Love is (Literally) in the Air

Re-igniting the romance of rock climbing


My wife and I really miss rock climbing, and it’s kind of embarrassing. Around the time we got married, our climbing friends started moving away or slipping out of the climbing scene. But Brooke and I kept climbing, so we only had each other as regular partners for the next few years. Sure, we liked the freedom of being a duo and doing as we pleased (“Where are the juggy 5.7s?”), but it all changed when we had our daughter. We didn’t know how to transition from the long approach hike backcountry climbs we liked best, or never thought to hook up with other parents who wanted to climb and share kid-spotting duty. So weekend after weekend went by, and before we realized it we hadn’t tied into a rope in years.

We've talked about it, and now that our daughter is 4, we're thinking it's about time for us to take her for her first bouldering session. It's half selfish. Eventually, we'll get her trained as our belay slave, and we'll be back on the hunt for wicked juggy 5.7s.

Until then, we've discovered a way to invoke the romance we found as a climbing couple right in our own backyard: hang a portaledge. The web goes in waves of buzz over a hotel in Germany--Waldseilgarten--that offers "tree house tents," but those of us who've been around a rock wall a time or two know better. That's a portaledge, well used by big wall climbers who spend at least a night, sometimes a week, on the rock.

The uninitiated tend to ask the same things about rock climbing. Namely, "How do you get the rope up there?" But the portaledge, and the concept of sleeping on the side of a cliff, really brings on the inquisitions. "What if you have to go pee in the middle of the night?"

And with that, we chuckle, don't we?

"Too easy," declares the decidedly dirtbaggy climber. "4-inch PVC pipe with a cap on one end, a screw cap on the other and a damn good plastic bag shoved inside of it. Unscrew cap. Don't miss." Invented out of clever necessity, it's called the poop tube.

But, hey, let's not talk about that part. It's spring, so let's get some romance in the air. Get the kids to bed at 8pm, hang a portaledge in the backyard just a few feet off the ground, bring a bottle of wine and chill out under the stars. Snuggle up, you animals.

You take it from there.

Mark Stephens is a father and husband living in Arizona. He writes about the people, places and things that appeal to active parents enjoying outdoor adventure in any of its forms on his blog


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