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Next Stop, Everest

Last week I spent some time with each girl individually, doing whatever fun thing she wanted for a special day together. For Cora, I suggested rock climbing; she’s always been instinctively athletic and coordinated, and it was something I thought she’d enjoy. I mentioned the idea to Cora, who considered it, then vetoed the plan in favor of a trip to our city’s indoor water park.

The waterpark, I should mention, is in the same building as the city’s fitness center, which has, you guessed it, a rock wall. So after we had a fun few hours playing in the pool area, Cora and I sat on a bench and enjoyed a snack while we watched someone climbing. After a few minutes, Cora said thoughtfully, “Is it too late to do rock climbing too?”

Always wanting to encourage my kids to do new things, I said, “Nope!” and we cheerfully raced home to get her sneakers. Twenty minutes later Cora was being tightened into the world’s smallest harness and clipped to the on-staff belayer. Belaying guy? Not sure what the real title is there. At any rate, Cora was snugged up, and she began to climb.

Let me tell you, perhaps I am prejudiced here, but I have never seen anyone climb as well as that kid did. She was a little monkey, gliding up that wall. She’d get about ten feet up, pause for a few minutes, and then call, “Down,” her signal to be rappelled down. After she did this three times in a row, I asked, “Cora, are you coming down because the height makes you nervous, or for another reason?”

Cora stared at me like a simpleton. “I’m coming down because I can’t figure out where to go from there and I need to start over.”


“If that’s the case,” I suggested, “you can simply hang out where you are while you figure it out. Take your time, look around, and you’ll find a path eventually.”

Seven minutes later Cora rang the bell at the top of the 30-foot wall.

And then did it again. Eight more times.

The safety guy said, “So she does a lot of climbing, huh?” I shook my head. “This is her first time.”

He nodded understandingly. “Well, you can see she’s picked up a lot from watching you or your husband do a lot of climbs.” I shook my head. “We’ve never climbed in our lives.”

He stared at her. Then he said, “Well, she’s really good. She’s really good.”

I let Cora climb for an hour, then insisted we leave for dinner. As we walked out, the rope guy said, “Maybe next time you’ll try one of the harder routes!”

Cora’s head whipped around. Harder route? There was a harder route she hadn’t tried? She sobbed the whole way home, right until I promised we’d come back after dinner and she could climb some more. Which we did. For almost another hour.

That was on Friday. Guess what we did on Saturday? Cora immediately hit the hardest course on the wall, where the holds were almost as far apart as she was tall, and the wall slanted back so she was bent backwards. Cora would reach about fifteen feet and then have to give up, and you could tell it frustrated the tar out of her. She conquered the other routes, though, and when we left the safety guy smiled and said, “See you again soon, Cora!”

We took a break on Sunday, but were back Monday afternoon. After getting signed in, Cora walked to the wall and waited for her rope partner. When someone new walked out, she said, “Are you my rope guy?”

He smiled and nodded. “I am. Are you used to seeing Scott?”

She nodded, and eyed him with undisguised skepticism.

His smile widened. “Don’t worry, I’ve been doing this for a long time, I promise.”

She sized him up a moment longer, then nodded decisively. “Ok, I’d like to warm up on the blue route once or twice, then try to work out what I’m doing wrong on the advanced route. Sound good?”

He nodded dumbly.

Cora is besotted. She begs to climb every day. She asks if there’s a rock-climbing class she can take. (For five-year-olds? Nope. Trust me, I’ve looked.) And she’s already said that she hopes that rock climbing will be added to the Olympics by the time she’s an adult, and that she will be the world’s first rock-climbing ballerina.

We watched a documentary on Yosemite this summer, and this weekend Cora brought it up. “How old do you think I need to be to try El Capitan?”

Look out, Mount Everest. Your days are numbered.


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