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Passing the Torch

January 30, 2023

For years, when going out in the woods with my boys, and doing other sports such as wrestling, they have always strived, to beat me, be faster, climb a more difficult route, etc. For boys, the challenge to beat your father in any type of sport is huge. I know I always had that with my Dad. That competition ended when I was in high school, as I quickly was bigger than him which ended some of the competitions. He did later reveal to me that in every game, sport, event in which we competed against each other in he never let me win at anything. Yes this includes cards and Yathzee. I have taken that same approach with my boys.  When they strive to beat me my comment has always been “Someday you will pass me by, but that day is not today”.  This past summer “someday” started to arrive.  On activities that require fast downhill travel they have been faster than me for a while. It requires being a little bit more fearless than I am.  Examples are skiing and mountain biking.  Granted skiing they have both been better than me since they were 4.  Although the uphill has never been a question of strength and speed. I would hammer up, they would hammer down.  This past summer, that reality shifted. Them catching me on the way up had been impossible until then.

The knife-edge ridge.

Eldorado – Back in June, the three of us climbed Eldorado, which is a beautiful mountain in the North Cascades and the 25th highest mountain in the state.  It features an amazing knife-edge ridge to reach the summit.  Starting within the first 100 yards of the trailhead features a stream crossing.  Without too many details, of course, I was the one who ended up getting wet.  From there it is a steep climb through the forest up to a snowfield where the pitch flattens out.  This is where we camped for the night.  The plan was a two-day trip.  From our camp, you head up a few hundred feet, then drop over a notch, and end up on another snowfield that takes you up to the Inspiration Glacier. This section is not super steep. The snow was sloppy that day and some minor post-holing occurred.  Being heavier than my boys, I was having a much more difficult time with punching through.  They completely crushed me up to the glacier, having to wait for a while for me to catch up.  Once we got to the glacier we roped up.  I was on lead as we made our way over the Inspiration Glacier to the Eldorado Glacier.  From there you make your way up to the summit.  The Inspiration glacier is flat, but the Eldorado glacier has some steeper sections that leads up to the knife-edge ridge and the summit.  I got into my “rest-step” rhythm as we went up.  This is sort of a standard climbing pace that includes a rest every third step.  We made our way up to the ridge.  The most exposed portion, where the sides drop-off steeply on both sides, was about a 30–40-foot section.  We made the summit, took a few pictures, and then headed back down.  We descended the Eldorado glacier and took a food break at some rocks prior to making our way back on the Inspiration glacier.  First my boys were “the knife-edge ridge was way too short we wanted a longer section of super exposed ridgeline.”  Then they commented “Hey Dad you didn’t need to move that slow on the glacier for us.”  I commented back: “that was for me, not you”.  I realized this was the first moment of my grip hold on being faster on the up was under attack. 

Later in the year I took a couple of trips with Cade.  Colby was immersed in football so he had limited time. Although we did manage a trip up Mt. Baring.  My buddy, Andy, went with Cade and myself on one of these trips, The main objective of trip was two peaks in the top 20 of highest peaks in Washington.  We hoped to try for two others, however some rain ended that as scrambling and rain do not mix.  We summited the two main objective peaks. The whole time Cade was out in front just hammering, and we worked hard to catch up.  At one point he looked as us and said, “Maybe I should climb with people who are not 45.”  We both laughed.  My response was “Good luck finding people who want to suffer through these types of adventures with you”.  “Good point” was the response.  It fit right in with some of my mountain rules:  1.  You must be fine taking some crap and not take anything personally.  Smack talking is 100% allowed.  2.  Swearing it OK in the mountains. 3. Always stay together 4. Make sure your harness is double-backed. 5. Assess every trip based upon that place, and the current conditions at that time.  This was a cool moment as I realized we were not out there as father/son, but as climbing partners. He is very capable – both my kids are very capable in the mountains.  On the way out Cade took us out via a high traverse, which a large portion did not have a trail so he had to navigate us over some ridges, and up some nasty scree fields to get us to our planned camping destination.  Again, a fun moment to put him in charge of the navigation.  All in all, on the trip we summited two peaks over 9.000 ft and then one over 7,000.  A fantastic trip.  Again, a reminder that someday is happening now. Not only did I get crushed the entire trip, but I also handed over the navigation reigns, probably a bigger sign that someday is now.

Cade near the summit of Seven Fingered Jack

After that trip just Cade and myself, took a trip up to Cascade Pass – again in the North Cascades.  The goal was another 9,000-foot peak- Mt. Buckner.  Cade was hammering some tough cross-country terrain.  Due to some issues I was having I pulled the plug on the trip and we did not reach the objective.  We had to pivot our trip so we shifted our focus to Sahale Peak.  To get to the top there is a short glacier crossing. Since it was late in the year the navigation was straight forward as most of the crevasses were wide open and easy to navigate on.  The final part of the climb is a scramble to the top.  He just blew right through the scramble section. It is not super technical, but features one exposed move towards the top.  I waited at a notch where people rappel to the other side of the mountain, which is a different approach.  Since I already have summited the Peak and I am still working through some trauma issues related to my accident in 2020, I was totally fine just chilling while he hit the summit.  Another trip, another crushing. I used his summit picture in my last post, so below is a different trip.

Cade at Red Pass

Officially the torch has been passed and “Someday” is now.  For me, this has been a moment to celebrate as they have a huge passion for the outdoors and are passing up their “old-man”.  The torch has been passed. They are carrying on the tradition of love for the mountains from not only their parents, but also from their grandfather.  Some pretty remarkable stuff.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Gayle permalink
    February 14, 2023 4:24 pm

    Awesome. So happy for all of you.

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