I’ve read that young girls suddenly lose confidence after they turn around 8 years old. They start to listen to the world around them and it makes them feel they are not good enough or can’t do anything right. Simply telling them they have done well doesn’t work anymore as they simply don’t believe it. I’ve witnessed my own daughter have emotional meltdowns over simple things and hear her saying that she can’t do anything right. Well, the only thing I could think of to do was give her a challenge so she can walk away with a massive win. It was a risk but I wanted to try something!
One of her school friends did a charity walk to climb Mt Kosciouzko last year and we have been discussing it ever since. This was a perfect challenge. It was something I knew she was capable of and something that would require some internal strength or resilience to finish. So by golly we were going to climb a mountain! The biggest in Australia even! It could all go wrong, and almost did! But, spoilers, she did good!
I’ve never taken the chairlift from Thredbo to Mt Kosi as I have always started from Charlottes Pass or Guthega, so I was looking forward to it. It was massively busy at Thredbo, with mountain bikes filling the streets. After we had picked up our swipe cards for the chairlift there really wasn’t much of a wait at all to get on it.
This was my daughter’s first small challenge. We had an earlier alert saying the system was paused due to high winds. She jumped on the lift and hung on tightly. I told her to take in the view and that she was right to feel wary as it wasn’t a natural situation to be in! Somehow that helped. Mountain bikers were riding down the slope beneath us and that gave us something to take our minds off the height. It looked a lot of fun so that’s definitely an adventure in our future. The ride was really smooth and only stopped once. It got incredibly cold toward the top and as soon as we got off we put on gloves and another layer.
We started walking immediately. The wind and cold was a bit of a shock even though we knew to expect it.
After ten minutes or so she complained of her legs being tired. A little further on there were tears. We could still see the chairlift in the distance so it was a poor effort if we turned back now. I pointed out a much younger kid who was walking it backwards (!) and told her that if he can do it backwards we can certainly do it! I said to her that we had planned to do this and that it was meant to be a challenge. It wasn’t meant to be easy. A bit further in there were more tears and I became concerned that this wasn’t a good idea. We rested at Kosciouzko lookout, where we could finally see the mountain but she looked glum.
Then I remembered some advice that I picked up reading a PCT blog a few years back. I told her to break the trip up into smaller chunks. I pointed to a rock along the track and said, “let’s make it to that”. And then we chose another point and another. I also told her how I always feel when I do a long walk, that in the first half hour I usually want to turn around and go home, then the next hour I start to get into it, then after that it doesn’t bother me much. I also told her that we wanted to come out of this with a win. We talked about her school mate who achieved the walk with the additional challenge of cerebral palsy. I also pointed to the elderly folk on the trail. A trail runner passed us by and I told her we’re were NOT running it! Something in all that seemed to help and she perked up quite a bit. Indeed she visibly steeled herself and strode purposefully ahead determined to get it done.
We soon started enjoying the walk. Getting to Lake Cootamundra was a huge win as she was looking forward to seeing a mountain lake. We had our first photo together with genuine smiles in it. It helped that this section of the walk was quite flat.
As we approached Mount Kosciouzko we could see bits of snow on the side and that was a bit of a thrill. We found ourselves quite thankful though that the snow forecast for the night before didn’t eventuate.
We had a rest at Rawson’s Pass then started up the mountain. The trail runner was already headed back down. The views were amazing and the crows were loud and plentiful!
Before we knew it we were at the top! The crowds were crazy! There was a long queue for a summit photo and my daughter wasn’t really interested in standing in line. So we high fived then sat and ate and took in the views. She said “I’ve really enjoyed this. Not at the start but now I’m really enjoying it.”
Perfect. She did it! And she felt really good about it. What more could I ask for? She did a victory dance for the camera! Now we just had to get back to the chairlift.
We were walking a a fair clip and I said to her that as we were going mostly downhill it should be faster.
Maggie took the opportunity to sit down while I went to the loo. I think she needed that more than she needed the toilet but in hindsight was not the best move. Around halfway back she said she wasn’t feeling well. I gave her a Panadol and said if she needed the loo we could go dig a hole behind a rock. I think the thought horrified her! We walked slower. The trail runner passed us heading back for another lap. Crikey I wish I was that fit! I started noticing a plant that I had not noticed before and one of my Instagram comments told me it was an alpine celery. Interesting!
She was suffering quite a bit now so after a rest we walked quickly back to the terminal. Thankfully the loos at the terminal were open and she emerged her old self again! We hadn’t taken any pictures on the way back as we were so focused on getting there. The weather looked like it was about to take a turn for the worst too. We hopped in the chairlift and I held her hand on the way down. Really it felt like a slow motion fall down the mountain! There were folks below us walking it and the mountain bikers were still out in force.
When we hit the bottom the temperature soared! The clouds had disappeared and the sun was burning our skin. We stopped for chips and gravy then drove back to the cabin where we were staying.
Some congratulations started coming in from Facebook that evening after I posted, and you could see she was proud of herself and pleased that others were proud of her. She had done it. It was a challenge for her but she worked through it and found a way to carry on. In the end she enjoyed it and felt like she’d achieved something.
I don’t know if this experience will actually help her through the challenges of growing up and I don’t know if it will provide a long lasting boost to confidence, or equip her with skills to deal with tough situations in the future, but I do know that she has a huge win to celebrate and that she feels good about it. Maybe that’s all that matters. It’s my hope though, that she can start to find ways within herself to push through challenges in order to reach a goal. I expect there’s a lot more work to do but I now have a great example to draw on.
Note: I’ve had my daughter approve this post before publishing. She added that to do the whole thing in four hours was pretty good- and she’s right!