Tree Climbing Kids

Old Monkey

Mar 9, 2005
I was just looking at Tophopper's avatar of his daughter climbing and it made me wonder what the best way to get my kid up into our trees. She has been asking me and I have been stalling. I have been looking at some kid rock climbing harnesses at REI and have almost bought one on a few occasions. What saddles work good. How do you rig small kids? My daughter is four and pretty strong. There are no low branches in our ash tree so she is going to need to do some rope climbing. Can a four year old do that?
My thought is that a 4 yr. old could accomplish about anything given the right teaching and supervision.

I started my daughter out in a petzl Quissiti(sp?) kids harness. Its good for little ones as there are no buckles or anything in front where they can fidget with them. For rigging her up at first i just tied a figure 8 on a bight directly to the webbing loop on the harness. And at that young of an age, Id recommend belaying her from the ground. This way you can help pull her up when she cant quite make it on her own, and yet they stilll have the feeling of doing it themselves. Also at a young age advancing hitches is tough.
Basically just as you would recommend to a new climber..... start slow and low. Try to find a small tree with low branches in a park maybe?
My daughter started out in a small 6" diameter Red Maple that was no taller than 20-25 feet. I would hang a pulley up top, run the rope thru and terminate to her harness with the 8 on a bight and belay her from the other end. After the Maple became boring to her she graduated to a bit bigger tree, and Apple tree about 30 feet tall but a bit more difficult to climb.
Trust me she will let you know when the first smaller tree becomes boring and she's ready for something bigger.

Regarding harnesses, I would avoid a rock climbing harness as they are really not all that comfortable and really are designed to be sitting in. The petzl fids harness is a full body harness which gives some good security. In my avatar my girl is climbing in the new tribe kids saddle and she just got that in the summer of 06 at the age of 11.
She is now able to advance a blakes hitch, but needs the additional foot prussik to stand in when rope climbing.

Kids are actually amazing climbers, they no fear whatsoever, and do not want to stop climbing.

I say go for it, she will absolutly love it.

Darin, I don't know if a 4 year old can rope climb... but suspect so with some patient instruction and maybe some aids. I am going Saturday to set up a mini ropes course for the children of good friends. They are older(9 and 11) and I plan on setting them up with a Texas Prusik system but climbing on doubled rope reeved through a pulley so they will be able to descend on a hitch. It is generally recommended to get a full body harness for young kids-there is a concern about small children inverting in a sit harness and sliding out of it. I can say with certainty that it is entirely possible to get 7-8 year olds in a "guide type" (Universal fit) rock climbing harness and let them have a blast.Petzl makes the Oustiti(Sp) There arre others available also.
For anyone wanting to get some sort of harness to let anyone have a climbing experience in, I recommend the Singing Rock Fly harness- It will fit virtually anyone and is reasonably comfortable--at least short term. And it only costs $35-$40. There are lots of similar universal harnesses out there but the Singing Rock is very available and I find it more comfy than the Misty Mountain one I have. The universal harnesses are simply webbing- when padding is added the limits of adjustability kick in but 2 inch webbing ain't so bad for a little play time.
Good Info Top. Darin has a perfect open, squatty ash in his front yard for Haley to get rope climbing and open air suspension experience on. As far as limb to limb climbing it isn't so good since the previous owner gutted it. (At least that is what Darin claims:P )
I've taken kids climbing a few times. Some were quite young (2 or 3). You need a full bod for the little ones that can't keep themselves upright. Everyone else gets the New Tribe kids harness. It is very affordable.

When I set up a DRT system for little kids I do 2 things different than I'd do for big kids. 1- I set up the system for a little more mechanical advantage or be sure to use a rope guide or somethings else up top because some kids can't over come the friction of the rope through a rope sleeve or over a branch. Second- if there is any thought that the kids won't be able to come down on their own, I make them practice it 10 times or so on the ground..from like 6 feet up where i can still work their hitch if needed.

I've never had a kid NOT like it. Some didn't love it...but most all liked it.

Get her a kids helmet off the bat. Teach her good habits so that she never knows any different.

I think there is something very special about a daughter and a father climbing together.

Oh, regarding Blinky's comment- if you use ascenders, have a line set up so you can go up and do the switch over to get them down. Or have the rope set up so you can lower the whole system down.

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Thanks for the replies. If you guys have pictures of any of the kid set ups you have done, I'd love to see them. I think I am going to get the full body harness. That OUISTITI however it is pronounced looks good. I think Haley just got her Christmas present. Do you think I can get away with using her bicycle helmet or is that a bad idea?
Yeah Darin for the first years of climbing my daughter wore her bicycle helmet, as there really wasnt much else available that fit properly.
I say two thumbs up on the bike helmet. Especially because you already have it!

OUISTITI is pronounced wee-stee-tee. It's french for "little monkey."

I've got some pics, but lemme get some permisison from the dad before I post them.

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Thanks Nick. You could blur the faces to obscure the identity of the kids. "Little Monkey" hmm, that works.
I've been using the Oustiti for 10 or 12 years now. It's adjustable so I can use it for my 4, 8, 10, and 11 year olds. My older kids have outgrown this harness, as well as their desire to climb trees like dad.
Singing rock makes a version that goes a little smaller.....Ellery set sail on her 4th bday. Ballons are not included with harness....GRCS is great party entertainment. This year.......flying portaledge!
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We just got back from a hike. Haley was balking at going so I showed her Ellery's picture and told her that she floated away on her fourth birthday and they haven't seen her since. I told her we should go up into the foothills and see if we could find her. So Haley was running through the hills with a magnifying glass calling for Ellery.
Darin, Ah, lying to the kid ,huh. Well I'm sure that is going to yield positive results in 11 or 12 more years.:evil: :P
I used a top rope belay for my kid's first climbs. I went up and set an anchor for the top rope and a separate false crotch for the climbing rope. I guess I wasn't so clear about ascenders... they just used a Pantin on DdRT and advanced the knot by manually; no hand ascenders. They just lowered using the friction knot while I belayed with the top rope.
These photos are from 2 weeks ago when we held a climbing event for the public, mostly kids.