Posts Tagged With: climbing

Your Secret Superpower


Have you ever hung around someone from a different region of the country?

I had a friend in the military, his name was Brandon, and he was from New Hampshire. We would hang out when we weren’t on duty and being that he was a New Englander he had certainly phrases and ways of saying things (colloquialism) that were very different from my Ohio upbringing. Eventually I found myself saying things the way he did. Listening to the same music, and even smoking the same cigarettes that he did. My friend had a secret superpower that I had never even knew existed.

Influence.

He never set out to influence me, it happened by chance. If you spend enough time with someone they tend to rub off on you. You pick up phrases, habits, even world views. Think about it. Do you see the world the same now as when you were in high school? A lot of people’s view of life changes when they get to college or have a life changing experience. I see the world differently now then from when I wasn’t disabled. People, books, movies, experiences, all of these and more have an influence over us, but have you ever stopped to wonder what you influence everyday?

My son loves video games and movies. If he could he’d sit on the couch all day long and rot his brain until it’s seeping out of his ears. I’m not talking about National Geographic documentaries that we used to watch, no I’m talking about cartoons that offer up nothing but 22 minutes of mindless entertainment. He’d do it all day and all night without question.

Back in 2009 we took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. It reawakened my desire to explore the outdoors again; it had been put on the back burner for awhile, but now it was burning hot again. Eventually this led to a desire to try rock climbing. After researching and reading, watching videos and day dreaming my family and I spent a Saturday afternoon  at a local outfitter and their bouldering cave in the basement. Needless to say we were exhausted after about fifteen minutes. I was sweating, I was tired, my forearms wanted to slap me in the face then go run into a corner and cry they hurt so bad.

I was hooked. SN852092

It was exercise that wasn’t exercise. It was fun and new. Our son was four years old about to turn five and he was hooked too. Now he’s on a climb team and we’re in the second year of climbing and members at a climbing gym. We volunteered at a recent comp and anytime my son hears the words Vertical Endeavors he pipes up, smiles, and wonders when we’re going to go. He hates leaving the gym. He can’t stand to take his shoes off. Chalked up hands, sweaty, tired and wanting more and more. He climbs until his little hands hurt and the skin is peeling off where callouses form. He transforms from a couch potato to a little crushing climber.

Influence.

My little guy would have never gotten the climbing bug had I not influenced him and given him the experience and shared with him what has become a mutually attraction to this terrific outdoor adventure. He has yet to catch on to my love of hiking (too much walking he says) but when he gets out there he loves it. I’ve taken him snowshoeing and I find that who I am and what I endorse influences him more then what I realize. My values and favorites all-of-a-sudden become his during our conversations.

Me: “Mmmm…. I love asparagus it’s one of my favorite vegetables!”

Son: “It’s one of my favorite vegetables too!” (This after him never having eaten them before…..ever)

We can influence the next generation, we can influence our friends and family, our influence can stretch beyond our zip codes, our race, our gender, and our language. It’s a superpower that has no bounds, but it’s a superpower that should have boundaries. It should be harnessed and focused for good; for the betterment of those who look to us and glean from us. They incorporate it into their lives. So what are people incorporating into their lives being around you? Is it a love for the outdoors that is positive and ethical? Is your influence one that inspires greatness in others?

If you’re not a comic book/movie nerd who has read/seen Spider-Man let me borrow a quote from Uncle Ben.

“With great power comes great responsibility”

What are you going to do with your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

How do you use your superpower?

For good or evil?

For good or evil?

Until next time………..Adventure On!

Categories: Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Adventure, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When What We Do Doesn’t Matter


I like to follow a lot of outdoor recreation news and media. I listen to climbing and hiking podcasts, read articles, follow blogs, and watching hours of videos on YouTube and Vimeo. One of the resounding themes that I hear mentioned in interviews and articles is the climber/backpacker/adventurer stating time and again:

“What I do doesn’t matter”

After hearing this mentioned again by others I must say I was taken back a little. In the ego driven, superhuman, gravity/age/gender/possibility defying world out outdoor sports here it was someone admitting for all the world (okay that might be a bit of a stretch) to hear that what do doesn’t really matter.

Do these matter to those who can't appreciate or experience them?

Do these matter to those who can’t appreciate or experience them?

Why?

Why would someone completely sweep the rug out from underneath their own feet. Why dismiss the accomplishments of their own passionate driving force. The culmination of years of blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. All of it laid to waste by five simple words, six if you chose not to use a contraction. What would push someone to make this naked of a confession?

A realization of the unadulterated truth. What we do on the rocks, trails, rivers and mountains means nothing in the grand scheme of life to anyone else but ourselves.

Why is it that we take so seriously and give so much to something that ultimately matters to no one? When will climbing a grade higher ever solve world hunger? Maybe on my out-and-back overnighter I’ll discover a rare plant that when synthesized the pulp of the root cures 95% of cancer. Doubt it. So why do we take to forums and debate the validity of the difficulty of our sports. We dumps loads of time, money, and energy into things that have no baring or positive effect on the majority of the world as a whole.

You can make the argument that charities that sponsor events and raise money do good work that has a lasting impact and I would agree. How often I ask are you doing said events? Was that the goal of climbing 5.12? Of getting in shape to hike 20 miles a day carrying a 30lb pack? Maybe that’s why you got that season lift pass?  Hmmm?

Don’t get the wrong impression here, I’m not on some sanctimoniousness-self-righteous-guilt distributing-soapbox rant. Actually I’m a HUGE fan of outdoor sports and I wonder why more people don’t participate. It does however create that moment of wonder, or asking ourselves why. Why do we do things that don’t really matter. I’d like to answer my own question.

Mississippi River Valley

Because it does matter. It matters to us.

When we are able to free ourselves from the shackles of everyday life and experience and explore the world around us in an exhilarating and tangible way we allow ourselves to grow. We get inspired, we are renewed and refreshed. We think clearer, our creative veins pump the blood of imagination to every cell within our being. We return to the life we left behind with both a longing and a renewed vigor. A desire to do something that does matter to someone other then ourselves.

Whether we create with our minds or with our hands, we return to the life we put on pause. We hit the play button again and we turn the volume on full blast. We reshape the world around us, mold it and form it in a fashion that hopefully others can glean from. We come back to the world a better person, looking to change it into something better. To touch lives in a visceral way, deep down to the center and very core of their being. To give them a piece of what we drank in while we were out adventuring.

As it turns out what doesn’t matter really does matter, just not in the way we might think. When it matters to us, when it changes us, when it touches us we have the responsibility to reform it into something that changes others. What good is a mountain to someone who cannot or does not want to climb it? What about a class 5 rapid? A never ending trail? The solitude of a campsite? Or the deep fresh powder to someone who has never experienced those things? We have, and we do. Every day or weekend, every season of our lives we take a break and step away from what was and we we look forward to what will be. We immerse ourselves in this world; this world that doesn’t matter to anyone but us. If we simply allow it to, it can change us immensely.  We can become a conduit to a world that cannot or will not reach for it. To a people or peoples that will never know the experiences we had. We can make it matter, just in a different way.

Can this become something more?

Can this become something more?

Until next time……Adventure On and Make it Matter.

Categories: Insight | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s a Hodge Podge Post


So today’s post isn’t going to be focused on just one thing, my mind is on my upcoming family vacation and thinking about all the write-ups we’ll be doing when we get back. Oh and the 4,000 miles of driving we’ll be doing. It’s a road trip, with stops in Tennessee and then down to Florida and back. Why would I chose to drive 4,000 miles when they have made these new fangled things called airplanes. Because airplanes are for wusses.

Yep…that looks about right.

So today we’re going to be discussing training (I hear your collective moan; it’s not that kind of discussion) and our families 2012 goal to hike 100 Trail Miles and how we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.

Training with a Purpose

I’m not a huge fan of exercise. Really I’m not. I prefer the whole “eat Fritos and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on the couch while watching a good movie and keeping warm under my favorite fleece blanket” activity. One of the reasons why I hate exercise is because it’s just so darn hard. Don’t get me wrong I love to hike and climb, but the Stairmaster and the treadmill and the weight machines, they really are no fun. Then there are squats. Squats just outright suck. The deadlift is right behind that too.

So you’ll see that I’m not one of those hardcore, ‘roided, endurance athlete, self-punishing for pleasure, sickos you might see at your local gym. I choose to quietly laugh and ridicule those type of people; I’d point my finger at them if I weren’t so busy trying to suck wind and stay alive. However as much as I want to believe that Twinkies and Oatmeal Creme Pies are the way to summit mountains and crank on crimps it just doesn’t work that way. Plus, I’m a cripple so I’ve got that working against me too.

My body can only take so much abuse. I’ve wrecked my shoulders in the first year of climbing and my knees outright hate me after a few miles on flat terrain. I’ve topped the scales at 205 lbs a far cry from where I used to be in the military at 155 lbs. My metabolism didn’t just slow down, it broke down and my activity level plummeted with my accident. Add it all up and it’s not conducive to a lifestyle of a successful outdoor athlete, no matter what you want to say. So I decided one day that it was time to get back to the gym and to start training my body. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I was four months along in this photo.

I’ve read books many climbing books on the topic (this one, this one, and this one) and they all kind of say the same things. “The best way to train is to climb/hike/backpack/insert activity here” but I’ve found that isn’t the case for everyone. In the month-and-a-half I’ve been hitting the gym on the regular I’ve seen the largest growth in my climbing since I began. I didn’t buy new shoes (actually went back to my flat-last non-sport climbing shoes) and I didn’t magically grow super skills. I just trained my whole body and changed the way I ate.

My strength has improved, I’m climbing at a full grade higher, and my endurance has increased. I only climb once a week, and even then I only get to maybe seven sport routes a night max. I’ve seen my energy increase, and even my hiking endurance has shot through the roof. I haven’t been training for climbing specifically, or any sport for that manner. I don’t campus or do hang board training, I don’t use a weighted belt for pull-ups, or a weighted backpack (yet). I do nine simple exercises and then some cardio. The same ones every workout 3-4 times a week. I lift two times a week and do endurance cardio 1-2 times a week. No personal trainer, just basic machine exercises and sometimes I don’t even do all nine, I usually choose 5-6 one night and MAYBE 2-3 the other.

One of the things that keeps me motivated to hit the gym is it gives me a chance to laugh at the people that spend their lives there working on specific muscle groups in order to look super buff and swollen. They do one exercise to blast that third muscle fiber on the left bicep for maximum growth. While I’m in-and-out in 70 minutes having done a full routine. What a bunch of tools!  I giggle in your general direction.

See…..even my son is laughing at you.

I also giggle at the person who aimlessly wanders the gym looking at the machines and weights but never breaks a sweat. Also the person working out so lightly that they can read a book, watch a TV show, and hold a conversation all at the same time. Oh…. and if you’re one of those persons who carries their phone with them and has a conversation on it instead of working out but still sits on the machine like you’re doing something, just stop. Please, just stop…..you annoy me and everyone else.

So I found that training my whole body in a non-specific routine had yielded for me the best results. So tell me, what works for you?

A 100 Mile Update

For anyone who has been following this blog you know that we set a goal as a family (we had many but only this one is relevant to TBC) to hike 100 trail miles in 2012. It was a great feat for us to try as we have a six year old who isn’t fond of taking long walks in the woods, and our schedules make it difficult to get out but maybe once or twice a month. Summer was hot, I mean real hot which doesn’t bode well for a man with an SCI (spinal cord injury) as the heat and humidity drain my strength and suffocate me with every step.

We started off the year very slowly taking 1-2 mile trips, we didn’t get out a few months and fell well behind. One of the reasons we didn’t get at it full-steam is we didn’t think our son could handle it. We were wrong, so very very wrong. We underestimated the hiking power of our little man and we’re going to pay the price for it by not making our goal.

Currently we have 48 miles to go and less then two months to do it in. We found out near the end just how far our little guy can go when he pulled off a personal best (along with my wife who wasn’t much of a hiker or outdoors athlete until she married me and she’s pregnant too) when he hiked for 8.6 miles last month. Had we known he had this kind of staying power we might be closing in on 150 miles and not just crossing the 50 mile mark. As I stated earlier we have a vacation coming up and we’re looking at tackling over 20 miles in total. Getting us close to the 80 mile mark, but short of the 100 we need.

Never underestimate this boys hiking power…or his trailblazing skills.

All-in-all it’s been a great success. We’ve done more and learned more then we would have had we not set the goal and it helped us to reallocate our time and energy to make room for hitting the trail. We developed a game to help our son get his mind off the miles (trail bingo) and if he scores enough bingo’s he gets a prize (a new video game….yea yea I understand the irony of using an outdoor activity and rewarding it with a soul-sucking, mind numbing indoor activity… stop judging me). We also found out that we love a hot trail meal (thank you JetBoil and mac ‘n cheese) it helps to lift our spirits and boosts morale for the troops.

So before we go we wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving with friends and family, and as always…..Adventure On!

(PS: We will be coming back just not for two weeks so check the archives for a lot of good posts)

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Family Vacation, Hiking, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Come and Gone


As I have woken up every morning to get to work I’ve noticed a significant change in the morning air temperatures. It had been consistently cooler, ranging for the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s around 7am as I made my way to my bus. A signal to me that the summer was coming to a close and that another half of a year is gone forever. A sobering thought to one who when he looked back at summer realized that it came and went without a significant memory made.

I missed out on a summer, and I cannot tell you where it went. We had some above average heat which caused me to not be able to hit the trail at all. I’ve noticed though that there were other things that fell by the wayside. The commitment to keeping The Bionic Chronicles up-to-date was simply not happening as often. My participation on Twitter slacked off. Also my climbing dropped to virtually nothing at all. So many of life’s responsibilities began to overwhelm me and my family. The house isn’t going to clean itself, the chores won’t get done on their own. Time slipped away and with it the hopes and dreams of accomplishments that I once fantasized about now had slipped through my fingers. I missed the community of commenters to this website. I missed my Twitter friends, and I missed out on many adventures that would have filled my ‘post hopper’ with stories of adventures by The Bionic Family.

Some of the favorite posts that we write here on The Bionic Chronicles are about our weekend family adventures. Those are easy to write and share and it’s unique content which is nice since we’re not trying to rehash what 20 other blogs have written. I created this blog, this special piece of the internet to share my life and the life of my family is how we cope, adapt, enjoy, and suffer through our time together. We’re a unique grouping; you’ve got a man whose desires are greater then his physical body can handle, a woman learning to adapt to a new type of lifestyle, and the child they drag along and try their best to share what they believe is an important aspect of life with. Combined these ingredients can make for a fantastic adventure.

We are most likely not going to reach our goal of 100 Miles in 2012, so many unforeseen circumstances stole away the most precious of outdoor resources, time. So the summer is gone and the autumn arrive with the promise of adventure around the corner. Things are looking up for fall as a change in schedules looks to bring forth more opportunities. Our son now is old enough to join the climbing team at the local gym, he’s going to be a Spider Monkey. I’m getting over a recent Sciatica issue and will be heading back to a local fitness center to help give my body the training it needs given the disability I live with. With the fall comes cooler temperatures which for me means easier hiking as the swelter and energy-draining heat gives way to cool breezes and the need for one of my favorite pieces of outdoor clothing, the fleece jacket/pullover.

For those faithful readers look for a change in voice as there is a change in the weather. We’re looking to offer on this site more of our stories and less tips, tricks, and advice. You can find that elsewhere, we know some people who do it quite well. We’re getting back to our roots, returning to our first love. Returning to a life spent in adventure, and the tales of days come and gone.

Until next time……Adventure On!!!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Backpacking, Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Rhythm of Success


A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a rare opportunity to climb without our son tagging along to the gym.  Now that I’ve overcome my fear of belaying my husband (2 twists in the rope helps boost my confidence!), we were looking forward to some focused climbing time.

Only I bombed.  For some unknown reason, my brain was not in the game that day.  I was getting short of breath, failing to execute simple moves, and that compounded my exasperation.  I wondered if it had anything to do with my time off from injuring my shoulder.

As I considered why I was so off, the closest comparison and explanation I could come up with was that my rhythm was off.  When I play piano, I have a certain ritual of arranging the bench, the music, even my hair.  I do it without thinking.  I didn’t even know it existed until my biggest fan (my mom) pointed it out to me.  These simple arrangements allowed my mind to focus, distractions to fade, and I could execute my performance with excellence.

This was not the case for climbing that day.  It went something like this:

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

“On belay?”

“Belay is on.”

“Climbing.”

“Climb on.”  I climb up two holds.

My wedding ring is still on!  How did I forget to take it off?  I reach with my right hand, move my left foot into position.

It sure is grinding into my finger. Climb a few more feet.

Which of these holds is actually on this route?  There are 5 different colors here!  Move another move up.

I hope I don’t hurt my shoulder.

Not the most helpful, focused internal dialogue.

While I’ve been taught to tie in and go through the climbing commands and checks to ensure safety, I don’t think I’ve yet embraced the process as my mental preparation.

The more I climb the more I believe climbing is 50% mental and 50% physical.  If I don’t have it together in my head, its better to not even get on the wall.

For much of my life, playing piano meant that distractions would fade, music would surround me and for a time I’d be transported elsewhere.  It wasn’t my experience when I first started however.

I hope that as I progress in climbing, that when I hear “climb on”, distractions disappear, my thoughts fade away and I send with confidence.

Until next time, send on.

[Also: I have to apologize publicly to my husband for my last post.  It was never my intention to paint him as someone who is inept.  In fact he is quite the opposite.  He is truly inspiring for all the trials and challenges he perseveres through.  I thought I was being funny in my last post, but I realized later that it could be interpreted as mean spirited or demeaning, and that is certainly not my intent.  My first post on this blog more accurately describes how I view him.]

Categories: Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Importance of Passion


Hi, my name is Jayson and I used to regularly write for this blog! I’m the one who puts Bionic in The Bionic Chronicles. I’ve had to re-focus my time and attention elsewhere which prohibits me from contributing to this blog as often as I desired. Thankfully my wife has taken over and done a fantastic job, I enjoy her writing better than my own and I think you would all agree.

I went to the climbing gym the other today to relieve some stress and get a good workout in, however I failed to acquire both of those goals. I left wondering why my time at the gym lacked any satisfaction what made the experience such a horrible one. I thought that maybe it was because of my shoulder not being able to make some of the reaches, maybe it was my feet not being able to stay on the holds because of my disability, maybe both. Then I remembered that I have experienced both of those before but continued to climb on, so why was today any different? Then it came to me, I was climbing alone and I didn’t get into this activity as a loner.

This is where my passion lies.

This led me down a path of discovery about myself and about passion and the importance of having that in one’s life. I work in a field which is driven by performance, results, and numbers. I have taken this approach at times to many of my outdoor endeavors. Trek the miles, climb the routes, tick off the problems, go farther, faster, climb higher and harder and it has become all about the results. So what happens when you don’t achieve those results? Why does falling at the crux of a problem devastate you and destroy your whole day of climbing? I’d venture to say it’s because you lost your passion for it, and replace it with a duty/job mentality……. I’ve done the same thing.

I’ve found that some of the most amazing times I’ve experienced has been with my family when we don’t have an agenda. When we’re not necessarily trying to accomplish some great feat of outdoor prowess. When we can stop and throw rocks into a lake or river. When we can take our shoes off and wade through a waterfall and stream, when we’re having fun at the climbing gym going after fun routes and not necessarily trying to test our mettle. When we’re playing my wife’s favorite game “Can I climb that?”.

Benjamin winning this round of “Can I Climb It?”

[Sidebar] For those of you who have never played let me tell you the rules, one person scouts around, whether on a walk, hike, or even in the car and finds something that looks like you can throw a rope on it, or a crash pad under it and then you debate about whether you can climb it. There’s even an urban edition. [End Sidebar]

When we’ve come into a situation and a time together without a specific goal and without a specific reason it is far greater experience. When we are able to let our passion run free we glean the most out of every moment. No goals, no time limits, no worries or concerns. Pure passion, pure joy, pure fun and excitement.

It was an eye opening experience for me, something that I never want to forget. Keep the passion in our adventures by keeping the work mindset out of it. Yes, goals are important and they are a good thing. We have several this year, the big one being that as a family we hike 100 trail miles in 2012. We’re almost half-way through the year, but only one-quarter of the way to our goal, but the fun we’ve had (some hikes more then others) and the memories we’ve made are worth far more then the achievement of getting to the century mark.

Keep the passion, enjoy the journey, and until next time….. Adventure On!

This is what getting outside is all about.

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First Ascents


It’s been over a month since our last post.  We’ve been busy living rather than blogging, and my husband has some non-outdoor projects he’s been focused on.  We also realized that we could be slipping into the dangerous area of focusing on creating content rather than enjoying life and what we love, a concept that Jon Acuff recently blogged about.  So while our posts may be more infrequent for a time, rest assured, we’ll be back at some point or another.

A few weeks ago, we spent a gorgeous spring day exploring a local climbing area, Interstate Park.  Unfortunately there was no climbing for the adults since we were both healing from shoulder issues.

The first few moves of Banana Cookie (with intensive spotting from me!)

And the minor detail of not yet owning a rope and anchors.  That’s right, no free soloing for us. We were relegated to hiking and trying not to drool while watching others climb.  This didn’t prevent our son from topping out on a first ascent of a boulder problem he named “Banana Cookie”.  We are tentatively calling it a VK (for kindergartner) and for locals who dare to try it’s located off the Echo Canyon trail on the Wisconsin side of the park.

As we don’t yet own crash pads, the endeavor was accomplished with an intensive two spotter method.  When I realized he was actually going to make it to the top and my arms couldn’t reach that high, my husband jumped in to spot from the bottom, and I climbed up the back of the boulder to be ready to reach down from the top if needed.

One move before the mantle finish of Banana Cookie.

So now my son, at 5 years old, is the first in the Cardwell household to climb (for real) on real rock and top out a boulder.

100 miles update

We are now down to 81.6 miles to go for the remainder of 2012.   We’ve found out that we can actually do longer hikes now that all 3 of us have trekking poles.  It’s a psychological advantage that we are milking for all its worth.  Even though the little guy still really doesn’t know how to use them, he believes he can hike farther now. 🙂

Banana Cookie Boulder Problem

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Crafting a Climbing Family


We’re a climbing family now. A new climbing family, but one none the less.

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

So how did we become a family of rock jockeys? If you take a look at roster you might wonder how a disabled man, his non-athletic wife, and their 5 yr old son became climbers. The process is very interesting one that I’m about to explore.

In The Beginning……

I’ve always been an outdoorsy kind of guy. I grew up camping and hiking, I spent my senior year of high school in Colorado which gave me more exposure to better hiking terrain (I prefer strenuous elevation gain hiking) and always jumped at the chance to hit the trail. I was never one who had the opportunity or even the desire to climb sheer rock faces. I did however climb at 14er (14,000’+ summit) in Colorado and did some peak bagging on my own, this included some class 3 and class 4 scrambling: the closest I had come to climbing….ever. Then it happened, I was crippled in an accident and my days of athletic activity I thought had ended. At least on the levels I desired.

I did a hike or two after my accident but the experience was so exhausting and painful that regardless of the views and the sheer pleasure of hiking it was years before I ever hit the trail again. It would be years before I ever considered getting back to an outdoor life like the one I had.

A Reignited Fire

A few years after my wife and I were married I decided to put together a vacation, our first as a family. I opted to take us out west to Yellowstone National Park, and the Black Hills of South Dakota. While out there, to make a long story short, we hiked Elephant Back Mountain and I discovered that not only did I do FAR better then I expected, but also that my three year old son (almost four) finished strong too. There was a glimmer of hope that with some assistance (ankle and back braces….lots of braces) I could enjoy a life outdoors and maybe try something new.

One of my favorite alpine peaks

It had always been a desire to climb alpine peaks, and in that same trip we visted Grand Teton National Park. As luck would have it that day was the best weather day we had experienced and in early June the Tetons were glistening in the sunshine thanks to snow cover galore. That sealed it for me, I would find a way to the top and I knew the only way was to learn to rock climb. So shortly upon returning home I made a great and mighty effort to get my hands on books and by way of the internet I did my own research. I began sharing this new found (and rekindled) desire with my wife, and a small spark from my fire lit her tinder.

Bringing Us All Together

Through the wonders of modern technology I began to share documentaries and videos of climbers and climbing destinations with my wife. Luckily for me, she loves foreign travel and I began to extol about the Swiss Alps, Patagonia, and other regions of South America especially. I talked about how we could do this as a family and how we could vacation, spend time together, and be active for relatively inexpensively compared to a typical vacation. I talked about the places we could go and things we could see, about how this would be great for instilling a natural and active lifestyle into our children.

Quality gear leave everyone feeling this way

Slowly she began to open up to the idea. I helped to open her mind even further by bribing her with presents of shiny, soft, and feminine gear that made her and our son’s experiences far more comfortable. This of course helped make the transition much easier. However at this time we had not done anything closely resembling climbing, so the plunge had to be taken, but we thought it best to dip into the kiddie pool. A local outfitter had a section of their store with a small bouldering cave. The ceiling were no more then 8′ high and the floor was padded and absorbed a large amount of force. We worked up a sweat and left with our forearms screaming but a glimmer in our eyes. We spent over an hour together having fun and sweating up a storm. We got a workout…and it didn’t even feel like a workout. There was something to this climbing this and we decided to pursue it further. We signed up for a class at this same outfitter and at a cost of $5 (they gave us a $5 coupon for purchases over $25 after the class was over) it was easy to make the move to being a climbing family.

The Finished Product

Here we are just a  few short months after we started. Now we all climb and are members at the local climbing gym. We’ve all got climbing goals and my son is hooked (literally he throws up heel hooks like they’re going out of style). 2-3 times a week you can find us in the gym getting stronger and having fun. We’re talking about taking climbing focused trips and I’m thinking about competing in the 2013 Extremity Games. We subscribe to several climbing magazines, watch videos, follow athletes and are meeting new climbers on twitter and in the gym. We love the community feel of climbing and the opportunity it affords us to be together, get healthy, get outside, and stay active.

It's like the X-Games for disabled athletes

After encouraging my wife to read a few books the possibility even exists for her to consider taking up some modest alpine climbing in the future. She’s discovered her inner-athlete and we’re all defying our self conceived ideas of what we can and cannot do. My son watches the other climbers and I’m amazed by what he has picked up and how he’s getting stronger and going higher and harder with each passing week.

Reflections

When I look back on how we got to this point I find a certain number of tipping points that helped us build a climbing family.

#1. It all starts with passion. Starting anything without passion only leads to one giving up because when it calls for your time and sacrifice you find that it’s just not as important if you’re not passionate about it to begin with.

#2. You must gain knowledge.  I researched and read, studying and listened. I saw what it took and what I needed to do, I counted the costs and found a way to test my mettle before I wasted too much time.

#3. It helps to find multiple benefits. We were already a camping family, so adding hiking, and climbing just seemed logical and we could do all of that in one vacation and the gear could be used for multiple vacations making it cheaper in the long term. Add in the physical benefits, getting outside, being active and away from technology carried a lot of weight.

#4. Got to start slow. We slowly immersed ourselves into this new world and now it’s taking center stage. We sought out easy and inexpensive ways to introduce ourselves. Bought used books, read free websites, and rented gear cheap. We started bouldering which meant we only needed shoes and found a inexpensive class we both could attend.

#5. Make everyone comfortable. From gear to expectations ensure to it that everyone is comfortable with the pace and the practice. When all the family members are happy the chances increase of doing it again and again.

So whether it’s rock climbing, kayaking, BASE jumping, slacklining, or any other outdoor recreation you want to try out crafting an outdoor family is worth the time and effort, just be sure to take the right steps.

So until next time…….Climb On!

Our son showing of his rock jockey skills

Categories: Climbing, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Guest Post: A Wife’s Perspective


A recent conversation between the Bionic Hiker and myself went like this:

BH: You should write a guest post for my blog!

Me: What would I write about?

BH: You could write about what its like to be married to a disabled athlete.

Me: How many posts can you write about applying Tiger balm?

So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on being married to an outdoor enthusiast and aspiring athlete who also happens to have a disability.

Walking the line between being a reality check and a buzz kill.

When my husband first began expressing interest in rock climbing and mountaineering, it was difficult for me to share the excitement.  With his physical condition, he already deals with pain on a daily basis.  I was not interested in him introducing new pain.  It didn’t help that he was devouring books on high altitude expeditions and routinely sharing about death and mayhem.

His excitement also started shortly after a Yellowstone trip in 2010.  Most of the time I think the Bionic Hiker makes good decisions in outdoor adventures, however, on this particular trip I had refused to go on a hike.  He had started down the sloppy muddy trail in the rain while I stood at the trailhead with our 3 year old son refusing to hike a rim trail

A wife-approved trail in Yellowstone (Elephant Back Mountain)

where there was a large sign stating “Hike at your own risk, children not recommended”. I wasn’t interested in seeing my husband loose his balance and slip and slide over the edge or futilely try to keep my son on the inside of the trail from the rim while he was loosing traction during the poor conditions.

So at times the disability feels like a henchman lurking behind a bush waiting to come and knock him out.  While I’m not necessarily a good protector against men wielding crowbars, sometimes I trick myself into thinking if I say the right thing I can keep him from harm or danger.  I know, its so silly to think a husband would actually listen to his wife.  So in the meantime, it’s always there, and I balance concern and fear of future suffering with being a supportive partner.

The first time he tried rock climbing is a prime example.  His first time in a rock climbing class resulted in an injury that required months of physical therapy and a miserable car ride home.  He was ready to give up and I was ready to agree with him.  I didn’t want to watch him incur injury after injury trying to do something his body simply couldn’t handle.  I’m glad he proved me wrong and he has quickly surpassed my ability.  I almost discouraged him from it in the name of being a “reality check” when I really would have been killing a dream.  Which is why I have supported him returning to the sport that almost took his life (skiing).

On the positive side

For the 30 years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve considered myself an uncoordinated non athlete with an aversion to anything labeled a sport.  However, I can’t exactly sit comfortably on the sidelines using pathetic excuses when the Bionic Hiker manages to stay active and challenge himself physically.  Bad memories of dodge ball from my school years don’t hold weight next to having two steel bars in ones back.  I never would have tried rock climbing had it not been for him, and he’s started me on course leading to a much healthier and happier me.

When we are both trying new things, I don’t have the self-consciousness that other women with my self-imposed labels might have (at least most of the time!).  With my lack of ability and his disability we almost have a level playing field.  🙂

I have to say that the Bionic Hiker is quite admirable.  He is the one that could choose self-consciousness because of the limp he walks with or the challenges he faces while learning to climb, but his zest for life trumps that card.

So until next time, adventure on without abandon.

Categories: Climbing, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fresh and Ready for 2012


After a much needed and quite enjoyable break towards the latter few weeks of 2011, we are back and ready to dive in to the new year with some new material. As you can see we have a new name (The Bionic Chronicles) and I’ve been using ‘we’ a lot as well because…..drum roll please…… my wife is going to be joining me through out this year as a contributor! Let the confetti fly and the fanfare begin! She is going to bring a much needed female, mommy, wifey perspective and content to this blog and polish it up a bit.

The break was a nice time away and it certainly allowed for time to plan and forecast for 2012 and what we as a family and I individually want to accomplish. I’ll get into a few of the highlights to this year’s Bionic Family plans, but I wanted to make mention of a few things of noteworthiness.

Over the break we did have the opportunity to do some more climbing indoors at the gym. This personally was an eye-opening experience because it revealed something I didn’t know existed. Self-consciousnesses. Last week I went to the gym with my wife and headed upstairs to the bouldering cave. I was intent on climbing a problem on an overhanging wall. Probably the hardest problem I had tried to date. Since I have nerve damage to my hips and back the core section of my body does not function too well. This makes overhanging climbs a challenge because I have difficulty keeping my hips into the wall. This leaves my tail hanging out, that partnered with gravity helps pull me from the wall. No ankle and calf support makes keeping my toes and feet on hold while reaching up and back nearly impossible. So all of this combined leads me to believe I look ridiculous, and I fall often or pop-off holds and hang in space which does not help with weight distribution off my shoulder and hands. To make a long story short I was not all there mentally, the bouldering cave was crowded and I didn’t want to show off my pathetic lack of climbing skills to what seemed to be the whole climbing community of Minnesota. So I sat for about 5 minutes staring off before unlacing my shoes and quitting. That was s new one for me.

My wife was doing great. She’s really been working hard and experiencing a lot of improvement to technique and endurance. She’s really caught the bug. A new chalkbag to match her shoes and new harness helps too of course (Merry Christmas!) My son also got a new harness, shoes, and a chalk bag for Christmas and now he’s ready to tear it up. The grandparents were quite impressed with his sending feats! (FYI – by ‘sending feats’ I mean 8-12′ up a wall…..one foot a time!)

2012 Goals and Plans

So there’s the recap of a few mentionables and now on to the good stuff, what is in store for us this year.

100 Miles! – That is our hiking goal for the year. We want to log 100 miles on the trail for the calendar year. It may not seem like much but with our busy schedule and having a 5-year old child (turning 6 in July) 100 miles of hiking is a great goal. We’re hoping to knock out close to one-quarter of that on our summer vacation.

Rocky Mountain High – We’re heading off to Colorado on vacation! Well, we’re planning to head off to Colorado on vacation! We didn’t take a major road trip vacation in 2011 and we haven’t been out West since June of 2010 (Yellowstone and the Black Hills) so we’ve decided to conquer the Front Range. Preliminary planning has us seeing Rocky Mountain National Park, Florissant Fossils National Monument, doing A LOT of hiking, even quite possibly bagging my wife and son’s first 14er (Pikes or Gray and Torreys Peaks are the early front runners). Super ambitious? Of course. Crazy and wild? Absolutely. Done with planning? Not even close.  We may also throw in Great Sand Dunes National Park as well.

If we can’t venture to Colorado, we’ve got a back-up in a South Dakota/North Dakota loop trip with stops at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, The Black Hills, Badlands National Park, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll definitely head up to northern Minnesota or to northern Wisconsin. Or maybe to the local park……hopefully we can venture farther then that.

Winter Sporting  – We’re looking to try skiing this year. My son and wife have never been skiing, and I haven’t been on skis since my accident in 1999. We’re also going to go snowshoeing. I want to convince my wife to go ice climbing…..but she isn’t so happy with that idea. One thing at a time I guess.

More Hidden Treasure – We’re hoping to combine activities and couple the hiking with some more geocaching. I thought that it was great fun and so did my son. My wife wasn’t too pleased when I got us off trail and through the heavy brush to find a small cache….. ADVENTURE! I’m looking to do more this year by adding our own personal GPS to the gear closet (yes… I am behind in the times. If it weren’t for my parents we would still have 1 TV in the house that was bought in 1997. I’m not a electronic fanboy who needs to the top of the line stuff every year. I still use my laptop that I bought 6-7 years ago! I use an abacus too). So if you go geocaching in Minnesota and you find pretty plastic butterflies you’ll know who left them. Why butterflies? you may ask (or maybe you didn’t but you’re going to get educated anyways). We place butterflies in every cache we find in honor of our daughter Gabrielle Renee who died in April 2011 during birth.

Another Fall Trip – This time we’re going to do it right, no forgetting gear! If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out my trip report from our 2011 fall camping trip.

Actual Rock Climbing – We’re looking to actually try climbing on actual real rock….Actually! We have several places here as well as some great places about 5 hours away to throw up a top rope or throw down a crash pad. This goal may get pushed back because we’re looking at getting pregnant (well not me, but my wife…cause that would be very awkward and impossible). So bouldering would be a two person affair and my wife would have to sit out which is never any fun. Given that the gear outfitting for Colorado is nearly one-half of the cost for the entire trip (quality and comfort helps make a trip that much better!) this may have to wait.

We have many more goals which we’ll leak out throughout the year, but in the spirit of brevity (stop giggling) we’ll tackle those later. Look for additional changes this year. I’d like to add some video and much more photos. With my wife on board the quality of the writing and the posts are sure to improve so bear with us!

So until next time…..Adventure On!

Categories: Camping, Climbing, Family Vacation, Geocaching, Hiking, Insight, Outdoor Recreation, Skiing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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