Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How High Can You Climb?

My brother's getting his Ph.D at Berkeley, so for the last few years, we've taken west coast vacations to visit him.  Washington was the winner this year, and since California and Oregon were last year's winners, I suppose it was a bit uncontested as far as the coastline goes.

It's a cross-country flight, and I'm notorious for my lack of sleep on/in moving objects so I brought along Peak by Roland Smith.  It's the Intermediate School's assigned summer reading, and since I work with some of those students, I figured I should probably read the book.  I knew students who had read it and didn't like it at all - just what I wanted to hear prior to boarding the first of two flights, totaling over 6 hours.

Holy cow!  If only every one of those kids who found the book not their cup of tea, to be polite, had been on my trip!  I teach reading, I focus on background knowledge and connections you can make to your own life while reading, I've read the research and know how important those things can be to a reader's understanding.  But never have I seen it in action quite like this.

Haven't read the book?  Here's the skinny: a teenager (Peak) gets caught scaling a skyscraper and ends up attempting to summit Mount Everest as a way to avoid juvie.  There's snow, there's ice, there's climbing.  I was vacationing at Mount Rainier.  There was snow, there was ice, there was climbing.  Okay, I didn't summit Mount Rainier, and maybe I didn't even climb above the 8000 ft mark, but let me tell you, I felt like I was living Peak's adventure, albeit a watered-down version.

Here's my personal Mount Everest:
Okay, not really.  That was through one of those park-owned telescopes.  But it certainly helped me imagine what the summit of Mount Everest would look like if you were preparing to climb it.

Here's my climb:
Those little dots are "serious" hikers, complete with hiking poles, hiking clothes, and real crampons (not the $15 rentals we had that looked like short, fat water skis that swallowed something spiky).  This doesn't look so steep from where you are on your couch, but trust me, it was!

This is my brother, patiently waiting for the rest of us to make our way up to the top of Panorama Point.  Notice how well we dressed for the trek.  Then compare the angle of the people to the angle of the mountain - I told you it was steep!

Getting up was one thing, down completely another!  There's a glissade (luge minus the sled) for those more experienced climbers (i.e. not me).  Then there's the good old-fashioned "use your poles and slowly hike down."  We opted for #3.  Sit on your butt and bump your way down everyone else's foot-holes.  It wasn't as fast as the real glissade, and probably a bit drier than a 10-minute "sit and scoot" in jeans, but I made it down in one piece.

Long story short, I loved the book!  While my trip wasn't quite as intense (no one developed HAPE or had to be carried down the mountain, fingers crossed that they'd survive), the vacation definitely made the book that much more exciting, and vice versa.  Looking to make your book more interactive?  Travel with it!

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