petzl kid climbing harness

Kid’s Only: Climbing ‘Academy’ Experiment

A climbing gym with a mission — that’s the premise of the kids-only Midwest Climbing Academy, a stunning playground of vertical walls, padded floors, artificial boulders, gymnastics accouterments, a hidden lounge accessed by climbing a bouldering wall, and enough climbing routes to host an international competition.

Opened just a few months ago in an industrial section of Minneapolis, the gym was created for kids age 19 and under. Adult coaches teach the basics of rock climbing and bouldering infused with larger life lessons.

The group strives to build strong and healthy bodies through this unique and fun exercise and promote positive self-identity, community awareness, respect and wilderness stewardship.

I brought my 4-year-old to the gym last month and let him loose on MCA’s boulders and walls.

The atmosphere is much like any gym and the kids seemed to take the sport seriously. Kids take center stage, and the staff introduced themselves to my son and shook his hand first, before moving on to say hi to me.

Students at the gym

In addition to a couple hours of fun, my son bonded with a few of the coaches on site. They offered encouragement, instruction, and, importantly, genuine interest and motivation in my little guy’s physical and mental effort on the walls.

Hangboard for strength

We’ll be back to the Midwest Climbing Academy, and not just for the tall climbs and creative routes. This youth gym is worth inspection if you’re a local with children who want to climb and learn from a great group of passionate climbers.

Setting new routes
Requisite gym dog
Tall lead walls
Star climber Alex Honnold stopped in for a visit this summer
MCA kids pose on the gym’s central boulder feature
Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.