Via Ferrata versus Television
When it comes to life-changing summer adventures, young and old alike are moved by experiencing the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata at CMH Bobbie Burns. I had a chance to speak with Jonah Lefkoff, a well-spoken kid from Boulder, Colorado, who climbed Mt. Nimbus last summer with his father. When I arrived at Jonah’s house, he rushed into another room, yelling excitedly, “Wait, there is something I really have to show you.”
A minute later he emerged with a framed print showing him and his father high-fiving on a craggy summit. The photo captures one of those moments any father and son would be lucky to experience even once in a lifetime, a moment when they are best of friends and neither one of them would want be any other place, or with any other person, on earth.
The Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata at the CMH Bobbie Burns lodge is unique in North America. Its closest cousin is the cables route on Yosemite’s Half Dome – a metal pathway to a summit that would otherwise need technical climbing skills and tools. On a Via Ferrata, you wear a climbing harness and clip into two tethers attached to a cable. You move along an exposed mountain like rock climbers, but the ascent is made easy by steel rungs drilled into the rock at convenient intervals.
Here is what Jonah had to say about the experience:
TD: What is the best thing you have ever done?
JL: The Via Ferrata in the Bobbie Burns with my dad!
TD: What was the hardest part?
JL: In the beginning I was not so sure I liked it, but about halfway I really cheered up. My dad asked me if I wanted to go back to the lodge. I told him I wanted to keep going, and after that I felt a lot better.
The Via Ferrata’s point of no return, or at least no easy return, is a flat spot where the helicopter can land just before the first tower. After that, it is possible to retreat, but it is easiest to keep going over the top. The first summit is a sharp point where you literally throw one leg over the top, like you’re sitting on a horse, and one leg is hanging over one side of the mountain and the other leg dangles over the other. Then, the most outrageous part of the Via Ferrata greets you – a 60-meter long suspension bridge that hangs far above a mountain valley. It is entirely secure, but feels like walking in the sky.
TD: What was the scariest part of the adventure?
JL: The bridge. I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t look down! Don’t look down!
TD: Did you look down?
JL: I looked down - mostly!
(Jonah's mom, Cindy, told me his one vice is television, so I wanted to see how a real experience compared to his favorite show.) If you could either watch Sponge Bob or do the Via Feratta, which would you do?
JL: (Long pause) I’d watch Sponge Bob and then do the Via Ferrata - with my dad.
I pondered the power of television. Standing on top of rock spire in the middle of the wilderness with dad sounds pretty awesome, so Sponge Bob must be out of this world – or television must be more like heroin. A recent study showed televison usage by kids is at an all time high, with kids averaging over 28 hours of television a week - more than a month each year - glued to the boob tube. See a full report on the study here.
TD: How do you feel after climbing the Via Ferrata compared to after watching Sponge Bob?
TD: How do you feel after watching Sponge Bob?
JL: Sort of like speaking this inappropriate language because I just heard it.
TD: And how about after doing the Via Ferrata?
JL: Sort of this tired and excited feeling at the same time.
TD: So if you had to choose one, either watch Sponge Bob or climb the Via Ferrata with your dad, which would you do?
JL: Even though it is a lot of work, I would climb the Via Ferrata with my dad.
It was long after the interview was over that I realized the power of what Jonah had told me. I was struck with this question:
If Jonah had never shared outdoor experiences with his parents, would a television show trump his father in his rankings of life experiences?
Jonah spent numerous days rock climbing with his father near their home in Boulder, Colorado, before visiting the Bobbie Burns in August of 2009, but rock climbing experience is not necessary. The Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata is appropriate for most teenagers and adults who like a bit of adventure in their lives.