Kids Climbing At Elite Levels

Cameron Horst Climbing 5.14a

Photo Courtesy of Eric Horst copyright 2012

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?


New River Gorge with Kids

New River Gorge Climbing Trip We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night - and it wasn't far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We … [Read More...]

Hiking in a Creek

Have you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have. Many of our adventures start out as one thing ("I want to climb X route" or "sleep at X campground". . . "I want to relax in a tube on the water", or "I want to sleep in the sand") and end up as something completely different ("The route had a group staked out on it for the day" or "I couldn't … [Read More...]

Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

Tips for taking kids to the climbing gym. There are few things more troublesome than going to a new place and not knowing the spoken and unspoken rules.  Add to the uncertainty the presence of children, and it can be quite intimidating to enter into unknown territory.   For those new to indoor climbing and/or new to indoor climbing with kids, here are a few tips for bringing your kids to the gym. Those that know me will laugh at the irony. . . My … [Read More...]

Stand Up Paddleboarding

The best rock climbing areas tend to be located in or near wilderness, national parks, mountains, and forests.  There are exceptions, of course!  Still, when we took a family trip to the jersey shore this summer, there was no rock to be found.  As usual, my husband and I sought out something both "active" and "family friendly" to try with the kids. Surfing, Kite Surfing, Kayaking Ryan has wanted to try surfing for years, but that's a solo endeavor, as … [Read More...]

The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are … [Read More...]

About Laura Boniello Miller

Laura Miller is a internet marketing professional and a mother of two. Her interests include sport climbing, bouldering, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She believes that playing outdoors is integral to health and well being, and that if your kids aren't dirty, they haven't had enough fun.


  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.