My eldest daughter and husband like to do adventuring type things like kayaking in sub-arctic temperatures and climbing large walls. My middle daughter tends to prefer more sedentary activities (she gets it from my side of the family) and my youngest – well, she likes to copy everything her sisters do.
So when we decided to head up to Joondalup Climbing Centre with all three kids in tow (aged 3 to 8 years) I was a bit dubious. I was alone in my concern though, and the kids raced in like they owned the place.
It was a Saturday morning and a sausage sizzle was being cooked outside. The owners always seem to have something extra going on, like night climbs and BBQs so it is certainly worth checking out what they have planned. In our case, the ubiquitous sausage-in-a-bun was merely one extra bonus for a fun morning with the kids.
The eight year old and five year old were immediately strapped into their climbing harness. Note to parents: make sure girls are wearing track pants or leggings – short skirts aren't really appropriate for rock climbing and jeans can be tight and restrictive. Sneakers are the best shoes to wear – sandals, thongs and slip-on shoes are no-go.
One of the 'rooms' - this one has some of the harder climbs
We all decided the three year old was too young for 'proper' rock climbing, but that didn't deter her trying anyway, and she certainly wasn't bored watching her sisters and everyone else scale the walls.
There are 72 ropes in total and when you take into account the 19 metre bouldering tunnel and the varying climb difficulties for each rope, there ends up being over 140 different climbs at the centre, including a tough brand new bouldering section (not really appropriate for kids).
The long bouldering tunnel - climb sideways with no ropes
All new climbers start at the same place – an easy climb to help you get accustomed to the equipment. My five year old basically spent her entire time on the same climb, gradually getting higher and higher up the wall until she got to the top. The eight year old tried a few different climbs of varying difficulty including the bouldering tunnel.
It is recommended that you have one adult rope holder (or responsible teenager) for up to three climbers. Obviously you can only hold one rope at a time, so if you are taking a group of children you need to take that into account – the kids will need to wait will you hold the rope for someone else.
Rope holders (including responsible 13 year olds who are at least 150cm tall) must also wear a safety harness which allows then to be strapped into the belaying system, so keep this in mind when you are choosing your outfit for the day. Having a harness strapped between your legs when you are wearing a full-length skirt is a bit uncomfortable and strange looking. No high heels either – just in case you were thinking of dressing up.
Everyone receives training when they first arrive at the centre, including how to use all the equipment. The rules at the centre are straight forward and obvious, and since children might be climbing right next to experienced adults, it is important to keep everyone safe. Everyone – including non-climbing belayers as well as climbers must sign a disclaimer before starting (adults must sign for their children).
There is a small range of snacks, drinks and lollies available at the centre, but you are welcome to bring your own or even have a pizza delivered from nearby. Tables are set up for climbers to rest and eat.
The centre is also popular for kids birthday parties (aged 5 years and up) – there is a minimum of 10 people and prices include entry, harness hire and safety instruction. The cost for 10-50 people is $15 each. Should you want to bring every person you know, the price drops to $12 per person for groups over 50.
There is an exclusive mezzanine level you can reserve for your party but you must book in advance and there are set times on weekends it is available: 10.30-12.30, 1.00-3.00 and 3.30-5.30.
Otherwise you are welcome to sit downstairs with everyone else.
Bring your own food and plates – there is some fridge space available as well as a microwave and kettle.
A birthday party at Joondalup Climbing Centre, image courtesy website
If you are planning a kid's birthday party, keep in mind that children under 13 cannot belay for one another, so you will need to ask other adults to stay and help. They also recommend that the host print all the disclaimer forms in advance and have parents sign them beforehand to save time at the party – more time for climbing.
I'm not sure you will get me climbing the walls quite yet, but I was impressed by all the kids I saw giving it a go. My own children variously described it as 'fun!' and their 'best day ever'.
Considering it costs only $15 for children under 18 to climb for an unlimited period of time, it is a relatively cheap (and healthy) way to spend time with the kids – and the fact it is indoors makes it perfect for those cold, wet wintery days.