My heart raced the first time my six-year-old son “topped out.” Having tapped the highest hold on one of Earth Treks Englewood’s roped climbing routes, he dangled 55 feet above the padded floor. He is timid, so I was surprised he’d had the confidence to climb so high. I was even more surprised that I was the one belaying him—I’d never learned the techniques used to belay another climber.
At Earth Treks, families like ours can literally learn the ropes—starting with an hour-long introductory belay lesson. The 53,000-square-foot facility opened in August 2018 in the old Sports Authority corporate headquarters building, and gives climbers of all ages the opportunity to learn real climbing skills and techniques with a partner, along 250-plus colorful roped climbing routes.
“Climbing comes naturally to kids,” says Earth Treks marketing director Tori Barnett. “Learning how to belay gives climbers the tools they’ll need to use climbing equipment and systems effectively.” In addition to building confidence, climbing helps children develop their problem solving skills, as well as trust and patience.
There’s always an inherent risk with climbing, but by taking lessons—learning to tie solid knots and operate a belay device—parents and kids come to trust the safety systems, which Barnett says go through rigorous testing.
Free to Earth Treks Englewood members, and open to children age 13 and up, introductory belay lessons were designed for parents who are interested in climbing with their children. You won’t need any prior experience to enroll, but it’s a good idea to register in advance. Post-lesson, families are encouraged to stick around and practice their new skills, using complimentary rental equipment. Later, you can come back to take the belay safety check to get your official belay card.
For parents who aren’t interested in belaying their children, open climbs are available, too, on Saturday and Sunday, when staff members will belay children age five and up for three climbs.
After-school clubs give young climbers a chance to hone their skills. October through May, Junior Climbing Club is open to children ages six to nine, and Recreational Climbing Club is offered for older kids ages nine to 13. Instructors use climbing drills, as well as climbing and non-climbing games, to ensure participants have fun and feel safe during the program. The Teen Climbing Club meets Friday afternoons to further develop technique and problem-solving skills.
“Friday Night Rox,” is a drop-off, parents-night-out option, featuring vertical games, age-appropriate coaching, and climbing for children ages six to 12.
Beyond its roped climbing terrain, Earth Treks Englewood also has about 250 ever-changing bouldering routes for kids and families to explore. You won’t need any special equipment—just climbing shoes or clean sneakers—to monkey around on the series of routes that extend up to 15 feet above ground. Plus, it’s a killer workout that leaves even my wildest son exhausted!
- Check it Out:
- 1050 W. Hampden Ave., Englewood
- Need to Know:
- Earth Treks Englewood is open Monday and Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Day passes start at $22, and family memberships are available for $140 per month for the first two members.
- Insider Secret:
- The gym’s on-site childcare center opens at 8:30 a.m. daily to children ages six months to six years. At $5 an hour (members) and $7 an hour (nonmembers), it’s easy to sneak in a climbing workout, or parents can enjoy an open-concept gym as well as a solid lineup of group fitness and yoga classes, all included with the entry fee.