Host a Summer Climbing Camp
Having a climbing wall unlocks the possibility of offering an exciting enrichment camp over the summer. Whether you have a Traverse Wall® or Top Rope Wall, you can offer programming that will help get kids physically active and excited about rock climbing. Here are some ideas for hosting a summer climbing camp.
CLIMBING CAMP WITH A TRAVERSE WALL®
A climbing camp with a Traverse Wall is best suited for children ages 6-11, but ideally you won’t have that large of an age range. Consider offering a camp for 6-8-year-olds and/or one for 9-11-year-olds. This helps to balance experience, sizes and ability levels and will make conducting activities easier for instructors and more fun and rewarding for participants. If you will be hosting a camp for 6-8-year-old children, consider having one or two “counselors” from the next age bracket. They can be role models and help manage the activities, while gaining a positive leadership experience.
How Many Participants?
The size of your climbing wall will help determine how many participants you can host. Keep in mind that you should only have one person at a time on each 4’x6’ climbing wall panel. If you have a 20-foot-wide Traverse Wall, that means you have 5 panels and can have 5 climbers on the wall at one time. However, there are ways to utilize partners during activities and often a steady stream of climbers is on and off the wall, so you can have more than five participants in the camp. With this size climbing wall, we would recommend having 10-12 camp participants. If you have a 40-foot-wide Traverse Wall, you have ten panels, so you could have 15-20 participants in the camp. These numbers will maximize active participation, while also maintaining a small, camp-like vibe.
What Days and How Long?
What days of the week and how long the camp lasts is really up to you. Many camps are offered for one week and on Monday through Thursday because Fridays are often used by families who vacation in the summer months. However, there are camps that include Fridays and go for one or two weeks. Since camps for young children are often used as summer childcare, you will want the camp day to be at least 1.5 hours long. If you would like to host a camp for a longer period of time, you’ll have to plan supplemental activities in addition to the climbing.
To start the first day of camp, you should cover safety and the rules of the climbing wall, especially if your climbing wall is in a school and participants come from other schools or outside of the district and may not have previous climbing experience. Even if participants are experienced climbers and familiar with your climbing wall and rules, it’s important to reiterate the safety expectations on day one.
Once rules and safety are covered, you can host any number of fun climbing wall activities. Be sure to mix it up with individual, cooperative and competitive activities. If you have a large group, consider partner climbing to increase the level of participation for everyone. You can also introduce a fun challenge, like the Go Gecko Challenge, that would give participants something new to work on each day of the camp. Campers who successfully tackle all of the challenges can receive a Go Gecko Award on the last day of camp.
You may also want to add supplemental activities such as team building games, strength training exercises, balance exercises and yoga to round out the experience and give climbers a little break from climbing which can be strenuous. Reading aloud a climbing book is a great way to maintain the theme of the camp while also giving climbers a break. Be sure to build in snack time for longer camp days.
On the last day of camp, invite parents/guardians/caregivers for the last half hour and have their camper share safety rules and then show them their favorite activity of the week and have the adult try it out. (Be sure to have an alternate activity for campers whose parents/guardians/caregivers cannot attend, such as partnering with another camper or sharing with you.)
What to Charge?
Many schools run camps through community education who can help set the price of the camp. If this is not possible, check with your administration on how to determine the camp fee.
CLIMBING CAMP WITH A TOP ROPE WALL
A climbing camp with a Top Rope Wall is best suited for children ages 10 and up due to the maturity needed to properly manage the increased safety protocols involved with vertical climbing. Depending on your group size, you might want to consider having one or two teenage “counselors.” Be sure they are experienced and trained in top rope climbing as well as how to help manage new climbers.
How Many Participants?
The number of belay stations on your climbing wall will help determine how many participants you can have. Each belay station can host a climber and a belayer. We also recommend having a back-up belayer and at least one anchor. This means each belay station can actively engage 4 participants, even more if you have more than one anchor. For climbing walls with 5 belay stations, the camp could include 20 participants. Without counselors, you would not want to go above this number to ensure proper guidance and supervision.
What Days and How Long?
What days of the week and how long the camp lasts is really up to you. Many camps are offered for one week and on Monday through Thursday because Fridays are often used by families who vacation in the summer months. However, there are camps that include Fridays and go for one or two weeks. Due to the level of programming involved, you will want the camp day to be at least 1.5 hours long. If you would like to host a camp for a longer period of time, you’ll have to plan supplemental activities in addition to the climbing.
The focus of this camp is on learning the safety protocols of vertical climbing, including learning how to belay (manage the safety rope) and how to be belayed. There’s important teamwork and communication involved in this process. Campers will also learn climbing vocabulary and techniques, work to reach the top of the wall, try different climbing routes and develop their climbing skills.
For longer camp days, you can add supplemental activities such as team building games, strength training exercises, balance exercises and yoga to round out the experience and give climbers a little break from climbing which can be strenuous. You can also build in a snack break.
If you have a climbing gym in your area, a field trip there on the last day of camp makes for an exciting finale and enables climbers to put their new skills to work in “the real world.”
What to Charge?
Many schools run camps through community education who can help set the price of the camp. If this is not possible, check with your administration on how to determine the camp fee. Be sure to factor in the cost of transportation and climbing gym entrance fees if you plan the field trip on the last day.
IMPORTANT: Check with your school/organization for any required waivers for campers and be sure all staff members working with campers have been thoroughly trained on the use, supervision and safety of the climbing wall.