Why do climbers make the best dads?

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 19/06/2016
Tom Randall having fun with Hannah.

"Climbers make the best dads because they make the best rope swings ever," says May Bransby. In honour of Father's Day, we decided to investigate whether climbers make good dads and why. To find out, Sarah Stirling got some answers (totally not biased either) from pros and folk who just like getting out, on why they think climbers make good dads.

Alastair Lee, adventure filmmaker based in Lancashire

"Because we've always got a hold on things, because we never let go... groan!

"Climbing makes you look like you know what you're doing so kids actually listen to you. When they become teenagers, if you can stay involved in a way that's meaningful and relevant to them, you are more likely to maintain a healthy relationship. It also introduces the idea of adventure, or just the concept and feeling that life can be more than you ever imagined.

"I recently took my 11-year-old on his first multi-pitch, South Wester Slabs on Arran. We both had a suitably terrifying time: he was gripped out of his mind due to exposure and the size of the cliff, and I was gripped out of mine as the climbing was harder than anticipated and I was effectively soloing everything. He kept asking to go down the whole way up, and I kept telling him this was the last bit (from the top of the first pitch). I wouldn't say he enjoyed it at all but he did really well and more importantly could not shut up about it for the following couple of weeks!"


Alastair's son Simon topping out on South Wester slabs on Arran.

Ben Bransby used to work sport routes with a Gri-Gri and a baby monitor on his harness while May napped in the van. Her thoughts on climbing dads now she's 10?

"Climbers make the best dads because they make the best rope swings ever. And they take you to cool places. And they let you swear because their friends do it all the time."


Ben and May Bransby hanging out.

Tom Randall, professional climber, Wideboy and obsessive business tinkerer

“Climbers make great dads because they've already spent many years putting a nappy on... it's just that it's full-strength and has a belay loop!”


Tom Randall with Hannah; he has another daughter called Sofie.

Matt Cooper, outdoor instructor based in Aldridge, and dad-in-training (they haven't found him yet)

“Climbing dads always have a rope to hang potential boyfriends!”

John Falkiner, mountain guide based in Switzerland 

"I think climbing can put relationships under test as, being all-consuming, it can sometimes get in the way of effective family life. It doesn't mean that you love your family any less, but you do need a very understanding partner as time out climbing doesn’t exist! An hour seems like a minute, and a minute seems like an hour, depending where you are standing. But I think anyone with a passion makes a great parent. And I think that climbing can create an amazing bond of trust and sharing, something that will hopefully stay with you forever."


John with his daughter Lara in the Dolomites.

Steve McClure, BMC ambassador and all-round superman

“Having the kids around makes it feel acceptable to be appearing from a hole in the boulders or sliding down a rope slide! Climbers make great dads because they are big kids. Rock climbing is just an accepted adult version of scrambling around, jumping off boulders, crawling through holes and building swings. It’s very easy for us to revert back, and we get as much fun doing all the kid stuff as them.”


Bet you can't fit through this one, Dad!


Steve McClure's four-year-old.

Lucy Walters

"Paul has a much better ability to know what is actually dangerous than me and is calm in a crisis due to having been exposed to a few. He shows the children, who are still a little young to actually climb, how to work towards goals, how to continue to try, as every wrong answer brings them closer to the right one. A physically strong, fit, healthy dad gives them an essential role model which can be lacking in today's society, too.

"Olly is constantly trying to copy Paul's push ups and pull ups. He also tries to climb over the bannister and could climb out of his cot stealth-like by 18 months! If all else fails, a climbing dad knows excellent knots to keep them tied up for a while (oh dear that's an awful dad joke)!"


Paul explaining a thing or two to Olly.

Wendy Collyer, Hampshire

"Climbers make good dads because they push themselves 'father' than others!"

Graham Kelly, climber, ultra runner and railway engineer in Glasgow

“As a climber you learn to balance risk, passion and freedom with responsibility and compassion along with your partner (assuming climbing as a pair). You build an understanding of those you climb with and understand their own individual strengths and weaknesses. I've tried to consider all of the above with my daughter as she has grown up.”


Graham with his daughter Mirren at a local Park Run.

Andy Kirkpatrick, alpinist, author, father, funny-man

"Climbers make terrible traditional dads (absent, distracted, selfish), but great cool dads (fun, childish themselves, always eager to play!)"


Andy Kirkpatrick's kids.

Paul Keeley who lives in Bonneville, France, looks at it the other way round: why do fathers make good climbers?

"The most important emotion between two climbers is empathy. You both have to be well together on a rope or you are both in trouble. Having a child makes men more empathetic and so better climbers!"


Paul, wife Lorraine, mini Layla and Meg.

Jon Bracey, mountain guide based in Chamonix

"A lot of adult climbers including myself are still kids at heart. Often somewhat carefree, impulsive, opportunistic, and just wanting to have fun."


Jon Bracey and family hanging out in Chamonix.

Emma Twyford, professional climber and route setter

"Haha because they leave all the serious parenting to mums, if they don't climb, and take the kids out to do the fun stuff!" 


Paul and Emma Twyford.

Suz Currie, Hampshire

"Some dads run or go to the gym, which requires focus and strength, and some do things like crosswords or suduko, which require brain power, but climbing combines physical agility with a mental puzzle. Being a climbing dad reflects strength, logic, patience, endurance and trust: qualities that are invaluable to being a good parent."

Jon Goodfellow, engineer in Matlock, Derbyshire

"Climber-dads know how to balance risk with reward, show their kids the joy and freedom of the great outdoors, and give them a target or something to be fit and healthy for."


Jon and Georgia.

Joe Squire, Swansea

"We are good dads because we are easy to buy presents for, and are in poorly paid jobs so our children are motivated to get better jobs than their dads!"

Adrian Berry, London, climbing coach and guidebook author

"Because we never forgot how to play."

Mark McGillivray, stay at home dad in Scotland, busy preparing for some time away on The River Dee

“One word: Patience. Also, after some insane bivvies, nappies are a doddle!”


Mark McGillivray and family.

Mike Kann, owner of Casa Alfredino in the Dolomites

"More like, after changing some nappies, insane bivvies are a doddle. Unless you're really unfortunate, most bivvies aren't accompanied by the prospect of a poonami!"


Mike and Alfred.

Nick Bullock, on never becoming a dad, ever

"Being a dad would be more gripping than being shipwrecked on a lifeboat with George Osborne!"


Youth Outdoor Climbing Courses

Whether you want to make the leap from indoor climbing into Sport or Trad climbing outdoors, we run many courses across the country and throughout the year that are specially for 11-17 year olds.

BOOK: Youth Trad Climbing Course

BOOK: Youth Sport Climbing Course

Subsidised Youth Course Places

There are a large number of free places on courses for families who may struggle to afford it. Any families who live in rented accommodation and who receive income support or universal credit may contact the instructor of a course or Alex West for a place.

U27 Membership 

From just £1.77 a month it's never been easier to join and support our work: 

JOIN TODAY: BMC Under 27 Membership


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Anonymous User
20/06/2016
Did anyone consider "climbing parents" rather than just dads? Climbing mums matter too!

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