Family Day Out Review: Mini Mountaineers Climbing Session At The XC, Hemel Hempstead
Mini Mountaineers Climbing Sessions At The XC,
Value For Money9.0/10
Variety Of Activities9.0/10
Things We Like
- The only climbing course we've seen aimed at preschoolers
- Friendly and knowledgeable instructors who led the session well
- The pre-climbing games were a good way to get kids involved and warmed up
- £7.90 for four climbs and games in an hour feels good value
- A fun and challenging activity that our daughter really loved
Things We Dislike
- A fair bit of waiting around which isn't ideal for 3 and 4 year olds
- Waiting and queuing for the climbs was a little unorganised
What’s It All About?
The Mini Mountaineers sessions at The XC extreme sports facility in Hemel Hempstead gives young explorers and adventure seekers (three and four year olds) a great opportunity to get their first taste of rock climbing in a fully supervised and instructor-led class.
What Do We Think?
As our daughter has always enjoyed physical activities, we’ve been keen to take her to The XC at Jarman Square in Hemel Hempstead for quite some time. However, at four and a bit years old, all activities have been out of her age range – for instance, climbing is minimum age of five, high ropes is eight and caving is eight. However, that all changed when we recently saw the Mini Mountaineers sessions which are for three and four year olds. Perfect!
If you’ve not been before, The XC is an extreme sports facility set in a large warehouse that opened in 2011. It’s home to a huge indoor skate and BMX park with a pool, bowl and street section, a 880m2 indoor wall for climbing and bouldering which is split into four distinct areas including a 60m x 14m wall, a 12m high ropes obstacle course and a 160m long organic indoor caving system. It looks brilliant, but as mentioned above, it’s not something we’ll fully be able to try for a few years still.
Anyway, back to Mini Mountaineers. These are special sessions which need to be booked in advance and only take place on selected weekends and during school holidays. We went to The XC website and used the online booking system to secure a session (Sunday, 9am to 10am). This cost £7.90 and included the loan of a harness and helmet on the day, as well as being fully supervised by instructors. As such, this felt a pretty good price and is on par with the cost of other baby, toddler and preschool classes.
As well as a booking confirmation email, we also received a waiver to complete in advance – this explained the risk involved and confirmed that we understood it. We also found a bit of information on the website about when to arrive and what to wear – for instance, loose and comfortable clothes, multiple layers as it gets cold and clean, closed top trainers. We were also advised to arrive 15 minutes early.
On the day, we arrived at 8.45am as instructed and checked in at the reception desk. Obviously they want to ensure everyone gets there on time, however we were the first to arrive and ended up waiting 15 / 20 minutes for everyone else to turn up and for the session to start. It was fine and we’d prefer to make sure we’re on time, but it was a little annoying waiting around for so long – particularly when you have young kids who are excited for the activity to begin.
The session started just after 9am when two instructors introduced themselves to the children. The kids grabbed a helmet each and the instructors ensured it was fitted properly. They then went through to an area at the back and played a couple of icebreaker games for around 10 minutes as the parents watched on. This mainly involved the kids running around touching the different coloured holds on the climbing wall. This was a great idea as it brought most of the kids out of their shell and got them warmed up in a fun way.
After this, it was time to get the children into their harnesses, which the instructors assisted with and ensured were properly fitted. The children were led over to the Novice section of the climbing area, where they listened to and watched the instructors demonstrate how to ascend and descend the wall. The climbing wall which was to be used was around 20 foot high, was inwardly inclined and consisted of two separate ascent paths.
This allowed the eight children to be split into two groups of four so that two kids could always be climbing at the same time, therefore reducing the amount of waiting around for the others. Once clipped on, the children tried to ascend to the summit and then walked back down the wall once finished. The children were secured to the instructor by ropes throughout and were constantly talked to and guided (if needed) by them. Once a child had finished on one ascent, they queued up at the other in order to tackle that next.
At 4.5 years old, our daughter was fine with waiting and queuing, however some of the younger children seemed to get impatient and bored. This resulted in pushing in and general messing about, which did have a bit of an impact. I don’t blame the instructors for this though – they were focused on the children climbing and I think watching parents should have stepped in. That being said, a number system or similar to know who was next to climb could have been useful and removed some of this argy-bargy.
In total, there was around 35 minutes of climbing time which meant that each child was able to climb four times by tackling both ascents twice. Our daughter would have been happy to do more, but some of the younger kids appeared done by the third time. For us, four climbs during the session felt pretty reasonable value for money and we didn’t feel short changed by it. We were also impressed with the instructors, who were friendly, approachable, knowledgeable and good with young kids.
Our daughter successfully managed to reach the summit on three of her four attempts and really loved the whole experience. It really tested her mentally and physically – she loved the challenge of working out the best way to get to the top and was beaming with pride each time she successfully achieved the feat. The session ended with a quick debrief as the instructors helped the kids out of their gear.
Going back to The XC to do the Mini Mountaineers session is something that our daughter has asked to do again, which shows how much she enjoyed it. Considering that it teaches a new skill and gets them active, plus builds on the softer side of things like teamwork, confidence and trust, I can see us returning in the not too distant future!
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Jarman Park, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP2 4JS.
Opening Times: 7 days per week, 9am-10pm (Mon-Fri, Sun) and 9am-7pm (Sat) – however the Mini Mountaineers sessions are on selected days during weekends and holidays.
Price: Mini Mountaineers is £7.90 for 1 hour session.
Toilets: Yes. Male, Female and Disabled toilets. Baby change facilities available.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. XC Cafe serves hot and cold drinks, snacks and food. Various snacks available in vending machines too.
Parking: Yes. Large amount of free parking available in the Jarman Square car park.
Public Transport: Hemel Hempstead Train Station 1.8 miles away.
Duration: 1 hour.
Age Range: Mini Mountaineers is for 3 and 4 year olds only. However, there are plenty of other XC activities available for older children.
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