Posts Tagged With: climbing with children

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.


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.


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

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.


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

The 3 Questions That Hold Me Back

I first tried rock climbing in September 2011 after I had been insisting to my husband I was NOT interested in trying.  What changed my mind?  On a camping trip up north we saw climbers on Palisade Head.  We also did some rock scrambling by a waterfall and the experience intrigued me.  My husband has talked at length about his progress from the perspective of being a climber who is disabled, I haven’t shared much from my nonathletic-kinda-afraid-of-heights-I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this perspective.

We started climbing more regularly in November, just 3 months ago.  In the gym, I’ve been climbing 5.7s and trying 5.8s here and there.  (non-climber?  see this explanation of climbing grades)  As for bouldering (short, un-roped routes), I can usually get most V0 problems after a try or two (or 5, but who’s counting) and I’ve started working on a V1.

While I’m not the most physically fit person, it doesn’t seem to be my fitness that’s holding me back.  It’s my mental game. I’m plagued by 3 internal questions.

What if I can’t?

Bouldering at the Climbing Gym

When I reach a section of a route or problem that I haven’t gotten past before, I feel the anticipation building and I doubt I can do it.  When the doubt sets in, I hesitate, miss the hold and fall.  It’s a huge barrier to giving 100% and committing to my moves.  When I focus on what I think I can’t do, it cheats me from the possibility of what I could do if I gave it my all.

During some climbing sessions I get discouraged by the lack of progress from my holding back, and I proceed to sit back and watch my husband and son climb.  Watching my son requires effort to make sure he doesn’t get in the way of other climbers, and it makes the perfect excuse.

What do people think?

Unfortunately this is a question I’ve had to deal with in other areas of life, and for the most part I’ve squashed it.  Except when it comes to climbing.  I find myself self-conscious and hoping others aren’t watching.  When the gym is busy I find I’m less likely to jump in and climb since there are more people to see my lack of skills.  I try to remind myself: You’re new at this.  You are still learning. However, as a recovering perfectionist my little pep talk doesn’t usually work.  I was naturally inclined to do well in school as a child, going on to become the valedictorian in high school.  Life doesn’t hand out “A’s” as often as I got used to receiving them, and I don’t like appearing as the “D” student of the gym.

What if I fall?

This is a question I deal with more in bouldering.  I’ve only had one bad fall in the gym when my foot got stuck on a hold, but it successfully embarrassed me, startled me and ended my climbing for the evening.  Even on roped routes when I look over my shoulder and see how high I am, I can feel my heart rate increase.  Confession: sometimes at the top of the wall, I have to tell myself to let go.  Even then sometimes one hand still has a white-knuckled grip on the last hold for a few more seconds.

Answering the Questions

So what am I doing about these questions?  I’m trying to think less when I’m on a problem to combat #1.  I slow down when I over think and then I do poorly.  I’m also trying to draw on my musical background and think of the rhythm I create in moving to make it more consistent and less hesitant.  Possibly next week I will climb with @eliz_rocks (check out her blog!) so someone will see me climb and I’ll have to get over myself. 🙂  As for the fear of falling . . . don’t all climbers continue to deal with that to some degree?

It never ceases to amaze me how climbing can have such a direct correlation to other areas of life, possibly even exposing thoughts and attitudes we believe we’ve successfully overcome.  Have you had to deal with any of these questions, in climbing or other areas of life?  Please share your insights in the comments.

100 Miles in 2012 and Other Updates

Warming up with hot chocolate

During our period of mild weather in Minnesota, I had suggested we take a longer hike to test our junior hiker and train for our upcoming vacation.  We ended up suffering through experiencing refreshing 15 degree weather for 2.5 hours to cover 3.7 miles, bringing our total to 6.2 miles for the year.  It was the quickest pace we’ve ever had on a hike!  The wind picked up about half way through, which encouraged a fast pace back to the truck.

Are you on Facebook? If you haven’t already, you can check out our Facebook page.  And until next time, climb on!

Categories: 100 miles in 2012, Climbing, Insight | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

A Knife’s Edge Dance

” I can’t”

“I’m scared”

“I want down!”

“I’m too high up”

This is the usual one-sided conversation my son has with me when we are at the climbing wall of our fitness center. It also happens at the climbing cave at our favorite outdoor retailer, Midwest Mountaineering. He’s gotten himself up about six feet off the ground, he’s roped in, and he’s reached his limit.

After lowering him to the ground and calculating in my head that it took my wife more time to tie him in then it did for him to actually climb I wonder what am I doing wrong.

The funny thing is he climbed up in a tree, no harness and no rope, to about thirteen feet and only stopped when we told him to because the tree couldn’t bear his 40 lbs of beefiness. So what is it about the climbing wall that terrifies him? He’ll come off the wall and promise us he’ll go higher and try harder, but the end result is no different.

I’m former military, so is my father, my grandfather, aunt, uncles, all branches of service. Being pushed, pushing yourself, not quitting, not giving up, testing your limits and going beyond them to the point of failure and the chastisement with failing is familiar territory for me. It isn’t familiar for my little guy.

You WILL climb that wall, now move!

So where does this lack of confidence in his ability come from? It’s not germane only to climbing: it comes out in hiking, reading, writing, even putting away his clothes. It’s a total 180 from a few years ago when the boy could do EVERYTHING (or so he thought) on his own without parental interference.

This led me to thinking that there is a fine line in parenting and in life between understanding limitations and allowing failure and fear to stop you prematurely. Do I push him or do I allow him to go as high as he wants and allow time to hopefully take him higher? As a parent this is really dancing on a knife’s edge. You don’t want to encourage a child to quit and give up so easily, but at the same time you shouldn’t force them to do something that may end up breeding resentment and a sense of insecurity with someone who is supposed to help them feel secure (that was a TERRIFIC run-on sentence, my English teachers would be proud!)

I’ve run into a similar situation with myself. I went climbing at a climbing gym here in town for the first time. My wife and I wanted to compare it so we could determine whether or not we wanted to switch from the fitness center to a climbing gym. We climbed for over 2 hours. I kept trying my best to get in as much climbing as I could. I climbed so much I hurt my hands, tore them apart but at least I got a story out of it.

Here I am five days later and still sore, plus both shoulders ache now. I obviously climbed way too much and my rotator cuff muscles are far too weak. Since I  use this blog to spew my mental neurosis upon all of you I feel comfortable in making this confession. I haven’t been doing my at-home therapy exercises. I know….what a shocker huh!?!

So when I decided to look up exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles I found the exact same ones as they gave me in therapy. The muscles (there are four) are important because of the way they position the shoulder. When they are weak it puts pressure on the tendons and bursa sack. Having strong shoulders doesn’t mean you have strong rotator cuffs, because they are so small when lifting weights the lats and delts get used more then they do. (Quick health lesson)

So now I find myself wondering what to do. Where is the fine line between being a pushy overbearing drill sergeant parent and a loving encouraging parent who doesn’t allow a child to quit easily but understands how to let maturity and growth happen?

I also have to discover for myself when to stop pushing myself too hard to the point of injury and where I am immobile for two days later and when I can keep going to push through physical limitation and mental barriers.  As an athlete, or anyone who does physical activity and wants to improve this can be a quandary you have as well.

So to all my readers out there I ask this: Do you struggle or have you discovered the delicate balance between pushing yourself too hard, and just enough to overcome? If so I would love to hear about it.

Until next time……Climb On!

Categories: Climbing, Insight, Outdoor Recreation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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