Inspiring young people
I had the pleasure of taking an 11 year old ice climbing the other day. The aforementioned little lady was Esme, sister to one, daughter to two and an inspiration to all. Now Es accepts no prisoners in her life, her killer death stare could kill you at 4ft. A pretty handy byproduct of all this is a driven and mature little hero. An old head on young shoulders, one may say.
I love working with young people but exposing such a little one to the Cairngorm winter environment was not a task to take lightly. Now Es is not your average little girl and nor was the weather that day. With the obvious heightened duty of care, ensuring safety was only one priority in my day. To send her away thinking the mountains are worth coming back to was the real challenge. Creme Eggs were to form a central role in this.
Horses have a central role in Esme’s life, namely one nag called Lucky. I don’t like horses and Tesco can have the lot for all I care. As we wandered into the Northern Corries, horse banter kept us going. Her explaining the pros and me exaggerating the cons. With Mr Berry as the mediator we failed to kill each other and we soon arrived at the bottom of Esme’s chosen route… Fiacell Couloir. Creme Egg Break 1.
Now Es is a special little girl but I don’t take any chances on icy snow slopes so we harnessed and cramponed up and moved together up the snow slope heading to the narrows. There were a few teams around and I must admit I was rather proud to be tied to this little lady as she carefully and efficiently dealt with the ground before her. Throwing her a few coaching tips we arrived at the first belay for Creme Egg Break 2.
It was wall to wall ‘traditional climber types’ with moustaches you needed licences for. Despite the fact Es let me down on the moustache front she pumped those modified Nomic ice axes deep into the bomber neve and cruised to the top of the first icy step. Children, as many will know, can go from elation to total disaster in a matter of moments. Keeping the flow with buoyant optimism is the key. Happy happy happy…’Creme Eggs are ace, horses are for making glue, ice climbing for 11 year olds is normal’…flow, flow flow kiddo…. Pitch after pitch continued with me avoiding the faff at belays, Mr Berry offering some simple but effective words of encouragement and Es lapping it all up.
Arriving at the Col prior to the final pitch and facing a mini descent with the abyss below, the wheels wobbled a fraction. This merited a change of strategy for me. With Es super close to me, ably supported by a sensitive Mr Berry (virtually unknown) we used a short rope to gain access to the notch. With Creme Egg Break 3 offered and immediately refused, this strong little hero pinned her ears back, engaged forward thrusters and topped out on her first ice climb.
As an IFMGA Guide, I’ve had the pleasure of working all over the World on rock, ice and snow. What a privilege it is to help others achieve their life time aspirations. Despite this, as I look at this little hero making up for lost time with the Creme Eggs, I wonder if it is possible to have a more rewarding day in the mountains. If you want young people to succeed in life you must allow them to experience challenge. Society shelters children from hardship and potential failure. They can handle it and they grow from the experience. Too much failure is, of course, counter productive but without challenge they will never know how far they can go. I look forward to my next adventure with Es, perhaps she will be leading me.