By Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, Field Instructor and Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS); Photograph by Ashley Wise
The frigid wind was whipping at what must have been 60 miles per hour. Ok, maybe it was 30. All I know is I couldn’t feel my face. “This wind . . .,” I yelled back to my husband, Jamie, trying to come up with a euphemism for what I was really thinking. Words like “sucks” and “blows” were at the tip of my tongue, but as I glanced back Jamie gave me a look of warning. The message was clear: Don’t say what we’re both thinking. Not in front of our son, Kieran.
Hearing the whiny tone in my voice, Kieran—who was leading our pack of three up the trail to the climbing wall—stopped his hustle and faced me, looking expectant. I bit my tongue, patted him on the back of his head, wiped the snot off on my jacket sleeve, and pushed him forward. “Good job buddy! I’m proud of you!,” I said, in my cheeriest voice, urging him up the trail.
I tried to be optimistic. The weather had to be better up at the climbing wall, which radiated the sun’s heat. Up there was sure to be a whole new world; a different weather system. Right?
Wrong. We spent the next three hours climbing easy routes exposed to gusts of wind that blew down from the high country. Every few moves, I’d hang, unzip my jacket, fleece, and base layer, stick my numb hands as far into my armpits as possible, and try to regain feeling. Then I’d make a few more moves while my fingers screamed.
And Kieran? He was having a ball. He was in his “cozy spot,” a little land of jackets, fleeces, and a sleeping bag that we had created between a boulder and a juniper bush. All the plastic animals were out, reenacting a scene from one of Kieran’s favorite movies. What was the deal with that kid? It’s like he couldn’t even feel the cold!
We persevered for the next three hours. The day ended with sore forearms, bloody fingers, and . . . a happy and tired kid. Later that evening, drinking tea in the comfort of our living room while Kieran slumbered, Jamie asked, “are you happy we climbed today?” The answer was yes. It’s always yes. The moral of the story? It’s always better to get our family outside in s****y weather than never to venture out at all.