I love hiking to the tops of mountains! And the last few climbs have been with my children (daughter, 9 and son, 7) which has been such a pleasure! My daughter and son joined me on a hike to the top of Deseret Peak early in October. On the way up Griffin (my 7-year-old) saw a man ahead of him and was determined to catch him. He forged ahead and left me and Sami in the dust. I finally had to call out to him and have him wait for us as he reached the ridge-line and just about disappeared from sight. His attitude about hiking
is a big change from when we bagged Grandeur Peak last year. We had to hike down in the dark and he broke down and cursed the rocks that kept tripping him. But without the darkness hindering him on this occasion, he thrived! I was so proud of both of them as we got to the top and looked out at the many peaks and valleys surrounding us.
It was a thrill to see their determination to get down, too. We hit some steep, slippery, muddy spots on the way down (hiking the loop so as not to backtrack) and Griff took the first spill. His pants were completely muddy and I thought we might have a repeat of the 2009 summit where he would begin to be frustrated by the decent. Instead, he shook it off and continued down ahead of me. That proved to be nearly disastrous as I took my turn at a fall and lost my footing and began to slide down the muddy trail. With Griff in front of me I piled right into him. Sami, my 9 year-old daughter, turned out of our way like a skilled bull-fighter and we slid on past her. Griffin wasn’t sure what was going on as he was forced into my lap, but he managed to catch a glimpse of my smile and realized that we must just be going for a little ride. We must have slid 25 yards before I managed to hault our progress – just in time, too. The trail began to turn and we stopped ourselves at the switchback before nearly sliding off the trail off the even steeper mountainside.
After that near miss we continued on down the trail. We just kept hiking and hiking and after a while Sami pointed out that we hadn’t even taken a rest yet. We turned around and saw a group behind us up on the saddle and Sami and Griff suggested that we not take a rest the whole way down and added that we shouldn’t let the group above us catch up. So down we continued and stop we did not. Although Griff began to doddle and when I suggested that we stop and rest because “you’re doddling, Griff” he asked me for the definition of doddle and I explained it to him. ”You’re kicking every rock, you’re grabbing every branch and bush. You’re doddling.” That didn’t make the difference, but when I pointed out the group of hikers behind us and he saw that they were gaining on us he started running down the trail. He set the pace for us the rest of the way down and we didn’t stop running until we caught up to some riders on horseback. Even then we were able to keep a good jog going and the group never caught us.
Griffin and Samantha were very happy to be down, but even more I could sense that they were happy for their accomplishment. They made it all the way to the top of a peak and looked out at all they surveyed. They endured the trials of fatigue and overcame their desire to stop and rest. They made it to the bottom safely and we made memories that we will never forget.
Just one week later I felt the need to hike another peak and this time Sami wouldn’t be able to join us. She cried when I told her Griff and I were going to hike to the top of another peak. She wanted to join us so bad but she also wanted to go to a church function where she would be able to dress up as a princess. The princess in her won out and I promised that I wouldn’t hike the peak that I told her we were going to hike – that we would wait for her to hike that peak. That consoled her enough that Griff and I were able to go without her.
As I thought about alternate peaks I ran through all the peaks I’d love to hike again. One by one I excluded peak after peak as I remembered their level of difficulty and potential danger due to exposure and drop-offs. It was a tweet that I saw about the Snowbird Tram being free with a can of food donation that weekend that led me to believe that Twin Peaks American Fork was the peak we would bag together. I had hiked them once before but I came up the west side and took a “shortcut” down the east side, the side we would now hike up together. I was also excited about bagging two official peaks and another mountain top, Red Top Mountain or Red Stack (not officially a peak due to its lack of prominence) all in one hike.
We rode up on the tram which was a thrill for Griffin. We noted that the last ride down was at 5 pm. It was approaching 1 pm as we started off and headed up the trail from the tram. I was surprised how quickly the trail turned into pure ridge-line as we began to scramble on and over rocks and slipped by trees and managed sheer drop offs. Griffin was oblivious to the dangers and on one hand I was glad for that. I didn’t want him to be scared, but when he put his hands in his jacket pockets and acted like he was walking down the side walk I was forced to say something. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was for him, but I wanted him to be able to tackle this on his own so I just stayed right behind him and placed my arms by him in a way that I could catch him if he fell to the left or to the right, keeping him from falling to his death. It was the first time that I remember being scared as I hiked to the top of a peak! It made me wonder if I’ve been as oblivious to the looming dangers as Griffin was today. I began to fast forward 10 years when Griff tells me that he’s going to bag Lone Peak with some friends. If he’s as nonchalant as he is today (and as I’ve apparently been for years and years) then I hear myself denying his request. But I talk myself down from that and convince myself that he’ll be fine, just as I’ve been fine. I’m flashed back to the present when we come to a spot on the ridge-line that looks impassable and I have to survey where to direct Griffin next. The “trail” doesn’t get any easier as we continue our ascent, but we carry on as thoughts of turning back have long since expired.
We make it to the top of the first of the twin peaks and feel good about making it to the top. The ridge-line to the second twin is an easy and care-free jaunt down and then back up and we take a break and eat the lunch we packed. It’s 3 pm and I consider heading back down without visiting Red Top due to our 5 pm deadline. But I can’t resist and we carry on to the west to get three in one day. What an accomplishment for a 7 year-old, I think to myself. I also have an old geocache that I hid before he was born that I’d like to pay a visit. That mountain is a little bit further away and a lot more down before a bit more up, but we make it. The geocache log stalls us further as I read through the entries and delight in the fact that it has caused enough motivation for others to hike to this location of much beauty.
We finally head back but by the time we make it to where we first summited it is 4:10 pm. We have to make it down the difficult spine and we only have 50 minutes to do it. I had already considered taking the “shortcut” that I took when I hiked down this side before, but I remembered enough that I knew it to be a risk with a child. But so was hiking back the way we came and for a moment I thought the shortcut could get us back in time for the last ride down. As we reach the point of decision I look at the steep slope on my left (north side) and then consider that perhaps the steep slope on my right my be the better “shortcut”. There are wide ski roads at the bottom of each slope, but the one on the right is a little closer and the terrain is slightly grassy as opposed to scree and rock. I decide we should risk it.
Note to self – if the words “risk it” are included when considering a decision, reconsider.
We had to down climb a series of cliffs before we could reach the steep and grassy slope. I would climb down to a spot and then help Griffin down to a place where he would be able to hold on by himself. Then we’d repeat the process over and over again. The time for him to conquer this mountain by himself had passed and I was holding on to him for dear life as much as possible by this point. When we finally reached the steep slope I held out my arm and Griffin held on to it like a sleigh handle and as I controlled our slide down the mountain as he followed down like a kid learning to ski. He caught on quick and it wasn’t long before he was a pro.
We finally made it to the ski road at 5:35 pm. I broke the news to Griffin that we probably missed the last tram and I began to prepare him mentally for the hike all the way to the bottom without the aid and comfort of an enclosed carrier dangling on a cable. I reassured him that the rest of the way down would be nothing like what we had just hiked. That brought him some relief and he quickly accepted the fact that we had at least an hour or two of hiking ahead of us.
We decided to hike to the tram anyway, just in case. Earlier as we looked down on the tram we could see groups of people which gave us hope that we still had time to make it. But now we could see nobody and we accepted our fate. We were prepared with flashlights and extra layers so I knew we were prepared. A ride down still would be nice. I was surprised to see a man appear at the top of the hill as we climbed the last bit to the tram. The split-second of hope that I felt at seeing someone faded quick as I realized it was a Snowbird employee and I knew in an instant that he was waving us down the hill to let us know that we missed the last tram. To my surprise, however, he was waving us up the hill and he yelled out to hurry because everyone is waiting for us! We ran up the hill as fast as we could which was not an easy task. We were both out of breath by the time we reached the top but we were both grinning from ear to ear at the thought that our journey had now come to an end.
I was thrilled that neither one of us had died or been injured. I still feel a touch of guilt for taking my 7 year-old on such a tough and dangerous journey. On the other hand I’m so glad we were able to accomplish this feat, but I’m now determined to stick to the peaks that have actual trails to the top until I have more confidence in my little hikers. I look back and consider it quite the blessing that Sami wasn’t able to join us. Although if she was able to join us we would’ve been hiking to the top of Stansbury Island, the peak that she didn’t want us to attempt without her because it’s an island, afterall! She would likely have been disappointed with her grand delusions, but thank goodness I didn’t have two little ones to look after on our hike to Twin Peaks!
I made it up to Sami by hiking to a high spot in the Oquirrh mountains on Monday night. The offer was extended to Griffin but he declined. He had had enough peak hiking for one week and two days wasn’t enough time for him to forget the trial. Cold weather has hit the Wasatch and surrounding mountains and it would seem that the season for peak bagging has passed. Warmer weather this week has caused me to second guess that fact, but the now on the tops of the mountains remains and all I need to do is imagine my children slipping and sliding in the icy snow and my obsession is squelched for the time being. We’ll get back to it next year when the snow melts off in July.
We’ll also get back to the rock climbing that has dogged me ever since I took a fall in May that ended up saving my life. I’m the proud new owner of a stylish grey rock-climbing helmet, so we’re good to go! My kids have missed it this year so we’ll be glad to get back to it. Until then we’ll look back fondly on the fun memories we made during our month of peak fever!