Friday, July 24, 2009

Carlton Peak: Because it's there

We bagged Carlton Peak this week. In the fog.


Asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, George Mallory is supposed to have said, "Because it's there." He did not say, "For the M&Ms on top."

Ask each of our four hikers and you'll hear different reasons why they climbed Carlton Peak.

Older son, just turned 13, "Because my pesky little brother was complaining about it and I had to show him up with Albert."

Albert, older son's friend, 13, "Because he's here and it sounded cool."

Younger son, 11: "Because Dad made us. And there might be some licorice on top."

Me, age 45, bedecked in my tech gear: "Because it's a great hike and I need to GPS it for Hiking the North Shore."

It's a good thing we didn't climb it for the view. This is the best view we got:

The summit of Carlton Peak, with its bare rock expanses, was pretty busy for a Wednesday. and there were three or four hiking parties scattered about the top, all adults. I think most adults climb for the view and for the reward of accomplishing a goal. They're a bit more like Mallory, who was 37 when he disappeared on Everest.

Back when our kids were little, 4 or 5 years old, the main motivation on hikes was M&Ms, judiciously doled out every half mile or so up the trail. We have a great photo of the younger son at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park with the arch in the background and a big peanut M&M in his fingers. That's Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs, all about the need for food and comfort.

As our kids get older, their motivation has changed. Now it's peer pressure, or what Maslow identified as the need to belong. That's why we invited Albert along, to be the peer providing challenge. He wasn't the parent doling out rewards or setting the goals. Younger son, at age 11, hasn't quite made that transition and was still thinking about the licorice as we approached the foggy summit.

It's too much to expect that our tweens and teens will climb a mountain "Because it's there."

More like, "Because my friend's here."

And if that's what works, I'm all for it.

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