A quick update from instructor Ari: And so they hiked! With a powerful coastal experience under their belt, the gang headed southward to Mount St. Helens! Making camp at the climbers bivouac at the base of the volcano, the young adventurers morphed into mountaineers for a bid at the summit of the well known peak. Groups arose between two and four in the morning to begin the 6 mile trek to the summit, following the climbers route to the top. Most groups began climbing in the dark, wielding headlamps, determination and confidence from their previous successful backpacking excursions. By late morning most groups had successfully reached the summit, after an arduous climb of 6 hours or more, cheering each other on through difficult sections and working their way up the mountain in small teams. At the top students rejoiced in having conquered a challenging hike together and took in the views of nearby peaks Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, poking through the cloud blanketed skies below. Another highlight of the summit view was looking into the caldera of the volcano formed by the eruption in 1980, a blast that left behind a smokey interior, and scattered glaciers. On the way down, students learned the basics of glissading, a mountaineering technique of seated sliding on snow. The students convened at base camp after a long day, worn out but feeling proud of themselves and the rest of the community for taking on St. Helens!
And now a few words from Dock…
Almost every trip at Adventure Treks climbs a big mountain. It’s typically a highlight of the trip and serves many functions in our program. Without a doubt, it becomes fodder for many college essays and has helped numerous AT students get accepted into great colleges.
The day is designed to be fun and one that will be remembered long after your child has returned home. Most important, our instructors focus on creating an environment where it is OK not to make the summit. Instead, a focus is put onto what students have accomplished, and the effort and commitment it requires to even begin a climb!
Besides the joy of a very special day, here are a few things we hope our students will take away from their mountain experience.
Sense of accomplishment: Our students should stand atop a mountain on a beautiful day, proud that they are there as a result of their hard work, resilience, and perseverance. Unlike a scenic roadside stop, views are sweeter when they are earned. We hope your children reflect on their mountaineering experience with genuine pride about the hard work that went into the day.
Confidence: Let’s face it: When you see stand at the bottom of a huge mountain, it’s intimidating. When our students summit a mountain, or just make it farther than they thought they could, they have every reason to be proud of themselves. Small accomplishments lay the groundwork for larger ones. We hope the mountain will become a metaphor your children will use when facing other challenges in life, that they become more open to taking on challenges that might have once been considered intimidating.
Teamwork: We don’t climb a mountain by ourselves. We build our summit teams carefully, hoping to create a dynamic where friends support each other. We take turns leading and create a mindset that we are all in this together; we succeed or fail as a group. The camaraderie of the experience and the shared encouragement makes the experience all the more successful and rewarding. Friendships solidified on the mountain stick long beyond the trip.
Baby steps: Climbing a mountain is intimidating. When taken in all at once, it can be overwhelming. But you climb a mountain one step at a time. Through hard work and by constantly moving forward, you accomplish great things. Sometimes it feels like for every two steps forward you take a step back, but that is also true in life. We believe the mountaineering experience can be useful when other challenges seem daunting as our students learn they can break big goals into small steps.
Hard work can be fun: Hiking uphill is generally not the highlight of our trips; rather, it is the atmosphere created by our staff and students that makes the experience so memorable. Climbing a mountain is often type-two fun (something that might be difficult at the time, but becomes fun in retrospect). That being said, this is a day your child will remember forever, and despite the challenge and hard work, it will be relived as an exciting and special experience. Learning that a good time doesn’t have to be a passive experience like entertainment is a valuable lesson.
Proper preparation prevents poor performance: Our students notice that much thought goes into planning our day(s) on the mountain. We schedule our ascent later in our trip so we can be in our best possible shape before we climb the mountain. We bring the appropriate equipment, know our routes, are constantly aware of weather and safety concerns, have a backup plan, pace ourselves, and start hydrating the day before. Proper planning not only increases our ability to manage risk but also increases our chances of success. We hope our thoroughness underlines the message that if you want to increase your chances of being successful, do your homework and prepare properly.
Immersion in nature: The view from the mountain is incredible (even if you do not make it to the top), and there is something about witnessing a magnificent view earned solely as a reward for effort. When shared with those who have also felt your pain, strength, and laughter, the day becomes all the more special. We hope the breathtaking views from a climbing experience will strengthen the connection and appreciation with nature we have been fostering throughout the trip.