| Mt. Shavano - 1st 14er for me and my son
Since Mount Shavano is a fairly straightforward climb, I thought I would share some lessons learned from taking my 11 year old son, Joshua, up a 14er for those parents wondering if their kids can do it.
On Thursday July 15, 2011, 6 men and 2 boys, ages 7 and 11, from my church in Wichita, KS traveled to Colorado to attempt Shavano and Tabeguache. We camped at the trailhead Thursday night to acclimatize, then hiked about 1.25 miles up the trail on Friday afternoon and camped at the last stream crossing. We did this to help in the acclimatization and to get a head start on the trip on Saturday morning.
On Saturday morning we woke up at 3:00 and set off by about 4:10. The youngest of the boys started having problems almost immediately, and he and his Dad decided to take it easy and not kill themselves pushing for the summit. The rest of us pushed on and made it above treeline pretty quickly. At about that point, I heard my 11 y.o. gasping up ahead. I caught up to him and got him calmed down. He was pushing a bit too hard trying to stay up with the leader, and was starting to feel the effects of the cold and wind. He couldn't get his gloves on because they were a bit snug and that caused more frustration until one of my buddies loaned him his extra pair and we put his jacket on so he could put his hands in his pockets. After that he and I hiked together with 3 of the remaining group pushing ahead and one dropping back because of conditioning.
Joshua and I continued on and did well finishing the climb to and across the saddle. Then we started the final climb up toward the summit. Around this point Joshua started to get a headache. We pushed on, taking frequent breaks and drinking lots of water. About 2/3 of the way up the climb, Joshua sat down out of the wind to rest, said his head really hurt, and started to shiver pretty badly. We sat for a while, put on another layer of clothes and tried to warm up. At that point he told me the steep climb was too scary and he wanted to go down. The distance when he turned around and looked back down the hill was intimidating.
For me, being in the mountains with my son is good enough and him having fun is more important than making a summit. I was ready to turn around. Then two amazing things happened. First, another climber stopped to check on us, gave Joshua an Advil, asked him several questions about how he felt, and reassured him that he would be okay, that he was close to the summit, and that his headache would get better when he headed down. Second, another climber asked us how we were doing, then told us that when thinking about how far to the summit was overwhelming, he just focused on getting to the next rock, and he also encouraged us that we were almost at the top.
Hearing these things from someone other than his Dad reassured Josh, and reminded me. There was a big flat rock about 20 feet above us. I asked Josh if he thought he could make it there. He said yes. I told him to leave his pack and hiking poles and to climb there. I threw on my pack and followed him. As soon as he hit the ledge, target rock, I picked another point another 20 feet up and, told him not to look down, and to go to the next point. If he hesitated, I would climb to the next point and have him come to me, reminding him not to look down.. After not more than another 150 vertical feet we came to the summit, where three guys from our group were waiting.
It was an amazing feeling for me and Joshua to share our first 14er summit together. More importantly I was proud as a dad that my son had overcome adversity and accomplished something that he wasn’t sure he could do. To me that is the sort of lessons that will last long after the exhilaration of the summit. We hung out on the summit with our friends, took photos, called Mom and rested for about 20 to 30 minutes. It had turned into a beautiful day. We did communion as a group on the summit, which was a super - cool experience, and our three buddies headed off to tag Tabagauche. We decided we were pretty proud of one summit and would head back toward the trailhead.
Once we headed back down, I was amazed at how far we had come. By this point Joshua was fine and his youth was helping him while I was starting to feel the effects of the climb. The walk from the saddle back to treeline was way longer than I remembered.
So what did I learn or have reinforced?
1. That yes, indeed, kids can climb 14ers.
2. That hearing someone other than your dad tell you something can be more reassuring.
3. That it is more important to have fun. My friend who headed back with his son still had fun and was thankful he didn’t push him and have a miserable time.
4. That things that aren’t scary to you as an adult with more experience can be very scary the first time.
5. Bring something for headaches.
If you have kids that want to do it they absolutely can, but be ready to be flexible and most importantly, fun is more important than a summit.