hiking

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Wait a minute. I thought you said you wanted to hit the local crag today with the little ones? Oh, so you don’t want to go on a hike? You’d rather hang inside? But I thought the Patagonia vest, Kavu pants and Subaru indicated you were down for a toddler-in-tow bouldering sessions I’m confused. When you said you’d like to go climbing sometime you meant never?

Why is it so difficult to find other parents that are excited to take their toddlers on outdoor adventures? Does the hassle outweigh the time spent climbing or hiking so much that you’ll wait years till he’s old enough to do it on his own? Apparently, it is. Finding a willing parent is much harder than I ever thought it would be. I don’t live in a particularily lazy town, so when Baby C was no longer just a thought, I was certain there would be plenty of families out there who continue to pursue their outdoor adventures post baby. Again, I was wrong. Okay okay, I’m sure you’re out there. Maybe we’ve even seen each other at the grocery store? Maybe, that woman I thought was giving me a strange look while I let Baby C stand on the grocery cart seat was really just attempting to communicate her desire to go climbing with her toddler too telepathically!

When I do meet a climber parent their initial reaction to a family climbing trip is “My wife can stay home with the kids.” Bah! In my book, that’s just not how it works. You had a kid, planned or unplanned, and now they’re a part of your life. Your WHOLE life. Of course that doesn’t mean if you’re attempting a summit to Mt. Rainier that you bring them along. As a courtesy to your partner and your child, take them with you. And wear a damn smile on your face! Not only will it help to develop a love for the outdoors for your child, but also, your entire family gets to share in the experience. Resentment need not apply. He’s too heavy? You only got three routes in today? Boo-stinking-hoo. In a couple of years you’ll be back ticking off one route after the other and bagging peaks left and right. But in those couple short years with your toddler in the backcountry, you will have given him something that will last a lifetime. When he’s fifteen, he’ll look through pictures of toddler climbing trips and think (even if he won’t admit it), “dang homie, my parents were awesome.” I could go on and on about the importance of taking your kids outside (better physical, emotional, mental health – stewardship – imagaination -etc.), but I won’t.

This is a personal ad to all of your lovely climber parents:

Family seeking other awesome family who likes to spank crags and not kids

We enjoy bringing our toddler climbing, backpacking and skiing. We don’t take breaks on hikes, but instead just slow down to the pace of molasses. If you need to stop, we won’t judge, we’ll just hope you catch up. Our child determines our schedule and we respect his limitations. If it’s time to go, it’s time to go. We’re looking for a like minded family who loves bringing their kid climbing or hiking. Parents who are down for all sorts of adventures and mean it when they say it. Seeking family who let’s their kid get absolutely filthy. Seeking parents who aren’t afraid to get out there and keep pursuing the activities they love!

Signed,

F.A.M.I.L.Y

(family adventures make intelligent little yougens)

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Washington’s Better

CascadesTieton

Mountain ranges, coastlines, climate and people; all of these things define the place you live. There isn’t much that tops a regions geography when determining a place I’ll be happy in. If there are no mountains and no granite, I’m out. For some people, if there isn’t a rugged coastline or warm beaches, they’re out. Different strokes for different folks. However, I will argue that Washington State is one of the best places to live in all of the United States and I’ll give you five compelling reasons why:

1. Geography. There is a geographical hotspot for nearly every outdoor enthusiast. Too the east are deserts with tons of early climbing spots, to the north are rugged mountains for skiing, to the west are coastlines for surfing and to the south are rivers for kayaking. More importantly, there are two massive mountain ranges that offer excellent peaks to summit for all skill levels. The Cascades and the Olympics are home to beautiful old growth forests, rain forests, alpine meadows and excellent alpine climbing. We’ve got all of our bases covered.

2. Climate. ¬†True, it rains a lot here. However, this solely depends on what part of the state you live in. If you live anywhere near Seattle or Olympia, you will mold. Fortunately, drive two hours east and Bam! The sun is beaming on your pastey skin and you have a chance to revitalize your vitamin d deficiency. Besides, this state wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is without out all of that water.

3. People. Bottom line, people are laid back here. Sure, there is sometimes an overwhelming amount of passive aggressiveness, but if you can’t handle it, just be straight up with people and they’ll get real with you. If not, retreat to the mountains and do what you do.

4. Outdoor enthusiasts. While there are many posers out there, there’s equally true outdoorspeople. Washintonians are excited about and protective of their beloved outdoor sports. So, don’t come between one of them and a summit because they’ll shank you with a trekking pole.

5. Because your state isn’t good enough. Ever heard the statement “it’s not you, it’s me,” well they lied, it is you. By you, I mean, your state. Don’t get me wrong, there are couple states that rival Washington. It’s just, where else can you get such a wonderful cocktail of awesomeness?

If I haven’t you convinced that Washington is the best, it’s probably because you’re just not ready for the truth. You can’t handle the truth! Or mabye it’s because you prefer your stinky, drab and so ten years ago state. For my favorite places in Washington, check out Places to Go!

The Memo You Didn’t Get

Breaking news! When you have a child, everything will change. Climbing, skiing, mountaineering, backpacking and hiking; all of those things you love so much will be put on hold. Obviously my husband and I did not get the memo that reads as follows:

“Dear expecting parents,

Awe, that’s sweet, you decided to make a baby. Good for you! You know what’s even sweeter? You think you’ll be doing all of the fun things you love so dearly within a few weeks. Sure, sure, drop baby off at grandmas while you hit the slopes. Life as you know it will stay pretty much the same, just with a sweet little angel floating around you. WRONG. I am here to inform you that everything will be different and for the first few months it will be hard as hell and even though it’s the peak of climbing season, you’re done. Oh, and forget about all those other fun things you like to do and your relationship. That is all.

Sincerely,

The people with the memo that you never got”

Before you start questioning the love we have for our child, hear me out. Let’s just start from the understanding that we love Baby C more and more every day. Our hearts feel like they could explode they’re so full. That said, I’d like to confront society for not explaining well enough how difficult the adjustment from single to parent life is. There are no books that tell you about the things my husband and I went through. Sure, sleeping, breast feeding, etc., that’s all difficult too, but I’m not talking about the physical aspects of parenting. I’m talking straight up emotional funeral; the severe sense of mourning your old life. Not in a regretful way, but in a surprised this all happened this way but we thought it would happen that way. You don’t realize how much time you have to yourself until you don’t have it anymore. At a moments notice we’d grab our rope bag and head off to the mountains. That’s just not possible anymore. That freedom is gone, for now at least. It’s no longer just the two of you and if you’re lucky enough to have a partner that’s also your best friend, this is devastating on its own. While a baby enriches your life and gives you such a humbling perspective, theres also the understanding that your wife is not just yours anymore. She’s his too and you have to share, oh and the sharing is 80/20 baby dominates. I don’t think most people want to admit these things in fear of being perceived as a bad parent. Let me tell you right now, you’re not. These feelings are valid and while you may feel sad about it sometimes, as you sink into the mold of being a parent, everything gets easier. Soon you won’t remember a time before your baby came into the picture. You’ll only know carrying an extra twenty five pounds on a backpacking trip or walking away from finishing a boulder project without a second thought because baby needs you. Eventually, it all feels normal again, I promise. If you find yourself feeling down, simply explain to your baby the importance of excellent crevasse rescue skills and poof! You’ll instantly feel better. By the time Baby C is three, I swear he’ll know the in’s and out’s of three pulley system just as well as he knows Elmo’s Song.
Consider this that memo I never got.

Baby In A Garbage Can

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Garbage cans are extremely versatile. Not only can you put garbage in them, you can also bathe your ten month old baby in them. Camping is quite the ordeal with a baby and if you have a child like mine, you will do anything to keep in line with their routine. If you stray from the norm, baby will have multiple meltdowns and you will suffer the wrath of an adorably horrific monster.

Bath time is number two in the series of five regimented tasks before bedtime. They are all necessary in inducing sleep and giving Baby C the queue’s he needs in order to know “ohhhhh, I get it. You want me to go to sleep now.” Without bath time, you might as well welcome the apocalypse in because Baby C will reign fury upon you.

Obviously the anticipation is killing you now and you’re just beside yourself with anxiety. Wait no more! I will divulge my garbage bath secrets!

First, clean your garbage can out. Second, heat up yellowish-brown pumped water at the campsite. Third, fill up the garbage can. Fourth, put baby in garbage can. Fifth, take pictures of baby bottom smooshed against garbage can. Sixth, watch baby enjoy the hell out of himself!

That’s it. Your baby is now clean and he can move onto step three in the series of five.

Infinite Bliss: Climbing Two Months Postpartum

Just two months after giving birth or as I like to refer to it, “massacre on my lady parts for eight hours,” I told my husband I wanted to climb the first ten pitches of Infinite Bliss. Located on Mt. Garfield’s western peak, 23 pitches, climbing roughly 2600 feet. It’s the longest sport route in North America and it is quite impressive looking. Two months postpartum, 1300 feet and ten pitches, noooo problem. Before I get into anymore details regarding the climb let me describe to you what two months postpartum means.

So you just had a baby eight weeks ago. Emotional chaos aside, your body is straight up wacky. I don’t mean wacky like, funny clown juggling cakes while riding a electronic bull. I’m talking sack of skin hanging from your stomach that used to house a seven pound human. I’m talking you haven’t slept in two months and your breasts are swollen to the size of healthy cantaloupes, not to mention leaking all over you (yes, I was fearful of attracting bears). To top it off, despite climbing and running into my 38th week of pregnancy, my physical fitness and endurance was nonexistent. Sack of skin, extra weight, full boobs and no endurance; a delicious recipe for an unsuccessful attempt at climbing Infinite Bliss.

Before we hit the approach trail, not once did all of those things mentioned above come to mind. The hike up is reasonably short but fairly steep. This should have been my que that maybe this was too much too soon. At the base of the climb, you can’t help but be captivated by the rugged scenery. Towering behind you is a massive vertical wall and in front is a stunning range of densley forested peaks. It doesn’t get any better than this. The first ten pitches are very easy and most people simulclimb them. Because we were just looking for a leisurely first climb, we chose to leap frog it. Our first mistake was getting a late start and forgetting that the climbing is quick but the rappelling is slow. By the time we got eight pitches in, it was three in the afternoon and there was a brand new baby waiting impatiently for us over an hour away. We decided to make the rapel down and head home. Once we reached the base of the climb, we met two climbers heading up. They told us they were doing all 23 pitches today, at four in the afternoon. Ha! Hope you brought your headlamps for the hours of night time rappelling!

I don’t want to downplay this trip. I realized I had serious limits. My body was hurting and it was desperately trying to tell me but my ego told it to “suck it!” I paid. Oh, I paid big time. Listening to your body is so important. I wanted so badly to climb a long route as soon as possible to satisfy my pride, but instead, I received a serious dose of postpartum reality. My husband wished we wouldn’t have gone, but in hindsight it was the perfect smack down I needed.

Infinite Bliss is still on my list, but this time, it’s all twenty three pitches! Now the only thing stopping me is a reliable babysitter…

Bouldering in Pink Aquasocks

Apparently it’s frowned upon to tether your baby to a tree, while you and your husband climb a couple of quick sport routes? Even IF he’s on a crash pad, and is obviously very content to be eating a little dirt and chalk, it’s just not okay. If Baby C began to cry, one of us would simply unhook from the rope and console him. Oh, the climber? They’d just have to sit tight and hope for big jugs to hold onto.

In our last trip for 2013 climbing season, we went to our beloved Leavenworth. If you don’t know about this place, don’t go there, it’s awful. Totally sucks. I’d rather watch five hundred Youtube videos on tips for Microsoft Excell. Just kidding, it’s our favorite place in the whole wide world! Not only is it home to one of the best authentic German bakery’s, it’s also home to world class climbing. Coincidence? I think not! Hidden in the Cascade mountains is a real gem. Nestled below one of the most beautiful sub ranges, the Enchantments, Leavenworth offers not only awesome views, but an array of sticky slab, fun bouldering and stiff ratings that are matched with even stiffer routes. Bring your crash pad and trad rack. If you have more time and no kid, then check out some alpine climbs (popular classics located in Beckey’s books). What happened? I got sidetracked. Oh yeah, Leavenworth blows, don’t go.

We didn’t end up tying any babies to trees. Instead, we opted to do a little bouldering at Barney’s Rubble, Swiftwater and Mad Meadows. All three spots offer excellent varieties of ratings, which was great because once you make the switch from bouldering to sport, those softer routes are gentler on the ego. It’s always surprising to see people’s reactions when they notice a baby hanging out on a crash pad. At Mad Meadows, we were greeted over and over again by welcoming climbers who were stoked to see a baby at the crag. I think this one of the only places you will find a group of twenty something’s men, ask to hold a baby. This does not happen in day to day life, test it! I won’t lie, taking your baby bouldering is no picnic. You have to be extremely conscious of where he is at all times. Rocks and other obstacles are on your radar as well as that 6’2 lanky climber who just missed his heal hook and is now falling right next to your baby. Fortunately, on this trip, we managed to keep Baby C unsmooshed. After a day of climbing, we went back to the campsite and made a giant bowl of food. Side note: ever notice while camping, food tastes more amazing than anything you’ve ever had in your life.

Day two, we headed for a short hike up to Eight Mile Lake. Nevermind that it was 90 degrees. The hike is very easy and a nice distance when playing donkey to your twenty pound love child. We arrived at the first little lake before the actual Eight Mile lake and let Baby C roll around in the mud. The finL destination was a refreshing payoff with awesome mountain views. This is a great hike for families. It’s steep enough to cause your children anguish and you’ll probably hear a lot of whining, but not so steep that they will give up all together. All in all, the last trip of the season was very satisfying.

The take home: take your baby outside! Take your baby bouldering if it’s just you and one other person or sport climb if there’s a babysitter at the crag. Please, I beg of you. If you had a kid, and you think your climbing days are over, they aren’t! It’s just different, but think about how awesome they’ll think you are when they’re fifteen…or maybe twenty. Or maybe they’ll have a lot of resentment because instead of letting them play video games, you took them rock climbing? Don’t worry, you’ll have that covered because you’ll have already saved up for a college/and-or/ therapy fund!

Lastly, I discovered something absolutely hilarious on this trip. If you put pink shoes on a baby, it’s automatically a girl. Baby C grew out of his shoes in exactly 24 hours, so we our only option was a pair of bright pink aquasocks at a convenient store. Just seconds before slipping on those gender determining articles, Baby C was “a handsome boy” as one retail associate said. I know I shouldn’t be surprised because I myself cannot pick the gender of a baby under the age of two unless they have distinguishing clothing. Who cares anyways, they are all adorable, amazing creatures who don’t care what box we out them in.

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38 Weeks and 600 Feet

Whale in a harness
Thirty eight weeks pregnant and I thought “Let’s climb R&D!” It’s a classic Leavenworth slab route with easy to moderate climbing ranging from 5.5 to 5.7 on the ever popular Mountaineer’s Domb. It’s four pitches and 600 vertical feet of solid climbing. It was the last climbing trip my husband and I would have by ourselves.

So there I was, in my five point harness and my humongous body, resting at the bottom of the wall, looking up, wondering if this was a good idea? Really, my husband and our other climbing partner were more concerned that I would go into labor half way up the route. Honestly, how cool would that be? Three hundred feet up, screaming bloody murder and bam! Baby C falls out of me, only to be hanging on by the umbilical¬†cord! Come on! Talk about EPIC. Believe it or not, climbing at 38 weeks pregnant is difficult. Not only do you weigh an extra 30-40 pounds, but you’re carrying it mostly in your stomach, so balance is completely off and not to mention, lifting your tub of lard up a vertical wall is extremely taxing! Who knew?

Up the buttress we went! The first pitch is mostly made up of low fifth class climbing, but pleasant all the same. For a second, I thought everything would be a piece of cake. I moved slowly up the rock, onto the second belay station to greet my hyperventilating husband. He was overjoyed there was no baby hanging out of me but before we could rejoice, we looked above and grimaced. A chimney. Oh god, not a chimney. For those of you non climbers, a chimney is a rock cleft with parallel sides just big enough to fit the climber in. The climber uses opposite pressure with their entire body to shimmy up the structure. Normally, this is a fun feature because you can use nearly any part of your body to get up it. However, when there is a giant yoga ball attached to your middle, a chimney is a cause for concern. Think about Violet from Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory getting lodged in a chimney. I was sure I would burst and amniotic fluid would shoot out of me given the right amount of pressure. Essentially, I would be juiced. my husband went first, reached the belay station and nervously waited to see my head pop up from below. No amount of “think skinny” will help you here ladies. Squeezing and grunting, and with a pull here and squish there, I was out! All fluids retained! Now all that remained was a couple of fist jams in a hand crack and lie back flake…

The last pitch was an easy jaunt up slab. Upon reaching the top I was greeted with a creepily long hug (even for my husband). It was a hug that said “we will never do that again.” Once our partner Dave reached the top, we concluded this route was an excellent 38 weeks pregnant route with tons of great features from chimneys, to handcracks and lie back flakes. Classic!

The scramble down was more painful than the entire climb. Had I been in a non-incubator form, it would’ve been much more manageable. Once we reached the bottom, we packed the gear up and headed back to our campsite for some delicious wood stained chicken…that’s another story.

Hindsight, would I have done it again? Abso-friggin-lutely! How can I risk the life of my unborn child like that? I could’ve DIED! Baby killer! No really, I would do it again and I would encourage any healthy, strong and conscious mother to be, to continue doing what you do and love. Sure, there was an added fear, but at no point did I feel unsafe. Had I felt my child’s life was at risk at any moment, there would be no question as to stopping. I was and still am confident in my capabilities and risk assessment, so need to bring out the shame police!