Saturday, November 05, 2011

More confessions of a far from perfect mountain mama

Ever since writing  my Confessions story I keep thinking of more funny stories and reasons why I feel I'm a very average parent who enjoys taking her child to the mountains.  I'm certainly not Super Mom and I'm no triathlete.  I thought I'd share five more confessions with you in hopes of encouraging more parents that it takes passion above all else to pursue family adventure. 

My one time carrying our son into the Elizabeth Parker Hut at Lake O'Hara

And now...

Confession six – Not that strong:

I confess to being jealous of any mom out there that is able to carry her child hiking.  I’ve carried our son in his child carrier a grand total of 20 minutes en route to a back-country hut because it meant one trip to the hut instead of two with all our gear.  My situation is unique in that due to complications following my son’s birth I am not allowed to carry more than about 20 lbs for an extended period of time and our son currently weighs 39 lbs.  

That challenge aside though, I’m still not sure I’d be strong enough to carry my son.  I’m happiest when I’m hiking with nothing but a water bladder and a granola bar on my back.  

I also struggle to pull the Chariot when skiing.  I’ve seen my friend pull her son in a pulk and I’m hoping maybe it’s lighter than the Chariot brand ski sled we have.  To date though I pulled my son once in his Chariot, on a flat easy trail, and I felt like I was climbing a mountain!  

I have found however that I excel at pushing the Chariot in summer up the craziest of hills and love that extra challenge.  I have grown to really love my Chariot because it allows me to contribute more in our trips and gives me options for hiking even when my husband can’t come along to carry our son.

Back-country freedom with my Chariot

Confession seven – One child:

Yes, we have one child and it’s worth mentioning because I know it’s a lot easier for us to get to the mountains with our one toddler than it is for our friends with multiple kids.  I can’t even imagine the effort required to get two kids ready at the trail head in the middle of winter.  Add the challenge of requiring one parent to carry each child if they are both small and then still needing to find a way to get your gear to the back-country campsite if you choose that adventure.  

Often when we do group family trips, we will make them Chariot-friendly so that parents are able to carry packs and push the kids at the same time.  This is how we have managed to still go backpacking with a toddler and a mom (me) who can’t carry a heavy pack.  

Our small but mighty family

Confession eight – Danger, danger:

Our family doesn’t really stick to the “family friendly” trails.  We find them too busy, often less scenic, more maintained, and less wild.  Usually it isn’t a problem and we have a lot of experience on back-country trails to keep our son safe.  

We love scrambling and have taken our son up a few mountains now but have always chosen scrambles that resemble a difficult hike and require little to no hands on rock.  All this being said though, there have been a few trips where we shake our heads and admit that maybe that wasn’t the brightest choice for the day.  

The trip that comes to mind first is one we did in Washington this past summer.  The snow hadn’t melted from the winter yet despite the fact it was August and we came to this steep snow slope that we had to traverse.  There was a sign recommending not crossing the slope without an ice axe.  Normally that would have been the end of the hike for us since we didn’t have ice axes on us and were carrying our son.  However we were doing a loop and this was well past the middle point of the loop so we decided to keep going.  There were good footsteps in the snow and we are experienced on this terrain so it was fine but I do admit it was dangerous and risky.  

There have been many interesting days in the mountains though with our son.  My husband has fallen while carrying him after slipping on snow (again in Washington when we lost the trail in the heavy snow), we’ve done mild bush whacking with Noah in his child carrier after getting off trail in the Bugaboos of British Columbia, and we’ve taken him into crazy mosquito infested meadows (again in the  Bugaboos).  

We also had the misfortune this past summer of taking a hiking trail up a ridge called Old Baldy in Kananaskis that we’d done several years before and had remembered as being a pleasant hike.  Not so pleasant really with a toddler.  There were slippery narrow sections of eroded trail we had to traverse and it was about twice as long as the guide book led us to believe.  We finally had to leave our son with Grandma in order to reach the ridge top.  Incidentally, Grandma fell on the way down and walked out with many bruises and gashes up and down her arms and legs.  Oops.

Off trail hiking in the Bugaboos

Sketchy snow traverse

One of our son's first summits

On the summit ridge of Old Baldy after leaving our son behind with Grandma

Confession nine - We skip naps:

I know many families who plan their trips to the mountains around their children’s naps.  I think that’s great.  For them.  Our mountain adventures though take the front burner on Saturdays and naps have to fit around our hike, ski day or camping trip.  

If I waited until my son no longer needed naps we’d never get to the mountains.  We are blessed with a flexible child I must admit and I know that skipping naps doesn’t work for all families.  Our son will often cat nap on the way to the mountains, sleep in his carrier or Chariot, and then nap on the way home again in the car.  He’s also generally happy when he’s outside in the mountains and so gets less fussy than if we were in the city.  

All in all, we figure it’s once a week that we are putting our needs first and he will survive.  Hopefully when he’s older he’ll even thank us for taking him to the mountains instead of making him nap.

Our son won't remember this summit
Tired little toddler

If he's really tired, he'll sleep anywhere
Confession ten – Adult trips:

Last confession – We still like to get out without our son and do our mountaineering trips, backcountry ski trips, scrambles and long day hikes.  Sometimes we take turns and join meet-up groups with one parent on child-duty at home.  Most of the time however, we take advantage of Grandma and her willingness to babysit.  She’s been great at giving us a day off at least every month or two and even giving us a weekend a couple times a year.  

We believe it’s important to our marriage to get away together, even if we are with other friends, to do the things we were passionate about before we had our son. I love toddler hikes but at least once a month I need to get out and do something that physically and mentally challenges me.  I also love connecting with my husband in an adult environment on a difficult mountain adventure.  

When we can’t take time away, we take our son with us on our adult adventures and soften them a bit.  It’s not always easy to find other families to join us in the mountains so a lot of our hikes are adult hikes that our son gets to join.  We try to stop and let him out on occasion and there was a trip recently where our son was faster than the slowest adult, but we know he would have more fun if there were more kids joining us on hikes.  (That was my plug for please come hiking with us.)

Child along for the ride

Our ski trip to Skoki Lodge last January (our son stayed with Grandma)

July Mountaineering trip while Grandma once again babysits

Once again, I'd love to hear your funny stories and confessions.


  1. Awesome post! Can't wait to follow you

  2. Thanks Jessica. I've been following your blog as well. It's great meeting so many amazing moms all over North America.

  3. Are most of the backcountry sites ok to get to with your Chariot? I would have thought backcountry camping would end with kids until they could walk!

  4. Sarah, most back-country camping is not chariot friendly. There are a few places though that are chariot accessible. Elbow Lake is the easiest and most chariot-friendly. We've also gone into the Little Yoho Valley but it is not chariot-friendly. That being said, we did it. Also broke our chariot and had to fix it with a tent peg to get out. Our friends managed to get their double chariot in though and theirs didn't break. There is just one very challenging section of trail. There are other chariot friendly trails out there too. The Spray river loop in Banff has a campsite on it and you can bike or hike it with chariot. Also, the Big Elbow Loop in Kananaskis is a bike trail so you could camp along it at one of three back-country sites and bring the chariot.