An update from student Alicia:
We woke up at 2 a.m. to start the hike to summit Mt. St Helens. We started hiking a mostly flat two-mile trail until we got to the tree line. There we saw the rocky terrain that lay ahead. We hiked the three miles of steep terrain, stopping to hydrate and eat tons of snacks. As we kept hiking, there started to be more and more fog. When we made it to a weather station, we had to make the decision to not summit because visibility was so low as it was so foggy. We were disappointed, but we kept up a positive attitude and had fun anyway! From there, we put on our flair and took a couple of pictures. We had to make it back to our campsite so we started hiking down. When we got back to camp, we packed up and drove away to our final campsite. Although not all of us made it to the top, we all tried our best, and I think we succeeded in all our goals.
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.