Outside Magazine called her the “Mother on the Mountain”. Back in November 2013, I had the chance to interview The North Face athlete, Hilaree O’Neill, about the ongoing balancing act between her career as a ski mountaineer and as a mother of two young boys. What’s it like to climb Everest with two young kids back at home? How does she manage risk? What lessons has she learned over the years?
I just spent the week at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, the annual gathering of adventurers, adrenaline junkies, mountain artists and authors up at The Banff Centre. Being a new parent, I entered this year’s festival with a very different outlook on what it means to lead an adventurous lifestyle. As I listened to people’s stories of epic climbs and expeditions, I was curious to know how these “real deal” adventurers felt about parenthood. Did they want to have children? Had they chosen not to? If they did have children, how were they be able to balance life as a mother or father with their adventurous pursuits?
How does a life of adventure without kids compare to a life of adventure with kids?
Here’s the scenario I left you with in Part 2 of this series: Back in August my husband went on his first big trip since we had our daughter – an ascent of Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Prior to leaving he told me, “This trip could very well be about more than just climbing Mt. Robson. I’ll see how I feel about being disconnected from my wee family up there.”
I left you wondering how things went, and asked: Would he be able to separate himself from his emotions during the climb? Decide it is just too much for him right now, and give up on climbing big peaks for awhile?
Parenthood has this way of turning you inside-out, of exposing you to emotions you never thought possible, of calling you to the most vulnerable place you’ve ever been. Parenthood introduces a kind of love to your life you never experienced before – a love that is different than the kind you have for your partner, or your own parents. Taking our inside-out selves into the mountains, where we are often called to be tough-as-nails, can become the real crux of the climb, especially when it happens for the first time.