along). Many parts of the cliff base are great for kiddos, especially the Stephen King Library.
By no means is this list anywhere near complete – I didn’t want to bog down the list by ranking every single place we’ve ever climbed with Cragbaby, nor did I refer to some of the lesser known smaller climbing areas that a lot of folks reading wouldn’t be familiar with. I just stuck with the most obvious/well-known crags. I also didn’t include any bouldering areas, but we have found that at the majority of the bouldering areas we’ve gone to with Cragbaby, we’ve been successful in finding safe terrain for him, in addition to great climbing for us. I also only included areas in the Southeast, because that’s as far as we’ve road-tripped with Cragbaby…so far anyway!
Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section below to beef up the list a little bit, regardless of whether its about climbing areas in the Southeast, Northwest, or Central Asia! I’d love to expand this list so that its a more complete resource!