Safety & Fun in the Mountains


I’ve been really, really lucky in the mountains.

During the day, I help people understand their exposure to risk and find ways to address it. You’d figure I’d be extremely adverse to risk in my private life. It turns out, I need some risk to maintain a healthy balance. So I hike and climb and push myself to do dumb things. I’ve broken an ankle and torn the rotator cuff in my shoulder. Pretty minor issues considering I’ve racked up over 1.5 million feet of elevation gain in the last five years and climbed a couple of volcanos.

My kids see this and they think it’s cool. Of course, they do. They’re my kids and they think most everything I do is cool. (They’re still too young to realize that they’re always right and I’m always wrong. Yes, I know it’s coming.)

When you’re under 10 years old it’s hard to think bad things happen. I imagine teenagers are even less cognizant of their mortality. Heck, I have to consciously remind myself that I’m not immortal. That’s why we talk about safety before each trip into the mountains. Especially when we go out in the snow when a simple mishap could have severe consequences.

Last week, a climbing ranger died on Mt. Rainier while participating in a rescue of fallen climbers. This hit hard because Mt. Rainier is so prominent here. The kids and I have spent a lot of time on the lower mountain and we were planning an outing to Sunrise as soon as the road opened.

Snowshoeing isn’t the same as climbing a 14,000 foot, glaciated peak, but there are dangers. By talking about what happened on Mt. Rainier with my kids (in an age-appropriate way) it reminded them that safety in the mountains is our number one concern. Even having fun has to come second.

They all got it, in their own way. For the nine year old, she heard that she needs to be vigilant about what’s around her and consider her decisions. For the five year old, he got that he needs to follow my directions when I use the Mr. Safety voice. The seven year old was somewhere in between.

Happily, none of it dampened their enthusiasm for getting out. Of course, with a chance to run through the sprinklers for the first time since last summer snow wasn’t foremost in their minds. But hopefully, they’ll be just a little more careful when we step away from the car this winter.


This post is from our Ambassador, John Soltys – a father to three awesome kids in Washington.  Stay tuned for more adventures from John and our other Ambassadors!