The thought of taking my 6-year-old mountain climbing makes me want to crawl back under the covers, preferably with a brownie. But then, my daughter is not the child of a famous mountain climber. And my daughter did not volunteer to go peakbagging at 5 years old, trying to reach 48 of the giant peaks in the New Hampshire's White Mountains.
Patricia Ellis Herr's daughter has. Volunteered that is! Alex Herr accomplished the feat of reaching the summit of all 48 of the 4,000-plus-foot mountains by the time she was 6, becoming the youngest one of the youngest ever to manage the task. And let's be clear here.
Alex Herr wasn't being carried on her parents' backs. She joined the Four Thousand Footer Club on her own two feet. To be honest, just typing that makes me tired (where is that brownie?). But it also leaves me feeling guilty.
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When Trish Herr's new memoir, UP: A Mother and Daughter's Peakbagging Adventure, was sent my way by her publisher, my first thought was "cool!" followed quickly by "not my daughter." It was -- in part anyway -- an honest summation of my daughter's personality. She has a mind that can work its way around intricate geometric designs. She has a comfort with who she is that I envy. And she has a stubborn streak I attribute to German heritage on both sides that could serve her well in a courtroom one day.
But she is not a "let's go climb mountains" kind of girl. Quick to anger or frustrate, she's perhaps the polar opposite of the patience needed to ascend mountains on your own two feet. When she wants to take on something particularly onerous, I confess I am hesitant because I foresee the meltdown. I've been known to head her off at the pass rather than deal with the probable frustrations.
Today, thanks to Alex Herr, I sit corrected.
In a book powered by the kind of moxie that I so want to instill in my daughter, Trish Herr has recounted the process, from the day she first learned what peakbagging was (think bagging in terms of "having this one in the bag" or marking each peak off a bucket list) to her first trek with then 5-year-old Alex and beyond.
Anticipating potential controversy, Trish chose to begin the book with one of the most harrowing ordeals of the adventure, getting caught in a freak electrical storm with not only Alex (5 at the time) but also 3-year-old daughter Sage. She uses the unpredictability of the weather to couch her entire argument for her daughter's extraordinary task. They were as prepared as could be; weather reports never showed it coming. They were like any other family out for a hike.
And there it is. Families hike with kids all the time. So why not hiking a lot of mountains, spread out over time with your 5-year-old daughter? Break a gargantuan task into bite-sized pieces, and it can be accomplished, even by little people.
It's a lesson we can all use. Perhaps not about mountain climbing. But trusting our kids, even at 5 or 6, that they can do what they set their minds to, that the biggest of challenges can be brought down to a level that the smallest of people can master:
Be honest: what's your first reaction when your kids want to take on massive projects? Would you allow them to take on an adventure like scaling 48 4,000-foot mountains?
Image via CrownBooks/YouTube