Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Susan, Getting High in the Mountains

In Expeditions on August 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

As I get older, I find there are fewer and fewer things that I’m really afraid of (Note to purists: “things of which I am really afraid”).

That being said, I’m STILL terrified of heights.  I have dreams about being in high, exposed places, with no way to get down.  I can handle elevators, airplanes, and tall buildings, but can’t climb a tree much over about ten feet before I get REALLY squirrelly.

On our first full weekend in Wyoming, I took Amanda and Susan on a 15-mile drive out into the Wind River Range of the Rockies, just outside our new hometown of Lander.  Drove through the Sinks Canyon State Park, then up a winding switchback to Worthen Meadow Lake, at about 8800′.  Beautiful.

Susan at Worthen Meadow Reservoir.

Susan at Worthen Meadow Reservoir.

Let her wade around in the water a bit, which wasn’t nearly as cold as you might expect, then headed farther uphill to Fiddler Lake, where I’d hoped (to no avail) to find some dragonflies at the 9500′ altitude.

As we returned from Fiddler, we passed some neat, somewhat rounded rock formations, which I believe are the remnants of old magma cores which have been eroded over the eons.  (Thanks, Dr. Glawe, my introductory geology professor at Northeast Louisiana!).  Susan, clad only in “flipflops” decided she wanted to try to climb them.  My motto, insofar as kids are concerned, is, “Do whatever you think you’re big enough to do,” so up she went.  After a few false starts, she found the logical path upward, and posed before a really cool rock that was shaped somewhat like a mushroom, or perhaps a nuclear detonation cloud.

At the mushroom rock.

At the mushroom rock.

She wasn’t finished yet.  She soon disappeared around the back of the rock.  After five minutes (I sure wasn’t gonna climb up there and find her), she reappeared, standing proudly at the highest point of the formation, which I’d estimate was about 100′ above our vantage point down on the road.  Bear in mind, the climb was NOT particularly difficult, basically a strenuous walk uphill, with a few places where she had to scramble upward, over obstructions.

The view from below.

The view from below.  Susan is the speck at the top.

A closer view of the "summit".

A closer, albeit blurry, view of the “summit”.

After she returned to the Jeep, I figured that, if she was gonna be racing up and down rocks in the Rockies, she should at least learn how to do it properly.  Looked around the town, which is FULL of outdoor outfitters, training facilities, and equipment purveyors (In addition to being the international headquarters of “NOLS”, the National Outdoor Leadership School).  Found a fitness center with a pretty extensive “climbing wall”.

Amanda had to go to work on Monday, while Susan got to enjoy ten more days of summer freedom.  Took her to the climbing center, and paid $8 for an “all-day” climbing pass and $5 to rent climbing shoes.  The lady took her through the safety procedures, then turned her loose on the wall.


She’s not Sir Edmund Hillary yet, but she’s doing great.  Talked to the pastor’s wife at church (she’s a climber), and she says she’s got a pair of climbing shoes she’s outgrown, her foot’s only SLIGHTLY larger than Susan’s, and she’ll be glad to let Susan have them.

I’m pretty proud of my ten-year-old daughter.

  1. Ah, you are too clever for me Sir.


  2. Splendid to see Miss S following in your courageous footsteps Sir. I did a fair bit of rock climbing in the Army and although always scared, the thrill of getting to the top always made it well worth while.

    I see no climbing rope or safety helmet and this would worry me!


    • Sir,
      Unlike Her Majesty’s Royal Signallers, the progeny of Marines eschew such unmanly devices as “safety equipment”.

      • Indeed Sir, I am aware of your Corps’ daring approach but would still be worried about the lack of safety equipment in this situation. I hope you don’t consider me as being ‘namby pamby’ as I believe all young humans benefit from a modicum of risk taking in a controlled environment. Even on an indoor wall a slip could still have very serious consequences though.


      • Actually, I deliberately took the pictures (at the climbing wall) at a drastic angle to make it appear that she was much higher than she actually was. I’d estimate that she was no more than ten-twelve feet off the gym floor, which was covered with a DEEP layer of padding, with another THICK pad atop that. In the picture of the rocks, no actual “climbing” was involved, just a rather strenuous WALK.

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