Part Two: The Code
In spending time talking about Nathans dream to go “half way to the top” on our 14 hour drive home from So. Cal. We came up with what was to be called “Nathan’s training missions”. It was a series of 7 trips each one progressively harder then the next. Picked with a specific skill or experience in mind he would need to be able to accomplish his dream. Some designed for just sheer accomplishment others for learning to travel on rock or walking on snow and others still for distance or elevation gain.
I drew out a chart on a big poster board with a thermostat gauge in the middle he was able to fill in with red marker he later determined was the lava rising to burst from the top when he made it “half way up”. It hung in our kitchen as a constant reminder of what he was working towards.
The first was where things were set in motion. A local peak named Mt peak was the first attainable easy mission. It’s a simple 3 mile 1000ft of gain local hill people hike all the time. It was certainly not Nathans first time up it, in fact his first trip up it was in a baby pack at 6 weeks old on Abrams chest. This time though they came home with more then just something to mark off the chart. They came home with a code. “The code” It was the code they were going to operate by.
It was made up of 5 points to guide them through this journey together to train not just the body but also the mind. Half the battle of climbing sometimes is the mental fortitude it takes to will your self to the destination. Each climbing code was born from trail and route experience when things went very wrong and also went very right. It’s also a code that applies to more then hiking. It applies to all areas really. Which is why it’s stuck around this whole time. What ever your path, there is always mountains to climb.
The Climbers Code
1. Get up and Down the Mountain Safe
2. Protect and Respect Nature
3 Always be Prepared
4 Find God
5 Have Fun
1 Get up and Down the Mountain Safe
Even when you do everything right things still go wrong because its nature and there is always something out of your control. If you were to know Abram at all you would know that he is someone who likes to take on a challenge, the harder the better. So it would come at no surprise that he was on a route, in February to climb Mt Rainer. Abram and his climbing partner at the time David were on the Kautz Glacier route. They had done everything right, checked avalanche reports, planed the route they would take and brought all the necessary things to Get up and Down safely.
After digging “pits” to check the snow quality along the route everything looked ok. But just because one spot was ok is not always a guarantee the next spot isn’t and that also means of course there are places you just can’t dig, a steep, narrow gully on a mountainside that can be full of snow or full of loose rock is one of those places and they are typically crossed as fast and safely as possible.
It was here that Abram and David were caught in the avalanche. Abram attempted to ice ax arrest and was knocked on to his back. Head over heals he tumbled for what could have been 3 seconds or 15 seconds either way his ice ax ripped his shoulder apart inside and all he could do was swim and hope to reach the surface before the snow stopped moving. When an avalanche slides it not only slides at a high rate of speed it also turns to an almost liquid and then compress into something similar to cement where it is incredibly hard to move. The decision to swim was probably the thing that saved his life.
When the slide stopped he was up right. Abram was buried to his waste, glacier glasses no longer on his head and he had a helmet full of snow. His climbing partner was down slop a bit but also up right and had a badly injured ankle. They walked off the mountain from a starting point of 12,500 feet. Eventually making it to safety. They had used things from there packs they carried every time they went out in the mountains and never needed until that moment. Applying the skills they had learned for years and never needed is what got them down with some badly injured limbs and one hell of a story to tell.
Sometimes from start to finish we don’t always have the best in-betweens but if properly prepared, we finish Getting up and down the Mountain safely.
2. Protect and Respect Nature
There is a hike out of sunrise in Mount Rainer called Fremont fire look out. As a family, all four of us trudged up this trail with about 500 or more of our closest friends. Nathan was 5 at the time and very clear about where the trail is and what to do and what not to do. After spending about an hour on the top we headed down.
We ran in to a ranger who spoke with Nathan at great length about trail etiquette. Not because he was doing any thing wrong but because he knew so much about the subject. He gave Nathan a badge that said something about protecting nature. It was his “trail badge” to set right any one whom he saw was making a wrong choice. Sure enough about 5 mins later there was someone walking off trail and he set them straight. He informed them that they needed to protect nature and that it was important so that other little kids after him could have a chance to see the flowers and forest.
Guilt trip over and we went about our day. From that day on he has been the nature protector, badge and all. He has learned about tacked and what true leadership is as a result of taking ownership of his badge to Protect and respect nature.
In order to be sure that mountains stay alive and well his purpose is to be sure he leaves things better then when he found them and that means “Protect and respect nature”
(Burrows Loop, Mount Rainer National Park)
3. Always be Prepared
The 10 essentials list. It’s a list of 10 things to ALWAYS bring when you head in to the outdoors. Countless times we have watched people put them selves in harms way because they neglect to bring the essentials.
Classic Ten Essentials
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Extra clothing
- First-aid supplies
- Fire starter
- Extra food
People always think its not going to happen to them, until it does. Thankfully we haven’t had more then bumps and scraps with the kids, however for Abram and I we have need items from the list more then a few times to make it back safely. One story comes to mind before we had kids. Abram and I had been out on a 4 day backpacking trip east of Seattle. We had taken a short day hike out of camp and on the way down Abram slipped on some rocks and dislocated his shoulder. We were at least 12 miles and 6500 feet of elevation away from our car and it was 2 in the afternoon.
Abram go out his first aid kit and pulled out his sling bandage. He had carried that sling for at least 12 years every hiking trip he had ever been on and never needed it until that moment but it was the only thing that enabled him to walk out. These items are not for the 100 times you don’t need them they are for the one time you do. And it may not even be for your self. Many times Abram or I have had to use everything in our packs to be able to get out of the trail safely either for our selves or something we walk up on the trail.
In the wilderness or in life we never receive warning that these things we are prepared for are going to happen, they just do. Unless of course it comes in the form of a 600LB grizzly bear, then at least you have a 30 second heads up that things are about to get really different and to just brace for impact. None the less, Always be Prepared because one day you may not know you need what you have, until its right in front of you.
4. Find God
This one is kind of self-explanatory. It’s hard to deny the presence of a higher power when you stand on top of the places we have stood and the silence is deafening. Spiritual experiences are things that are common for me in the woods.
Reminds me of a quote by John Muir:
“Id rather be in the Mountains thinking of God
then in church thinking of Mountains.”
Walking among the trees through deep valleys or high peaks has been places that produce healing and perspective. Many times I have left feeling better then when I came, not because I made my destination or because I saw something out of the ordinary but simply because I cleared the cob webs out of my brain and the wild caged animal inside was quiet once again.
Take for instance the time Abram hiked up to a place called “Hidden Lake” in Glacier National Park. He didn’t go there on crutches because he wanted to see the destination. He went up that 3 miles boardwalk on crutches because he was crazy inside and a piece of him was dying and the wilderness called his name. For me I have vertigo and big open slopes are something that my brain hates very much and I almost pass out often but I figured out ways to go, not because I like dry-heaving on the side of mountains or because I enjoy feeling dizzy, but because that is where I find God. The Doctors say “people who have what you have don’t do what you do” to which I reply “well Doc I guess I will be sick a little bit because this is what I love” most of them are hikers so they get it. I usually am given some kind of reminder talk about don’t put your team in jeopardy and I usually agree.
What ever the destination a high peak, lake shore or just a walk under the canopy of the trees Finding God is about finding something bigger then one self to know we are not alone out here in what ever wilderness we choose.
5. Have Fun!
When hiking with kids its really easy to get disturbed by the whining, crying, sniveling and declarations of defeat and that’s just the first mile! So as parents we had to get creative on how to get them to move without fully realizing what was happening.
GAMES! Peanut M&Ms are dino eggs on the trail, hide and seek if we aren’t in grizzly country, guessing who lives where we are going, the bump game where the kids try to bump us off the trail and so many more. Its been an ebb and flow of learning how to not get so focused on getting somewhere at a certain rate that the destination comes at the cost of fun.
Finding ways to have fun has been born from many mistakes we have made. Realizing that hiking isn’t always about destination, it’s the journey along the way that makes the destination worth it. Having fun is what fuels a 4 and a 7 year old to walk 10 miles and not realize it. There is nothing more motivating then hearing the giggles and laughter that happens when the boy’s will hide and try to jump out a scare us, they are getting better at it so sometimes the fright is genuine which makes them want to do it more, however what they don’t know is they are running for a ¼ mile at a time to hide in front of us which means they have no idea that they are covering ground faster then some adults. It’s a win-win, which again is always the goal for us.
So of course Have Fun is apart of the Code, after all if it wasn’t fun then what’s the dang point any way?
(Lamar River Canyon, Yellowstone National Park)
The Code, its vital for this family to operate by in life and on the trail. Its built from life’s journeys of successes and failure, hardship and abundance. It was built when we weren’t even looking. But what happens when failure is the end result? Where despite everything, you still don’t make it?
Watch out for part 3 where success is all about failure.