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August 10, 2006
With weather like we've had this past week what can you do but get outside of the house. I've been taking advantage of absolutely any possible excuse I can to get out. So, on Sunday when Daz, the 7 year old kiddo, let on that he might be interested in going climbing again I jumped at the chance. NOTE - if you are one of those people who feel that anything that causes a kiddo to cry is tantamount to child-abuse, please read no further. I happen to NOT be one of those, so be forewarned!
Anyway, after finishing off our normal Sunday routine, we stopped back at home to pick up our climbing gear. In the past I had to borrow gear from the climbing school but I recently got Daz his own harness, helmet and shoes. He was stylin'. I hooked him up with a cows-tail sling and locking carabiner and we headed over to Whitehorse at about 2 PM. Now he had done the first pitch of Beginner's Route a couple of times on a toprope or in tandem with my wife, but this time I figured that it would be cooler if I brought him up to the top with me, as if he was my second.
My wife was working and I didn't have another adult, so I figured that I would set things up so that Daz would "kind of" belay me as I climbed. Understand that I have rope-soloed Beginner's probably 8 times in the last 10 years and soloed the first few pitches several times in my pre-kiddo past. The first pitch is way within my abilities but I figured that I would make it safe just - in case. So, I set up a self-belay with my 8 mm tag line and clove hitch. Then I anchored off my GriGri to the tree and set it up as if I was going to be belayed with my 10 mm normal rope. I tied him into the end of that rope and clipped him into the anchor just as if he was going to belay me. We went over how to feed the rope thru the GriGri as I climbed and how to undo the GriGri from the anchor once I was off belay. He was positively focused on what I was telling him and he understood exactly what he had to do. We went through the spoken ritual and I climbed the pitch, placing gear for both systems. He was able to feed me the rope just as I had requested and I could look down and see him the entire time and talked to him as I went. I was really happy at just how focused and "on task" he was.
In no time I was up at the tree where I set up my anchor and called out "off belay". I watched carefully as he undid the GriGri and let the rope drop. I pulled up the skinny rope to get it out of the way, pulled up the big rope's slack, set up the belay for him and snugged up his rope. He asked me if he was on belay, I told him he was "on belay", he replied "climbing", and I completed the ritual with "climb-away". Off he went, basically walking up the slab like a veteran.
He unclipped the rope from the first piece and continued up the little left-facing corner to the stance on the left. I kept a running conversation with him as he went, talking about the rope, the gear, how nice a day it was and of course how well he was doing. All was well until he got up about another 15' when he looked down. He stopped and said, "I'm really high, aren't I." I replied that yes he was, but he had been higher many other times both here and at Lost Ledge. He climbed a little higher and then stopped again. He was now over halfway up by this time. He said "I want to go down now." I suggested that he take a deep breath and climb up a bit more, to the stance right of the bush, about 2/3 of the way up. He said, "Do I have to?" I replied that it would be a lot better if he did, that he was doing great and that he looked like a real pro. I could see that he was very nervous and definitely afraid, but I really wanted him to see if he could work it out on his own. He said OK, moaned under his breath and then basically proceeded to cruise the rest of the route almost faster than I could belay him. All the while with crocodile tears coming out of his eyes and talking to himself, louder and louder the higher he climbed.
Almost at the very top he stopped, looked down and asked, "Will I die if I fall from here?" I responded that yes, he probably would, but that the rope was strong, I was holding him very safely and that I was not going to let anything bad happen to him. He moaned a bit louder, moved up to the top of the block at the tree and grabbed for the anchor. I took his cows-tail biner and clipped him off to the anchor, tied him off and gave him a big hug and kiss. He didn't want to lean back on the anchor so I kept talking with him until he calmed down enough to finally let go of the tree bark and lean back.
Once he got situated he seemed to relax a little so I started getting the anchor set up to rap. Then he started to cry again - loudly I might add - going back and forth between moaning that he didn't want to be here, asking why we didn't have a teleporter to get down and saying that he wished "climbing had never been invented"! Of course right about this time a woman with 2 large black dogs came up to the base of the climb. She stood there, staring up for a while with very large eyes. I called down that we were going to be here for a little bit & it might be best if she choose another route. She then called up, asking "Is everything OK?" I replied "We're fine, don't worry about anything." She stood there for a few minutes and then repeated her query, "Are you SURE everything is OK?" I hardly knew how to respond. Everything was under control, nothing was needed and I had already told her that. Had I been lying? "We are just fine," I repeated and finally she went away.
By now Daz was looking all around himself - asking about the rope, the knots, pointing out the ants that were crawling all around us, announcing that one of the bugs that was on the rock was a Coleoptera, a beetle, and wondering why it was up here. FWIW this little guy is a budding Entomologist! He knows all the different types of bugs and insects and can tell you their differences. His grandparents work with him on identifying all different types of bugs. It is a game for them.
I interrupted his monologue long enough to ask him if he wanted to be lowered or rap with me. He took a minute to consider the question and replied that he wanted to go with me. I set it up, in a few minutes we were spidered together to rap down side by side and off we went. Of course once again he was all nervous and the tears and gnashing of teeth resumed in full swing. There were a lot of people on the slabs and I pointed out that many of them were rapping, most by themselves. I also said that if he kept it up they might think that he was actually hurt and that they might call the Mountain Rescue Service. That tempered the crying and seemed to give him more confidence. As we rapped to one of the pieces that he had unclipped from the rope and left, he stopped moaning long enough to point out where they were and directed me over to the precise position to get them out. In no time at all we were on the ground.
By now his tears were all gone and he had a big grin on his face. I gave him a big hug and kiss and congratulated him on conquering his fear. I mentioned that all of us have fear of something and that learning how to conqueror it was a part of growing up. A big concept for a little person, I know. He took a drink of Gatorade from the water bottle and sat on the tree root obviously thinking about it. In a minute or two he looked over at me and said, "That was pretty cool. Can I do it again?" I grinned and said "Sure." and asked if he wanted me to go up as well. He replied "Nope", he just wanted to climb on his own.
He was still tied into the rope, so I put him on belay. He climbed all the way up the slab, past the small ledge and up to the bush - so quickly and effortlessly that I had to really work to keep up with him. He looked down and said, "That's it dad." I lowered him down and just before the ground he asked me to stop and he ran back and forth for a minute, laughing & obviously having fun. When he had done as much as he wanted I let him down and we packed up the gear together. He did all of his own stuff and helped me with the rack.
Look, I don't know what is the "right" way to teach a kid about climbing and I'm confident that there are books on how to go about it. I have 2 other kids by a previous marriage and I used to take them out toproping years ago at Hammond Pond and Crow Hill. They both seemed to like it at least a little, but it never stuck for them. I was very careful to make sure that they were never afraid and I never pushed them, but for whatever reasons they didn't bond with the rock and after 6-8 times they didn't want to go again.
I don't know what Daz will do with climbing in the future. He obviously sees that my wife Alyssa and I love climbing and the outdoors and he knows that we have fun doing it. What I do know is that as we walked down the road past the Hotel to the parking lot he looked over at me and said, "This was a great day dad." I just nodded as he held my hand all the way down to the truck.
New Hampshire resident Jim Gagne recently returned from summiting Mt. Everest and in the process completing his life goal of climbing the highest summits on all 7 continents. Jim is the first New Hampshire native to summit Everest. He will be doing a Live Photo/Video Presentation & Discussion on Saturday, August 12th. It will be held at the Cranmore Mountain Resort's 10th Mountain Pavillion. There will be a social Hour from 7-8 and the presentation is from 8-9:15. Adults are $10 and students $5.
For more information contact Rick Wilcox at International Mountain Equipment. 603-356-7013. All proceeds help defer Jim's expedition costs. Wondering about other shows, check Jim's web site here:
Jim Gagne site
In first quarter of this year, rumors began surfacing that Denali National Park Superintendent Paul Anderson was considering raising the current $200 special-use fee to attempt Denali or Mt. Foraker to $500, if not $1,000. When this idea was floated at a concessionaires’ meeting, it quickly spread to websites and climbing magazines. Letters of objection to the park office and Alaska’s congressional delegation soon followed. In response, the AAC took an investigative approach, which ultimately led to several meetings with Denali’s superintendent and Alaska’s regional director of the National Park Service (NPS). In addition to communicating the club’s opposition to any fee increase, AAC President Jim Donini and Treasurer Charlie Sassara explored with the NPS leaders the deeper questions regarding the park’s budget shortfall and what the AAC could do to help in this effort. Going forward, the AAC’s approach is to continue the dialogue with the NPS while keeping Alaska’s congressional delegation and state and local representatives informed. The club is hopeful, but also prepared to fight any fee increase. Some of the points the AAC feels strongly about include:
* The AAC maintains that mountain climbing is not only a legitimate visitor use of Denali National Park, but also is specifically one of the purposes for the expansion of the park in 1980 and not a special use, as the park maintains.
* The AAC supports a self-reliance ethic, which calls for climbers to pay their fair share.
* The AAC has never asked for any special services from Denali National Park and Preserve, nor the expansion or development of the South District Ranger Station.
The AAC is opposed to climbers paying the cost of normal park operations, which are covered by federal taxes.
* The AAC believes that an increase in the fee will preclude access for low- to medium-income climbers.
* The AAC believes that an increase in the fee will result in raising expectations that rescues are guaranteed.
* The AAC believes Denali National Park’s senior management is expanding the scope of fee recovery program beyond its original intent.
* With the current $200 fee, Denali and Foraker climbers already pay the additional special services identified under the fee program, as associated with mountaineering on those peaks.
* The AAC is opposed to an increase in the mountaineering special use fee because it is unfair, inequitable, and overreaching.
My friend Mat Peer recently sent me a link to a great song that I hadn't heard before. It's called "Dear Mister President" and it's by an artist named Pink. As a musician I was very impressed with the performance and production and was very taken with the lyrics. On top of that it has a guest appearance by the Indigo Girls on background vocals. You don't hear many protest songs any more, I grew up musically in the 60's, but this one is very well done. At the risk of inspiring a political debate on a climbing site, I'm going to pass along a link where you can hear the entire song:
Hopefully at least a few of you will enjoy it.
Join us for our 7th Annual Sterling Rope Women’s Climbing Weekend in North Conway, New Hampshire on September 16 - 17. Instruction and climbing to be conducted by athletes from the Sterling Rope’s Climbing Team, Julie Seyfert-Lillis, Lisa Hathaway, Claudia Beland, as well as top local female climbers and guides. Registration deadline is September 1, 2006 – space is limited, so don’t wait!
Registration: Meet at International Mountain Equipment (IME) on Main Street in N. Conway at 8 a.m. Download registration form, waiver, and schedule of events at
BBQ/Party: Saturday, September 16th at Ragged Mt. Equipment – Great food, entertainment, and prizes!
Cost: $75.00 for one day or $125.00 for 2 days – includes instruction, all equipment, gear, raffles, entertainment, and food
If you have any questions, please contact Sonya Becker at 800-788-7673 ext. 16 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
Have fun and climb safe,
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
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