11 Year Old wants Scrambling over Hiking
11 Year old Scrambler
I have learned with my 3rd child that it is scrambling, not hiking, that makes an outdoor adventure. While I have long enjoyed long hikes that cover lots of terrain, I have found that this does not always transfer well to children. My twins endured some long hikes and are comfortable but remain somewhat indifferent to the outdoors. I resolved to try harder with my remaining 11 year old son. A chance discovery last summer in Yellowstone gave me, finally, the key.
Wanting to drive north into some new territory, I found a hike called Beartooth Falls in a guidebook. Roping Evan into the car, we arrived at the hike 90 minutes later. It proved to be very short but very long on bouldery scrambling up and down to the falls, with a lot of upstream and downstream possibilities. Evan loved it. Really loved it. My engineer's mind calculated: Enthusiasm decreases with distance, but seems to increase with the square of vertical distance - but only if scrambling is involved. Evan would tolerate may hikes that vacation, including a 14+ mile affair to the summit of Static Peak, but only one was brought up as the comparison to any future hike: Is it like Beartooth Falls?
It is not hard to understand why. Scrambling is mentally and physically fun and challendging, not the endless trudge (to a kid) the best of hikes can turn out to be. Problem solving, physical exertion and challenge occur in buches. Instant gratification repeated.
The Scramble for Kid Scrambling Beta
With all the resources available today I have found that it is hard to find good info on kid friendly scrambles. Hiking books rarely include these except for long alpine climbs that I thought Evan unready for. Kid book's offerings are way too easy, being written for smaller kids than a tweener usually. There seems to be an understandable reluctance to offer any scramble as suitable for kids - for any kid can turn anything unsafe in an instant.
I think a prime kid friendly scramble must be short on walking and long on scrambling - but not too long that they get tired and discouraged. And there must be challenges that may be somewhat risky but achievable by a kid. Something they can be proud to have overcome. Something they might not want to tell their more cautious parent about.
In truth, the real problem was finding something that Evan liked but that gave his Dad something to love as well. Evan proved he could enjoy hours attempting to climb some of the rather non-descript rock formations adjacent to their cabin complex just outside Yellowstone. Long hours as a banker in Chicago made vacation time precious to his Dad. The need for vast open ridgelines, physical challenge and the ego gratification of climbing something were things I wanted quite badly. Would I be able to find something that we both could enjoy? But where to find such things?
Enter Summit Post
Looking at some recent SP postings I merged the need to do a Spring trip with a love of the Southwest and a mandate from Evan: Scrambles
Going through SP, I suddenly seemed to find what I was looking for in the Zion area. There were shorter mountain and canyon trips that seemed to offer some class 3 scrambles to objectives that seemed to give me something to shoot for. What follows is an account of what went right and what went wrong with that trip.
First Day in Zion - Progeny Peak
At top of 6725
Chosen because: Summit and views for Dad, Summit on SP. Scrambling for Evan.
What went Right: A great trip up to a stunning view on our the first afternoon in Zion (after 7 hours of travelling from Chicago). Short but sweet. Challenging for us both.
Evan's overwhelming desire to start up and his enthusiasm in route finding (really finding his own route) made hash of my carefully printed plan that would help us find a small arch on the way to the summit. More ad hoc for Dad, but which allowed several impromptu lessons on safety and scouting the route ahead.
The slickrock eastern area of Zion is extremely complex, making scrambling hugely fun but navigation interesting. I stuck by Evan very closely, as dropoffs large and small were never far away.
Our impromptu route to the 'nipples' west of the Summit was fun for Evan but his enthusiam lagged as we went East toward the summit. He suggested we abort the effort after some challenging sections. He is more cautious than I am and this was a time for me to consider consider his concerns rather than my usual routine of brusquely over-riding them. I could see we were only 10 minutes away from the top and the route ahead was easy and safe. I was able to convince him rather than simply overrule him. We enjoyed ourselves at the top a few minutes later. Our way down the suggested route we had a great time but still were unable to find the arch.
Day 2 - A Checkered Day
Checkerboard Gully Red Hollow
Day 2 of our scrambling adventure began with a frosty morning. Our objective was again SummitPost supplied: Checkerboard Mesa. Chosen because: a) Summit for Dad. b) Evan fell in love with the picture of this unique mesa and it was on his short must-do list. The climb up the sometimes snowy gully was extremely interesting to Evan, and gave him a variety of challenges, which he sometimes greeted with a loud 'Oh Yeah!!! Later he was less enthusiastic about bushwacking the last steep section to the saddle. There we were greeted with incredible view South, which included an arch we were not expecting. The top of the mesa was bushy and less dramatic.
What went right: The climb itself, the brunch at the saddle, and a later decision to skip a route to the Northern viewpoint when confronted with an 8 foot section of slickrock beyond our abilities.
Feeling pretty good right now. To cap the day we drove to the town of Orderville to explore Red Hollow, just east of town. Because the Narrows in Zion was closed due to snowmelt-swollen high water, I wanted to show him a slot canyon. We had a great hike...eventually. Despite being warned by the local gas station manager of the sandy condition of the road past the parking area, and despite being warned repeatedly by my son of sand, I stuck the car up to its wheel wells in dry sand. Feeling not so good. Not proud of words said while attempting to dig car out of sand with tree limbs and brute force. Only arrival of local couple Edward and Iris (who lived in area 17 years not hearing of this hike until seeing website linked from SP) and their shovel got us out. We then hiked a short but beautiful red rock slot with plenty of chockstone challenges. A valuable lesson was learned. Evan also got something out of it.
Day 3 - Subway Mishap
Post Fall Overconfident Duo
A check at the visitor center about the still closed Narrows ("it is not only closed but anyone who would try would be spit back out") revealed that permits were still available for the Left Fork hike - aka Subway. Evan wanted to do this hike on the strength of the final Subway part of the canyon being pictured on the topo map we had been using.
So we got up early for the 10 mile round trip hike (Evan, for good or ill, was used to such hikes). While not really a scramble, this hike's variety of creek crossings and boulder clambering was still enjoyed by Evan, who filled the less exciting parts of the hike with sound effects as he blasted the hundreds of warlike orcs that apparently filled the canyon.
Our mounting enjoyment of this hard but fun hike lasted to the very threshold of the Subway, and was joined by what can only be called overconfidence. After surmounting one cascade obstruction, we ventured up the final steep and extremely slick cascade. Evan fell and jammed his knee in a crack in the cascade slope. While in no danger of drowning in the shallow stream, he was immediately soaked in the cold stream and it was only with the help of a fellow hiker that he was able to be pulled up from the slippery cascade slope. Not so much fun now.
I placed Evan, who was scared and crying, on a sun drenched rock and pulled off his soaked clothing. I had let him wear blue jeans despite years of chanting 'cotton is rotten and best be forgotten'. A fellow hiker who also was stymied by the cascades contributed his down coat for quick warm up. Of more immediate concern was his knee, which pained him tremendously.
I find I am at my worst on vacations. Too much pressure to hurry up and have a good time. I can get crabby with my children if thwarted from an objective. I think I was able to maintain equilibrium only because of the seriousness of the situation - if Evan has trouble walking we are in for a hard time (5 hard miles back ending with a stiff climb back to trailhead). Perhaps even need an evac. I waited with him until he warmed up for half hour (it is not to my credit that I asked if I could try again on my own while he recovered - the answer was no). We then got up and tried his knee. I gave him my hiking stick and he was hobbling pretty badly. We headed downstream, leaving the Subway for another vacation.
I am glad to say as he used his knee he became much more mobile. It was no more than a bad bruise. We made our way back out of the canyon and were very thankful to get into our car (hundreds of orcs died along the way, so I knew all was well). Twice in two days people had helped us in need, and it was humbling.
In retrospect, this was the right hike but my mental approach was all wrong. Not careful enough in packing waterproof bags and the right clothes, and too casual with Evan on thre more challenging sections en route. I seemed to forget he was not a hiking buddy but an 11 year old.
Rest Day - Drive to Toroweap
Well, we took a day off from scrambling to be sure that Evan's knee was alright. Drove 2 hours on a dirt and rock road to see the Grand Canyon (the normal route to North Rim being still closed for the winter). You gotta see the Grand Canyon if you are that close - and Evan had never seen it. Did a short flat hike (Tuckup Trail) along the rim but the various lizards were the star of the show. While unable to find a promised 'Shaman's panel' of pictographs, we found an odd 7 foot high rock hut perched at the lip of the canyon. Still have to research just what that was...
What is this?
Knowing when to Turn back
South Ariel Scrambling
South Ariel Peak was on the list despite some beta about the summit block being class 4 (Some beta also said non direct approach was class 2-3). I certainly thought this was a winner as a kid scramble as we sailed through the dreamy curved slickrock that lapped up the mountain. But as the we reached the steeper sections we got more and more marginally unsafe, and Evan and I exchanged words on one section. We were 80 feet from the top - but for me it may as well been the moon. I spent a while probing for a way past the steep slickrock that was way past my meager abilities, eventually moving half way around the mountain to the west side. Evan helpfully took the camera "to record your fall" he smirked. I did end up sliding down 10 feet of what I thought would be the easy section - with my hiking stick skittering down to Evan. At that point I called it off - to Evan's relief. Getting down gave us some pause until we reached the more friendly ridged pink rock. All in all - the first 80% of the rock was great for kid scrambling - but there was no summit to sate my ego. I was learning though that saftey comes first - despite having lectured this point the whole trip to Evan.
After letting Evan swim in the motel pool in the PM, we went up Angel's Landing and had dinner. This icon was a must do - his uncle would never let him forget it if he did not do it - though truthfully 90% of the hike was the easiest thing he had done all week. Going up at 5PM we were all alone on the summit, where we had our dinner. We "closed the place" making our way down in the twilight.
Jolly Gulch, East Rim
I had a brainstorm and gave Evan a rest day on Sunday - resting by doing miniature golf and arcades in St. George followed by a Kung Fu movie. Evan appreciated it and so did I. I think at this point in the vacation I was able to finally think beyond myself to what Evan wanted. We spent the last 2 days exploring Hackberry Canyon and Bryce, then finishing up on the last day with the 10 mile East Rim hike. Evan carried on a conversation with two older hikers for over an hour - reminding me that he is much more of an extrovert than his introvert Dad. Next time we do this, I have to bring other people with.
I think I picked some good hikes for us overall, giving Evan a taste of what makes the Southwest so wonderful. However, in the challenging hikes I selected I think I was more interested in shoehorning Evan's desires into my own plans than vice versa. Sharing a passion is hard work and I have to be prepared to sacrifice more of my wants to make it happen.
Anyone have kid scrambles in Yosemite for this August?