Friday, August 26, 2016

Getting "Wild" on our Summer Vacation in Kelowna

We travel to the Okanagan in British Columbia every summer to spend a week mountain biking swimming, and seeking out crazy adventures. We base our fun around the Cities of Kelowna and Penticton, and we look for something new to do every year. Last year we hugged kangaroos at a farm near Kelowna and jumped off a bridge in Okanagan Falls. The year before that we rode our bikes over 18 trestle bridges and through 2 train tunnels on the Kettle Valley Railway Trail in Kelowna. This year, we decided to try one of the adventure parks near Kelowna because our son absolutely loves ziplines when we go to Mexico in the winter, and we'd never tried an aerial adventure course before. The result was one of the best days we've had in the Okanagan over the past 7 years exploring the area as a family!

Getting "Wild" in Kelowna

WildPlay Element Parks - Kelowna 

There are 6 WildPlay Element Parks across Canada and hopefully we'll visit them all some day. For now, we started with the Kelowna WildPlay Park since we planned to be in the Okanagan area for a week in August. 

WildPlay Parks have five main elements: Ziplines, Aerial Adventure Courses, the "What's to Fear" Jump, the Primal Swing, and Bungy Jumping. Kelowna doesn't have a bungy jump but they have the other four elements including a special aerial course for children.

The Kelowna WildPlay Park is located 25 minutes outside of Kelowna off of Hwy 33. It is conveniently located near several wineries (a lovely way to finish off your WildPlay Tour) and is 12 minutes away from the Kelowna Mountain Bike Park (which we discovered by total random coincidence on our drive back to Kelowna.) Read to the end of this story to see how we made the most of our day in Kelowna.

Climbing a ladder on the Monkido Classic Aerial Course

Family Bonding at WildPlay Kelowna

Spending the day at the Kelowna WildPlay Element Park gave us the opportunity to reconnect as a family in an adventurous way as we pushed through comfort zones, tried new activities together, and joked about who was the bravest. It was an amazing day of family bonding and I loved how we were all fully engaged in activities together! Taking turns on the "What's to Fear Jump" off of a 40 foot platform was a far cry from sitting on the beach, children playing in the water, parents reading or occupied with their cell phones.
Hanging out in the trees at WildPlay Kelowna

We try to be fully engaged as a family in everything we do on our summer vacation so when we go to the beach, we all swim out to the dock to jump off, we take turns on the diving board at the outdoor pool, and we all go biking together. Ziplining together was therefore perfect for our family who likes to play together!

Our WildPlay day started on the Aerial Adventure Course where our son did the Monkido Kids Course. Meanwhile, my husband and I got to do the Monkido Classic Course where we  completed the easy, intermediate, and advanced challenges. Sadly, we ran out of time before getting to the Monkido Extreme Course but that just means we have to go back another time! 

After our aerial adventure, we all did the DragonFLY Ziplines together as a family. Our son got to ride tandem with one of the guides on the longer lines which was appreciated so that we could all do this activity together rather than waiting until our son was heavy enough to ride solo.

We finished off our day on the "What's to Fear" Jump and again, it was awesome that we all got to take the jump. Our son was too young for the Primal Swing (and I was too scared) but we all got to participate in three different adventures and easily spent four hours at the park.

Riding across the DragonFLY Zipline Course

Wild Play For the Adults Too 

I remember family vacations as a child and it looked a lot like this: my brother and I at the waterslides, at the beach, swimming at a pool, or at an amusement park - always with my mother sitting on the sidelines watching. And while I suspect this is pretty normal (my husband assures me that his parents didn't participate in this sort of stuff either on family vacations,) I don't want this to be our family style.

I want to play together as a family. I want to swim together, go on waterslides together, ride rollercoasters together, and be an active participant in the fun stuff! I refuse to sit on the sidelines while my child is jumping off of a 40 foot platform at an adventure park. I want to jump too!! And there's no way you are going on a zipline course while I sit on the sidelines taking photos! Not this mom! You jump, I jump first! 

Nobody on the sidelines in this family

Fortunately for adventure moms and dads like us, adults get to play too at WildPlay Parks. In fact, it's highly encouraged!! Our day started off on the Monkido Classic Aerial Adventure Course and it felt like my husband and I were on an adventure date. Our son was occupied on his own adventure course accompanied by guides watching out for him, and this allowed my husband and I to go off and play on our own. I don't know about you, but it's a rare opportunity for us to get some quality "date time" in the midst of a family vacation!! I'd return to WildPlay for this aspect alone.

I've done a lot of zipline tours from Mexico down to Costa Rica, so for me, this part of our adventure was about my son and what he would find enjoying. The aerial adventure course though was absolutely amazing and it will most definitely be my number one highlight of 2016. 

So much fun!!

What I loved most about the aerial course is that I was fully challenged, engaged, and "in the zone" concentrating on every move I made.  I was responsible for all of my clipping and un-clipping on the lines, got to take care of my own zipline crossings (which involved hooking yourself up to the line and crossing without a guide to help you on either end,) and was fully independent up on the aerial course. Guides watch from below but you are ultimately responsible for every move you make on the course. Compared to this, the zipline course was anti-climatic with guides doing everything for me. 

It's safe to say that I have a new obsession and love for aerial courses!! We will be adding a new aerial course to our annual summer bucket list going forward and I can't wait to try more courses each year. With our without kids, this is an adventure I'd happily participate in with a group of girlfriends or on a date day with my husband.

Hopefully the video below adequately portrays the challenge I found on this particular element. Next time, I will conquer it!

Wild Play for Kids

The Aerial Adventure Course is broken down by Kids, Classic, and Extreme. Our son did the Monkido Kids Course which included kid-friendly ziplines (the children sat on big orange balls to go across the lines,) and had height appropriate, 3 metre high, elements that were very similar to what we did on the adult course.  The kids get to do the course three times and are always supervised by a guide on the ground as they move independently through the course, building self confidence and courage. The minimum age is 5 with a minimum reach requirement of  4’ 7” (140cm), with feet flat on the ground.

What I loved most about the Monkido Kids Course was that the kids were supervised on this course while adults get to complete the Classic Course. The other thing that impressed me was that the height was suitable for the average 5 - 8 year old. We tried another aerial course in Penticton after and the course was way too high for young children. My son froze on the top level (which was at least 6 metres above the ground) and it took both of us to rescue him and guide him safely back down to the ground.

The Monkido Kids Course (perfect for the 5-8 year old crowd!)

After completing the aerial adventure course we moved on to the DragonFLY Ziplines and it was a very safe and family-friendly activity. The minimum age for this is 7 but our son still had to ride tandem with the guides on the longer lines so that he'd be heavy enough to make it all the way to the end. We rode 7 lines and it was a great introductory zipline adventure for kids who may not have tried a zipline adventure before. After riding the ziplines in Kelowna, your family will be ready to try bigger courses when you travel further away to Mexico or Central America.

We finished off our day on the "What's to Fear" jump where kids have to be 7 years old (minimum weight requirement of 44 pounds) to make the jump. This was probably the scariest part of the day for kids but our son wasn't fazed in the slightest. He easily took the step off the 40 foot ledge and didn't even scream. (unlike his mother!)

Climbing up to the WTF Jump Platform

Planning Your Visit to WildPlay Kelowna

 Below are some tips for making the most of your WildPlay Day:

  • Arrive a 10am and plan to spend a good chunk of your day at WildPlay. You'll easily spend 4-5 hours at the park if you want to try everything. We participated in the "Do it All Deal" which allowed us the opportunity to conquer all four elements at the park in one day. We opted out of the Swing and ran out of time for the Monkido Extreme aerial course, but we tried everything else.

  • If you're doing both ziplines and aerial course, start off the day on the ziplines. Enjoy the guided zipline tour, get comfortable on the lines with a guide accompanying you, and then enjoy the freedom in the aerial course where you'll be responsible for all of your own zipline crossings without a guide. We did the aerial course first and it was hard to just sit back on the guided tour after while somebody did all the work for us.

  • Bring lunch and snacks with you. You'll have time to grab quick bites between elements. You'll also want to bring water to re-hydrate between your activities.

  • Dress in layers. The park is located high up in the hills above Kelowna and when we arrived, the sun was barely out yet. I had nothing other than my tank top on and froze for the first half hour.

  • Make reservations in advance so that you don't have to wait around when you arrive. We were all set to go when we showed up and just had to sign waivers.

  • Apply sun block ahead of time (even if the sun isn't out yet.) You don't want to be half way through your zipline tour and realize that you now want to put on sunblock (which is back in the car.)

  • If you have to choose between elements and only have money or time for one activity, choose the aerial course. It's definitely what WildPlay is best known for and it's what we enjoyed the most. I've done a lot of zipline courses and the one at WildPlay was nothing "above and beyond." (though I have high standards after ziplining in Costa Rica.)The aerial course however was a top ten highlight moment for me for the entire year so far. (Probably number one highlight in fact!) Our son was also thoroughly challenged on his Monkido Kids Course and I'd say it was a good push for him in terms of what he felt comfortable doing at his age.



Planning Your Kelowna Adventure Day 

We were staying in Penticton so had to get an early start on our adventure day. Thank goodness for Mcdonalds en route! We arrived at WildPlay for 10am and were definitely at the park until 2pm (or later.)

On  our way back down to Kelowna we stopped off a couple wineries in the Fab. Five Collection. The tastings were free and the wine was amazing! We bought bottles to take home with us at both the House of Rose and Camelot.

Winery Touring after our day at WildPlay Kelowna

After our winery tours, we drove by the Kelowna Mountain Bike Park on Hollywood Road South by complete random coincidence (and we've been trying to find this park for years!!) Needless to say we stopped to play!

Pump Track, Jumps, and Ramps at the Kelowna Bike Park

We finished off our day downtown Kelowna at the City Park and Hot Sands Beach. Our son loves the playground and splash park there and had been begging to do the Wibit Aqua Park. Me, I just wanted to have dinner at the Earls Rooftop Patio. Success for all of the above.

Kelowna Wibit Aqua Park

We spent the whole day in Kelowna and headed back to our house in the South Okanagan later that evening. It was a full but very adventurous day. Perfect in every way!!!

View of downtown Kelowna from the rooftop patio at Earls

Big Thanks to Tourism Kelowna and WildPlay Kelowna for assisting in our big adventure day. We'll definitely be back to a WildPlay Element Park again and can't wait to spend more time in Kelowna next summer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Backpacking Trip to the Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass

This post could easily be called "Introduction of Family Mountaineering" or "Mountaineering with Kids 101" because the Asulkan Cabin is a great base camp for exploring glaciers and for hiking to the nearby Asulkan Pass across a wild landscape of glacier moraines and permanent snow fields.

Wild Hiking in the Asulkan Valley, Rogers Pass

The Asulkan Cabin is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC.) The ACC  operates the largest collection of backcountry huts in North America with many huts offering easy access to families. The Asulkan Cabin is located in Glacier National Park, British Columbia, and is situated high up the Asulkan Valley at Rogers Pass.While you could easily day hike up the valley to the cabin, it's much more enjoyable to spend a night and to enjoy some off trail exploring above the cabin if you are able to spend a couple of nights here.

The Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass, British Columbia

Staying overnight at the Asulkan Cabin

The Asulkan Cabin only sleeps 10 people so it's very easy to reserve all of the beds and to have your own private alpine cabin. This is what we did with two other families and it was a very enjoyable way to stay overnight in the backcountry. We loved not having to worry about our kids being too noisy, waking up too early, or disturbing other guests. Booking an entire cabin for your family and friends is often the best way to approach these kinds of trips if you are able to find a couple of nights when an ACC cabin is free and you can find enough friends to go with you.

Our Crew at the Asulkan Cabin (I know, who brought the Unicorn, right?) - Photo: M. Dunn

We've stayed in many backcountry cabins and huts as a family but the Asulkan Cabin is one of our favourites for a few reasons.
  1. We love that the sleeping bunks and platforms are upstairs so that once the kids go to bed, you can still stay up to socialize and play cards. At some cabins, sleeping platforms are in the same room as everything else and you pretty much have to go to bed at the same time as the kids.

  2. The views!!! You'd be hard pressed to find another alpine hut or cabin with these kinds of views unless you were to actually start traversing glaciers to reach the true mountaineering huts

  3. Solitude. Once the day hikers leave, you are left alone in the middle of the backcountry, high up the Asulkan Valley, in your own patch of paradise. (In your own private cabin if you booked the whole thing!)

  4. This is a mountaineering base camp that children can hike to. Most of the other "climbers huts" require glacier traverses.

This is the view from the Asulkan Cabin

The only thing I have to say on the cautionary side about the Asulkan Cabin is that you might not want to bring small children here if you were thinking that you could carry them up to the cabin. The stairs up to the sleeping area are very steep (more like a ladder than stairs) and the sleeping platforms/bunks would not be entirely safe with small children. Kids could easily fall off the upper platforms down to the main floor and there was only one large bottom platform for a family to sleep on. Other than that, the sleeping area had single bunk beds which may not be ideal for young kids who could fall out of bed.

Paradise at the Asulkan Cabin

Hiking into the Asulkan Cabin

The hike up the Asulkan Valley begins at the Illecillewaet Campground at Rogers Pass. It is a 6.5 km hike and you'll gain 700 metres of height to reach the cabin. While this may not seem steep spread out over 6.5 km, know that most of the height is all gained at the very end as you climb glacier moraines up to the cabin. The valley is relatively flat with little height gain.

Hiking up the Asulkan Valley through Marmot Valley (we saw 20+ marmots)

The hike is grueling and I've always struggled on it while carrying a heavy overnight pack. Get an early start on hot days because there is no shade once you reach the moraines. You'll also want to check the weather forecast before going and aim to be at the cabin before afternoon storms roll in. There would be no protection should a thunder storm come in once you get to the moraines. We had one big rain storm pass by us on our way up to the cabin and hid under a tarp while it passed over us.

Bridge crossing before you start the big climb to the cabin

Finally, if you wish to spend the night somewhere close by before starting your long hike up to the cabin, you can either stay at the A.O. Wheeler Hut (located right beside the Illecillewaet Campground with drive-up access,) you can try to get into the campground (but it's very popular and is first come first serve,) or you can get a motel room in Golden. (Make a reservation though because there were no rooms to be found when I checked before our trip!)

Climbing the moraines to the cabin (photo: Megan Dunn)

Exploring Asulkan Pass from the Asulkan Cabin

You could hike to the cabin, spend a night, and then hike out again, but why would you want to do that when there is such an amazing world around you to explore, and you spent an entire day getting there! It's far better to actually enjoy your hard work of getting to the cabin, to spend two nights, and to explore the area so you can gain an appreciation for why this location is world famous for backcountry skiing and climbing.

Climbing snow fields beside the Asulkan Glacier to reach Asulkan Pass

We had it in the back of our minds that we'd "attempt" to hike up to Asulkan Pass from the cabin. We knew it would be about 300 metres of height gain to get there and maybe only 6 km round trip at the very most. That was all doable. What we weren't sure about was if we could get there without getting on the Asulkan Glacier. We brought a small amount of glacier gear with us (just in case) but we knew we would be trying to avoid glacier travel with the kids.

Standing on the edge of the Asulkan Glacier

Fortunately, there was no glacier travel required to reach Asulkan Pass. We skirted around the edge of the glacier and hiked across snow fields that were just permanent snow patches that don't melt. We had brought Kahtoola Micro Spikes with us and they were invaluable for hiking across the snow. Our friends didn't have spikes and did fine, but a fall could have been dangerous if you slid down onto the actual glacier.

The final climb up to Asulkan Pass

It was a wild and beautiful hike across glacier moraines into a world that only mountaineers and climbers normally get to experience. We were so happy that we were able to give our children this intro mountaineering experience and we took many shots of our son holding the token ice axe we'd brought (why not, right?) Our son got to step onto the Asulkan glacier, got to look into a cave at the bottom of it, and found out (the hard way) what happens when you step in glacial silt and melt water at the edge of a glacier. Oops. (Note to everybody following us, bring at least one spare pair of socks with you on your hike and perhaps consider bringing waterproof boots for this hike.) - winter boots would not be out of line.

Looking into a cave at the edge of the Asulkan Glacier
Rock outcropping above Asulkan Pass

Asulkan Pass was one of the most beautiful places we've hiked this summer and I never really expected we'd make it here as a family. Again, it was in the back of my mind as a day trip option but we'd done the hike a few years ago (on an adult climbing trip) and I remembered it being harder than it was to reach the Pass. (Probably because we were traversing in from an attempt on Young's Peak.)

My boys at Asulkan Pass
Views from Asulkan Pass

And to be clear, the actual "pass" is on the Asulkan Glacier below us in the photos shown here. We took the kids to a rock outcropping just above the pass. It's far more scenic from this vantage point above the pass and is safer. We saw no need to tag the actual pass since we were higher than it and had better views from above.

Family photo at Asulkan Pass, Rogers Pass, BC

Bring a pair of spikes or ice cleats for each member of your family (or for the adults to support the kids at the very least) and this hike will be very doable by any family who visits the Asulkan Cabin. Just stay off of the glacier and make sure you know the difference between the glacier and the snow patches. If you don't, consider going with more experienced friends so that you stay safe.

Hiking down snow slopes above the Asulkan Glacier
Many of the snow patches were small enough to cross without spikes or ice cleats

What Next?

We recently backpacked into the Bugaboos and stayed at the Conrad Kain Hut. Here we got the opportunity to traverse an actual glacier (free of any crevasses and totally safe.) That story will be published soon.

Other than that, we're plotting out our first real family mountaineering trip and hope to traverse the Wapta Icefield from the Bow Hut to the Peyto Hut in the next year or two. We just have to decide if 8 is too crazy or if we should wait a year until our son is 9 years old. Ideally, we'll climb Mt. Thompson while doing the traverse so that will be a deciding factor for sure!!

Finally, we are planning a trip into the Stanley Mitchell Hut for Summer 2017 which is much easier to reach than the Asulkan Cabin. Guess we'll have to find something fun to climb while there to turn it into an epic adventure!

The Asulkan Cabin at Sunset
Solitude in the land of glaciers at the Asulkan Cabin

Resources and Additional Reading

Check out these other cabins and huts we've stayed at in the Alpine Club of Canada collection.

Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids (Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara 

Winter at the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

Launching a Winter of Adventure at Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park (A.O. Wheeler Hut)

Raising Tough Kids - Our Annual Winter Backpacking Trip (Elk Lakes Cabin)

Running down the glacier moraines on our day out
Rad Kids Doing Rad Adventures!

Monday, August 22, 2016

First Summits - East End of Mt. Rundle Summit as a Family

We've been on a mission to tackle several big summits this summer as a family and they've been getting more challenging each time we go out. Last month we hiked up to the summit of the East End of Mount Rundle in Canmore, referred to as EEOR (East End of Rundle.) It was a great adventure but was definitely pushing the limits for what we feel comfortable hiking with a 7 year old child.

Summit of East End of Mt. Rundle overlooking the Spray Valley

While we had no major challenges or periods where I'd say we were in serious danger,  there were many many moments where I had to admit that next time we'd do things a bit differently. We made a lot of minor "mistakes" in my mind and it wasn't as much fun as the hike could have been. Not as smooth. Not as flawless.

In hopes that you might learn from my reflections (and because I learn best myself by writing stuff down,) below are some of my take aways from the hike.

Summit of the East End of Mount Rundle, age 7

Reflection 1 – Always listen to your Children

When your child says from the get go that they are tired – listen to them. I always say that you're never going to know what kind of day your child is going to have until you get on the trail. Within 5 minutes you can usually tell if it's going to be "that kind of day" where you should turn around and just go for a short stroll and grab an ice-cream cone, or if it's going to be a "power day" where you could hike for 8 hours and still find your child running at the end.

This was not a power day. If we had listened, we would likely have turned around at the first viewpoint and called it a day. Noah made it to the summit and he did fine given how hard the hike was, but it wasn't one of his strongest days. His heart perhaps just wasn't in it and he might have appreciated a more relaxed day.

Hiking up small cliff bands and fun scrambly bits near the start of the trail

Reflection 2– The Summit is optional

Don’t go out with the determination that you MUST reach the summit (like I did this time.) It’s too hard then if you have to turn around. It makes you do reckless things when you decide to push on. Not that we were reckless this time, but we should have stopped at the ridge.

The next four photos below were all taken below or at the ridge so you'll still have plenty of reward for your efforts!

Interesting scrambling on the way to the ridge with mild exposure
Rest break before the ridge (and a fine place to stop if the summit is too far)

Noah was already "done" by the time we reached the ridge and there was a good "false summit bump" that we could have named as “Noah’s summit." There’s always a bump somewhere that you can proclaim as your summit of the day.

The photos below show the beautiful ridge overlooking the Spray Valley, Canmore, and Ha Ling Peak opposite you. I recommend most families with children under the age of 10 stop here. It's just not necessary to continue past this point. We did, but we also brought a rope and used it!

Reaching the Ridge below the Summit
This "bump" on the ridge is where we should have stopped

Reflection 3 -  Do the hike without your children first  

This should seem obvious but it takes time to go out solo to "test" a hike before taking the kids. (Time I don't always have.) I'm also guilty of forgetting what a hike is like if it's been more than three years since I last did it. We just did a hike this past week and I honestly had forgotten that it had three summits we'd have to climb up and over! I'd forgotten how long it was! I'd forgotten how exposed it was at times. And I brought a whole gaggle of kids with me.

Earlier this summer we did another summit and invited friends assuring them it was easy and that I'd done it when pregnant. Again, I'd forgotten how hard it was. I must have been a very fit pregnant mama!!!

On rope and traversing cliffs to reach the summit of the East End of Mount Rundle

And moving on to the East End of Rundle, I'd recently climbed up to the ridge with girlfriends and knew what to expect, but hadn't done the summit since well before my son was born. (perhaps 10 years ago.) If I was smart, I would have re-done the summit without Noah before bringing him along. He did fine and we had a rope to protect him, but it was harder than I had remembered.

Tired but proud to have reached the summit of EEOR

Reflection 4 - Family hikes should be EASY for the adults

Any family hike you do should be exceptionally easy for you the adult before you bring the kids along. If it's at your perfect comfort level (where you would not do anything harder) you will be focusing on surviving the hike yourself, and not focusing 100% on your child.

My husband helping our son get down from the summit on rope for protection

Ha Ling Peak across the valley is easy for me so I can support Noah 100% even by myself without another adult along for support. I feel comfortable on it and am never worried. The East End of Rundle however is something I  had to really concentrate on. The terrain was very loose, it was steep, and it was exposed at times on the way to the summit. This meant that my husband had to take on more of the stress of supporting our son and it put him on edge at times.

The descent was a lot looser than I had remembered

Reflection 5 - Start early!! 

The early bird gets the worm when it comes to summits with kids. We didn't start until 11am and this was way too late for summiting such a big peak with a child. It took us 7 hours to complete the hike and so we weren't back down until 6:00pm.

There were many breaks on the way up due to the heat on these sun baked slopes

IF you do want to have a relaxed start or just can't get to the trailhead any earlier, here are a few tips that will make the ending smoother:

  • Make sure it's a cooler day if starting late. It was a very hot day for EEOR and we were baked climbing up the hot dry slopes in the middle of the day. We should have started by 9am for this particular climb.

  • Don't promise things you can't guarantee (ice cream at the end, dinner out in a restaurant.) We got down too late and my son had to settle with a quick hamburger from a fast food restaurant on the way home in the car. My husband was disappointed too because he'd been looking forward to enjoying a beer on a patio in Canmore (which definitely didn't happen.)

  • If you suspect the hike will take a long time, make sure you have NO plans that evening. My husband wanted to get home and had chores he wanted to do before bed. This made us feel rushed on the way down and we had to rush home. Meanwhile, on another long hike last week, we just accepted that we wouldn't  be home till late. We still went out for dinner, we took our time, and bed time was moved till 9:00pm. It was much more enjoyable!!

Rushing back down late in the afternoon

Reflection 6 - Take the guide book suggested time and add 2 hours to it.

We recently did a backpacking trip with a suggested trip time of three hours in. It took us 2 hours 45 minutes with our group of kids. This is NOT normal. We were actually planning for a trip time of five hours based on the recommended time for a fit group of adults.

If you complete a hike in less time than you anticipated - bonus! But plan for longer and then you won't be stuck out past dinner without enough food on you.

I scrambled up those cliff bands to the summit!!

Reflection 7 - Keep it light

The attitude that is! (Your pack will likely not light if you are hiking with kids and focused on safety.) Stop often, recognize when your child is tired and step in to lighten the mood, bring out the candy, bring out a special snack, etc. We pushed too hard because we knew we were in a rush - especially on the way down.

We did another big epic 7 hour hike last week and we stopped a lot more! (probably why it took 7 hours.) It was way more enjoyable and we had more fun. The kids probably consumed pounds of candy and were still happy going into the 7 hour mark.

There's nothing wrong with taking a break

Reflection 8 - Snacks, more snacks, and MORE snacks

You'll need approximately one snack per hour of hiking. Therefore we should have had six different snacks for Noah (and for ourselves) along with a snack saved in the car for the end of the trip. We didn't. We were crashing on the way down (mentally and physically) and were starving by the time we reached our fast food restaurant.

My boys on the summit of Mt. Rundle's East Summit

Reflection 9 - Bring friends

Last year I would have said that this was purely optional and we enjoyed many big hikes as a family of three. This year though we've tried both solo family hikes and big group hikes. The group hikes have ALWAYS been more fun! Way more fun!!

When we hike as a family, we have to play games constantly to entertain our son. We tire of counting, of playing alphabet games, and of entertaining a mind that is bored of trudging up scree slopes. Meanwhile when we hike with friends, the kids entertain themselves. They make up trail games, they chat about their favourite movies, books, Pokemon characters...and are just happy!!

I've also noticed when we hike as a family without other children along that our son feels isolated. He knows that he's the youngest and most inexperienced hiker in the group. He gets tired of being told to be careful, to watch his step, to do this, to not do that... Meanwhile with friends, we either relax more on our parenting and take a step back or else perhaps the kids just know that there's support in numbers (they are all being told to be careful - and it's ok.)

Hiking is more fun with friends

Notes on choosing hiking friends: As much as we love hiking with friends, there are many kids that my son can not hike well with. Either their paces or hiking styles don't match (my son is not a stop to smell the roses kind of kid,) the kids are too competitive together, or other issues interfere with having a harmonious hike. I won't go into all the various issues/challenges we've seen but it often comes down to trial and error and you'll want to choose your companions carefully for the BIG trips. Invite friends that you know you can hike well with and "test" out other hiking relationships on shorter outings.

Mighty kids need mighty friends

Reflection 10 - Hiking should be a social activity

Yes, it's about the summit, it's about the views, it's about the accomplishment...- but less so for kids. Honestly they won't appreciate the scenery like you will. They will have a harder time pushing on for the sense of reward and accomplishment. And at times, they won't care if they reach the summit or not.

Kids (and adults) are social creatures. Their highlights will be their snack breaks with their friends, running down the trail chatting and being silly with their new best friend that they just met a few hours ago, playing trail games with other children, and hanging out with their friends after the hike. Yes, after the hike! That's probably the most important part of the day for the kids. We just did another big trip with friends and we went out for dinner after. The kids had a blast at the restaurant and it could have been the highlight of their entire day. On another recent trip, we all went out for pizza after.

Reward the kids for a job well done and keep the hike social.

Adults hike for the views. Kids just want to have fun

Want to do this hike with your family?

  1. Hike it solo first to determine if your kids are ready for EEOR
  2. Start with the hike to the ridge and call it a day at this beautiful spot
  3. Go with a very experienced group. This is NOT a beginner hike!
  4. Bring a rope to protect young children on the climb to the summit
  5. Helmets recommended for rock fall from above on the final summit climb
  6. Get a guide book!! I purposely did not go into details on the route description. Alan Kain has a brand new scrambles book out. Gillean Daffern also has a great hiking book which describes the route up EEOR. Note that we took Kain's route up, as do most people based on the well beaten path up the gully to the first summit, and we tagged the first of two summits (again as do most people based on the number of folks we saw on our summit compared to the empty second summit further away.) We reached the summit described in Daffern's book but did not go all the way to the second one described in Kain's route. With enough time, both are achievable but most people do stop at the first one.
  7. Start with easier scrambles and work your way up.  There are other suggestions below.

EEOR final summit climb

Other First Scrambles


Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old 

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis 

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

First Summits - Forget Me Not Ride, Kananaskis 

Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff 

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak  

First Summits - Table Mountain, Beaver Mines Lake