Here’s what 11 year old Cam and 9 year old Jon had to say about life on (and off) the rocks.
How long have you been climbing?
Both were so young they don’t remember it, but according to dad, they began on their home wall at age 3, and on real rock around age 4. Both did their first lead climbing (on bolted routes) at the age of 6.
What do you like most about climbing?
Cam: The movement, the challenge, and the outdoor experience.
Jon: It’s fun – I love doing hard moves and getting high up on a cliff.
When you’re not climbing, what do you do for fun?
Cam: We both play tackle football in the fall and basketball in the winter.
Jon: We also like playing with our friends, and training in our home gym.
What style of climbing do you like best and why?
Cam: I mostly sport climb, but I also really enjoy trad. I’d like to lead more trad routes, but I’m just starting to get into placing gear.
Jon: I like overhanging sport climbs the best. But I also really enjoyed climbing Devil’s Tower and Independence Monument on our summer trips out west.
What are your favorite crags?
Cam: Red River Gorge, Ten Sleep Canyon, the Gunks
Jon: Red River Gorge, Maple Canyon, Ten Sleep Canyon
Describe your proudest send.
Cam: God’s Own Stone (5.14a) is the hardest route I’ve done, but it fit me perfectly and I did it in 4 tries. However the route that took me the longest (7 tries over 2 days) was Ultra Perm (5.13d). It’s about 100 feet long and overhangs about 50 feet. It’s so steep, and reachy for me. The crux was near the end of the route and it’s pretty runout, so I took a few 40 foot falls.
Jon: A route at the Motherlode in the Red River Gorge called Skinboat (5.13a). It had a big lunge (for me anyway, since I’m short) at the start, then a 5.12+ crux, followed by a long sustained section of 5.12a. It took me 4 tries over 2 days.
What’s the best part about family climbing trips?
Cam and Jon: Traveling to new places, camping and cooking outside for weeks on end! We love exploring new cliffs.
How do your teachers and classmates at school react to your climbing?
Cam and Jon: They mostly don’t get it…and they definitely don’t understand how hard and challenging it is. But our teachers are curious and our gym teacher can see how strong we are from climbing and training.
What goals do you have for the next couple of years?
Cam: This year I want to do another 5.14a; next season I’d like to climb 5.14b or 5.14c. At age 12, that would be something only one other person has done before (Adam Ondra).
Jon: I’d like to project a few more 5.13’s…and hopefully send a couple of them! At my height (4’6″) it’s hard to find hard routes without big reaches that I can’t do. Next year I hope to climb 5.13b/c.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Cam: I’d like to be a pro climber for a few years so I could travel and climb full-time, then perhaps work in the climbing industry…or be a climbing coach or researcher.
Jon: I’d like to climb a lot as an adult, but I don’t really know yet what I want to do as a career.
As a climbing mommy it was inspiring for me to watch these little guys out crushing at the crag with their parents. On the rock they were sending machines, but when it wasn’t their turn to climb, they were building forts at the base of the cliff, just like any other energetic boys their age would do. It reminded me that kids are kids, regardless of athletic prowess. While there choice of weekend activity differs from the majority of their peers, to them this is what makes life fun! So whether Cragbaby goes on to become one of the top climbers of his generation or not, I cherish the memories we’ve made (and will continue to make) at the crag together as a family. Obviously Eric is proud of his kids, and when I asked him what it means to him as a father to share these types of experiences with his wife and boys, I think he summed it up pretty nicely: “Climbing with my wife and boys is gratifying on many different levels. It’s great to get out in nature and recreate as a family…and its quite profound revisiting the crags of my youth and climbing with my boys on routes I did 30 years ago…and it definitely humbles me to see the boys climb so well – doing routes at age 11 that I couldn’t have done in my best days as a top climber in the 1980’s!”
What’s the moral of the story? Whether its climbing, fishing, biking, skiing, bird-watching, or just having picnics in the backyard, make sure you’re providing meaningful learning experiences for the whole family in the great outdoors! Modeling a healthy, active lifestyle will go a long way towards making the next generation healthier and happier! Many thanks to the Horst family for agreeing to share a glimpse of their family’s story! I hope it’s as motivating to you all as it was to me!