In Santa Clara Alta (in Rumiñahui canton, south of Quito), the slopes of the Pita river form a boisterous waterfall and a rock that rises about 15 meters into the air. The climbers christened the site “Babyland” because it is the rock-climbing site for kids. The wall is formed by a large rock that shines under the rays of a sunny day and it is here where children as young as six can begin to learn and practice the sport, after a walk of a little over half-an-hour through a forested path and across several makeshift bridges that follow the river’s twists and turns.
Along the path you can spot several other rocks suitable for more demanding climbing levels, but we’re here with children today and must get past the remaining bridges and, in the absence of the last bridge, cross a small section of the river barefoot to make it to our final destination. The ice-cold water and small river stones add to the charm of the adventure. The vegetation and sculptural slopes really invite us to breathe in the natural world — which feels somehow more reviving when shared as a group.
Finally, we arrive at the Bebelandia rock face. Martín and Íñigo Paz (10 and seven, respectively) are thrilled, eager to climb the 15 meters of rock up to the top.
To prepare the children’s ascent, Felipe sets top rope anchors, ideal for beginners. They allow for the most secure and easy-to-gauge climbing scenario, especially when dealing with kids. The ropes descend from two sides: one is controlled by the instructor while the other is used by the climber. There’s therefore no risk of a climber falling. Martin actually manages to climb the rock face in just a few minutes. Íñigo struggles a little more. Despite not being able to negotiate the middle part of the wall easily, he insists until he makes it up as well. Felipe roots him on and shouts advice. “They’re very motivated,” he says about the boys. “I train them in the climbing gyms and they’re getting better and better. They’ll make great climbers one day.”
Hands, arms, feet and legs must find the best positions and coordination to gain balance, safety and power to move up these natural rock formations to ever greater heights. But this is only possible if you have the right equipment and if you use it the right way. In addition to the ropes and the carabiners that secure the ropes at different points on the wall, the equipment used by Íñigo and Martín consists of a helmet, harness and the famous “cat feet”, special shoes for rock climbing. With this equipment and proper supervision, one can train and have fun amid these magnificent natural surroundings — which are also great for camping or a family outing, amazingly close to Quito.
In fact, the trip from the capital to this point is less than an hour and a half by car. The temperate and humid climate helps to make it a pleasant getaway, as well as a first step to experience the sport of rock-climbing outdoors.
Bebelandia is the third climbing area within the Santa Clara complex and consists of 12 initiation routes. One of the great advantages of a climbing route such as this is the close-contact it allows climbers, either when climbing with friends, helping others to climb or as simple spectators: it is a low wall, and its shape allows clearer and easier communication between climbers and people watching than at other sites. This makes it possible to feel connected with fellow climbers as you make it up the wall. It also helps to build the confidence of young climbers.
In this sport, conquering the summit is not as important as the experience of figuring out your ascent route, and, above all, the chance to experience the climb with others, whether you are with children, assisting them or trying to let them learn on their own. From the beginning of the path to the riverbank at the base of Bebelandia’s rock, everyone’s excitement is infectious. It doesn’t dim until the last carabiner is loosened and it’s time to head home. A buzz remains, as this shared experience invites everyone to dream a little, and plan new climbs for the future.
If you interested in rock climbing or need more information about this sport, please contact la Fundación Acceso Andino:
+(593 9) 9732 6776