Kids Climbing At Elite Levels

Cameron Horst Climbing 5.14a
2012 seems to mark the year of the pre-teen protégé.  Cameron Horst, an 11 year old climber from PA has sent a number of 5.14a routes this year.  His latest send was  James Litz’s Private Halfenheimer (5.14a) at Ten Sleep in Wyoming.

Brooke Raboutou, also age 11, has ticked off some pro level climbs this year with her most recent send of Welcome to Tijuana (5.14b).  This send has made her the youngest person in the world to climb 5.14a.

These two young climbers follow the path blazed by Adam Ondra when he became the youngest climber to send 5.14b at age 11 in 2004.

These amazing feats seem to be accomplished through hard work, specific training, and family vacations centered around climbing and projecting.  This dedication is not to be undertaken lightly and seems a bit beyond my level of climbing commitment (both for us and our children).  I do, however, want to identify a few things to emulate in hopes that just a little bit of their climbing magic rubs off on us.

1.  Eric Horst is Cameron’s Dad. He’s one of the most prominent authors on climbing training, authoring a great book about how to climb 5.12 that focuses on training for climbing.  So number one on my list is to actually “train” for climbing.  Rather than use this as a vague “maybe it’ll happen someday”, I have identified a few reasonable goals for improving my physical training A) Laps on Top Roped Climbs at the Gym, once a week to build both strength and endurance. B) 2-3 times a week distance running to boost aerobic conditioning. C) Abs.

You’ll notice that my number one is pretty conservative.  I’m not training for Worlds, just hoping to continue to climb hard and improve my abilities.

2.  ”Project” Routes.  Because we often climb with the kids, we usually just give a route a few tries and then switch it up, giving someone else a chance, or moving on to another route.  To become better, we need to focus and project routes so as to learn the techniques, strengths, and endurance required to move to the next grade/level of climbing. We’ve known that this is a weakness in our climbing in the past, but we haven’t really worked to fix it.  Our goal isn’t to chase hard climbs so much as climb the classic routes.

Ultimately, I’m outlining a few strategies that I think are reasonable for us to do.  Are we going to light the world on fire climbing 5.14 next week? Not likely. Not everyone climbs with the level of commitment required by those like Cameron and Brooke.  Still, we can learn from their commitment and challenge ourselves to meet our own climbing goals, whatever they might be.  What is one small thing you can do to improve your climbing?

One response to “Kids Climbing At Elite Levels”

  1. cliffmama says:

    Timely article, seems like these kids are going far beyond the expectations of what we thought kids could do at this age. My own kids blew me away, certainly not at the elite level, but watching my daughter top rope 5.10 when she was a tiny petite little 10 year old in pigtails exceeded what I thought an average (as in not training for climbing) kid could do. It’s great that Eric has 2 kids who love to climb and can focus their vacations on climbing. His boys are really into it. I’ve climbed with them and his kids are ambitious. Their parents don’t have to push them. Another kid superstar in the news is Ashima Shiraishi, who is bouldering V13. When I first met her when she was a tiny 6 or 7 year old, I watched her casually cruise a 5.6 overhanging multipitch climb at the Gunks. Her instant love of the sport and natural ability made it clear she was child prodigy material. These kids are an inspiration.