Climbing the Mountain

In May of 2012 I took my then seven year old son, Cornelius, on a week long cruise to Alaska. As a full time SAHD I spend most of my time with my family, but I was looking forward to some great one-on-one time with my only boy. After two days at sea we arrived at our first port, the capital city of Juneau. We were both excited to be on dry land again and were ready for adventure together. We took an interesting and informative, 2.5 hour long bus tour of the city and Mendenhall Glacier, led by a native Alaskan Tlingit…which bored my boy out of his mind. I felt badly that he didn’t enjoy the tour and wanted to find something he would like for our remaining hours in Juneau.


We looked at our options and decided to take a tram up to the 1800′ level on Mt. Roberts, where a promise of spectacular views and hiking trails intrigued us. Cornelius could barely conceal his excitement when he saw snow on the ground at the top of the bluff. Apparently there had been a late-spring snowstorm so the trails were still covered in snow. But, we were told, adventurous types could still hike around if they didn’t mind the snow. Despite wearing only a t-shirt, sweatshirt, shorts and tennis shoes, Cornelius begged me to hike in the snow. So, off we went.Image

Just over the ridge from the nature center at the top of the tram landing was another steep bluff, with a series of switchback trails leading to another ridge about 200′ above. The problem was the fact that the entire bluff was covered in several feet of snow, rendering the trail impassable. The only way to scale the bluff and reach “Father Brown’s Cross” would be to climb straight up the face. Cornelius took off running while I cheered him on. He made it about halfway up before losing his momentum and sliding back down. Three times. Each successive attempt was a little slower and more disappointing for him. After his third attempt, he walked over to me, cold (he was wearing shorts) and dejected, almost to the point of tears. I put my arm around him and we took a couple of steps toward the tram area. Then I stopped.


Mustering a combo of courage and craziness I didn’t know I had, I asked him if he wanted to try one more time. Only this time I would try to go with him. I didn’t know if I could physically do it, having had knee surgery only 8 months prior. He immediately perked up and took off toward the bluff, with me eating some serious dust (or snow, in this case). About halfway up we chanced upon a small hole where we could rest for a few moments. It was there that I began to seriously question myself for doing this. Cornelius must have sensed this because he took off before I could say anything. I managed to get back to climbing just as he reached the upper ridge and started hollering for me to hurry up. Spurred on by his cheers, (I noted how the tables had turned) I scrambled the rest of the way to the top. Once there I was greeted with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. We hugged. We took pictures. We high-fived. And the view of the surrounding mountains, water and city of Juneau was, indeed, spectacular. After a few more minutes to enjoy the satisfaction of our accomplishment we were left with a fun trip down the steep bluff. It was a wintertime slip-n-slide that capped our mountain-top experience.


Note: This is an essay (without pictures) that I’ve submitted to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming book some friends are writing that’s going to be published in June. If you have any suggestions to help me improve this piece please comment below or send me an email at

Thanks, Carl, aka Big Cheese Dad

2 thoughts on “Climbing the Mountain

  1. If the photo won’t be included, perhaps spend a little more time describing the view in detail.

    And I also would have liked to have read a summary sentence, perhaps about your admiration of your son’s persistence, or your being glad you took a risk to help him out and then he ended up doing the same for you. Like a moral to the story or “this is what I learned” kind if thing.

    But it’s a truly wonderful story and very well written. Good luck with the book submission. Btw, does the book have a theme? That might also determine what a summary paragraph might sound like.


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