“Look Mom… No Hands” Introducing my Dad to the Wild Sport of Climbing

Sometimes I wonder what it is like to be the parent of a sword swallower. This physically activity puts the swallowers life  at risk as they slide a blade past their heart and other vital organs to entertain a crowd and terrify their mother.

The one thing that climbing and sword swallowing can definitely share is nervous parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Neethling

I definitely have given my parents more than their fair share of reasons to bite their nails. As a child, adventure seemed to be calling me, as I would climb anything that I could get my hands on, including my parent’s two story house.

I remember celebrating my friend’s birthday with many friends by jumping out of an airplane and then visiting Tijuana, Mexico to grab some tasty tacos (a place my mother told us kids not to go to at the time because someone on the news talked about how dangerous things were down there at the particular time).

As I crossed the border back into the Good Ol’ USA, I sent my mother a simple text message… “Hey mom, Just wanted to let you know that I’m OK.” Moment’s later I received a call from a my mom where I explained my adventures for the day. Sometimes its nice to freak your parents out after you do something than before it.

Through all of my adventures my parent’s worry was unfounded, I might have earned some of that worry when I fell some 35 feet.

10898243_10152587464641305_8151482916681976941_n“Don’t do anything reckless”

I remember the moment when My parents first viewed my injured body from the fall. With band-aids covering my arms, legs and the four finger tips that lost their skin, I was a sore sight to see.

Along with a rope burn that remains with me today, my parents were given a clear picture of that damage that can possibly happen when climbing. They were not thrilled to see their son be so eager to get back on the rock.

Who could blame them; my parent’s knew my history. This safety-conscious son of their definitely did not grow up that way. I gained more than my share of scrapes, cuts and scars as I grew up in their home. Perhaps they simply saw climbing as a way to increase the regularity and severity of those injuries.

I remember chatting with my dad about climbing and, though he would’t say out loud “I don’t want you to climb because I don’t want you to kill yourself” definitely gave off a “son stay safe” vibe. He definitely was not planning on signing up for my next climbing trip.

My dreams of taking my parents to the rocks with me remained delayed.

Training Montage

10393740_10152587465851305_641413430576538366_nAfter several weeks of physical healing and several months of emotional healing, I found myself on the rocks again, slowly returning to lead climbing.

I learned more about climbing and learned different tricks to be safe. Taking my Single Pitch Instructor course from the American Mountain Guide Association really helped to solidify and build confidence in my skills.

As the years passed and I started creating videos for Smart Rock Climbing, I believe that my parents began to warm up to the thought of climbing.


Holidays with the Family

10340068_10152587464381305_4126377353380697436_n10898122_10152587465561305_6397630658422821201_nThis past Christmas break from work, I was able to spend time with my parents in the area that I grew up in.

I had made plans with some friends to visit a climbing spot that I had not been to before. As we neared our way to the climbing trip, my dad said “I think I would like to come along and check it out.”

Though our friends were not able to join us, I was still able to take my father and little sister for a day of climbing at the Consumnes River Gorge. Though I grew up near there, I was strictly an indoor climber at the time. It was nice to visit this area with a decent variety of climbs to choose from and plenty of easy climbs for a newb to get started on.

Taking my father (a potentially hesitant climber who initially decided to come simply to help belay) with me, I was intentional to make him feel as comfortable as possible.

I took special care to keep myself safe while building the anchor for our climbs for the day by tying off to a tree. I described to him and my sister the method that I used to create the anchor and we talked about material strengths and methods of double checking bolts before clipping to them.

As I usually do with groups of new climbers, I introduced my dad to the basic steps to belay another climber. Being an engineer, he picked up the simple mechanics of belaying quickly.

I have found that for nervous climbers, it can be helpful to have them belay for a bit before climbing. Being informed in safety methods can increase their ability to trust the system when they climb.

I made my little sister the guinea pig on the first 5.7 of the day. As she, someone familiar to climbing, pressed her way through the climb, I would describe the techniques that she was using to climb. Then, I gave the climb a go, talking specifically about crack climbing techniques.

As I got back to the ground after a successful climb, my dad looked at me, saying “I will give it a go.”

Climb On

10891575_10152587465011305_4186794041225459753_n After a quick into to climbing knots, my father began the climb… and then zipped up the rock. Apparently my father’s regular excercise on by biking paid off on the rocks.

With finesse and calmness he finished the climb and then also conquered the amazing chimney to the right of it (that’s actually the name of the climb… a little arrogant if you ask me). He had done well, faced fear, and with confidence persevered through the climbs.

Shortly after finishing those climbs, I decided to give Dinkum a go. It is a lovely 5.9+ crack that doesn’t give you too many options outside of the crack to get up. It’s a whole lotta fun.

10897758_10152587465216305_8205657436864490056_nI ended up being the first in our group to try the climb, finding it challenging at times but being able to make my way up the crack by finding the hidden holds that made the route possible.

As I came down, I invited my dad to give it a try, letting him know that it is a tough route and that it’s okay to come down if he finds it too hard.

Trying a 5.9

10906260_10152587466501305_3730635654584875143_nHe quickly went through the beginning of the climb, making his way to the main crack where he ran out of options. A climb like this can use up plenty of time and energy as you try to identify the solution to a problem.

My little sister and I would share ideas that we came up with to help him get through the crux, hoping that something would work. And then it did.

Using a slanted foothold on the right, my father pressed through and made his way up.

At the second crux on the climb, where you have to use friction on your feet to get up, my sister and I laughed seeing my dad appear to be “running” up the wall with his feet sliding down, trying to go up inch by inch.

This laughable technique proved to be helpful as he touched the anchors, posed for the camera, and lowered back down.

Veni, vidi, vici

The Hike Back

1959242_10152587465456305_4244321686093764268_nAs we journeyed back to the car, I reflected upon the day, thinking of the journey that I had taken since that fall two or so years before.

Both I, and my parents, have come along way since my fall.

It was wonderful to be belayed, and to belay my father on the wall. Having my parent’s support in my climbing ventures helps make Smart Rock Climbing a reality.

The End To be continued…



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