The Clevenger family is no stranger to the outdoors. Kristine and her husband, Marc Clevenger, have climbed one mountain per year for 10 years, with a track record that includes Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens in Washington. Owen, a soon-to-be fifth-grader at Hearst Elementary School, is the eldest of their three young children.
"I think he like the trips because he likes to spend time with us. He also learns what it means to be tough and have a goal," Kristine said.
Kristine and Owen began mountain climbing together last year, when she and her husband felt that Owen was old enough to handle the strenuous climb and potential dangers of the activity. The two summited Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S.
This year, joined by Marc, they set their sights on the more challenging Mount Shasta.
"Mount Shasta is different because it's more technical when you're climbing up snow," Kristine said.
To prepare for the daunting climb, Kristine encouraged Owen to train and build his strength. Though Owen plays baseball and often hikes with his parents and siblings, Kristine wanted to ensure that he would be ready for the difficult climb.
"I had him running a few times a week and going for hikes and practicing having a backpack when we hike," she said.
The Clevengers began their multi-day journey by camping at the trailhead near the car. The next day, they hiked four miles to Lake Helen and set up camp once more, waking up at 4 in the morning to summit the mountain before returning to their camp and car, putting an end to a "grueling day," Kristine said.
The hike was made more treacherous due to a lack of a snow, she said, and the Clevengers saw few fellow climbers on the mountain. Those they did encounter were both surprised and impressed that Owen was making the climb with his parents.
"It's something you don't really enjoy as you do it because, in the thick of it, it's hard work," she said. "But when we got down after last year he said, 'I want to do another one for sure," and, after this year, he was like, 'What is the next one we're going to do?'"
The two plan to climb another mountain next year, possibly Half Dome in Yosemite or Mount Rainier, which would be a "big step up," Kristine said. She also discussed the possibility of traveling as a family to scale mountains in South America or Europe, but she said Mount Everest is definitely out of the question.
Although her two other children, ages 8 and 4, are too young at the moment, Kristine hopes to bring them into the Clevenger climbing tradition one day and climb as a family. For now, though, she is happy to spend time bonding with her oldest son.
"It's good because, having three kids, it's hard to spend quality time with just one of them. As he gets older, we can have good conversations and eat along the road and have good talks," she said.
Whether or not Owen continues climbing mountains as an adult, Kristine hopes he retains his "love of the outdoors."