Father and Son Summits: How to Have a Big Adventure with Your Kids

Do you share your passion for adventure with your children? Longtime Ultimate Direction Ambassador Thomas Reiss is recently back from summiting Mount Kilimanjaro with his 12-year-old son, Luke. In this interview we ask both father and son how to prepare for and execute a big adventure together. What does training consist of? What are some tips for getting along together through adversity? Read it all here.

Leave a comment if you have additional advice for parents and their kids.

You recently summited  Mount Kilimanjaro; what was the genesis of this project? 

Thomas: I got into mountains (besides running ultras) with backcountry hiking a few years ago to have another thing to share with my kids (Dylan, 14 and Luke, 12). After several multi-day backcountry trips in California we got more into bigger mountains. Luke is fascinated with the 7 summits, so we thought it would be fun to do one of them and see what we think.

Luke: I always loved running on trails/track and running in general and anything to do with the outdoors and when my dad introduced backpacking to me a few years ago I loved it. I always wanted to accomplish more and so I started to broaden my horizon and in 2017 we went to Mount Everest Base Camp. I loved the diversity of a new country and decided I wanted more and so we decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro as my first of the 7 summits.

Thomas Reiss

Thomas (left) and son Luke (12 years old) bivouac

What was involved in the preparation; what was the most challenging detail our audience could learn from? 

Thomas: We kept up our usual running training. Luke runs about 15-20 miles per week during the season and runs track and cross country at his middle school. The most challenging aspect was coordinating it with our family Christmas plans and school; we already had all the needed immunizations from our Everest Base Camp trip in Nepal earlier in the year.

Luke: For me the most challenging part was to coordinate the trip with my school, I missed one week of school and had a lot of work that I had to make up before and after the trip.  

what was it like bringINg someone that young along on a high altitude objective?

Thomas: It was amazing to accomplish this together. He has done many things like this before (like Mount Baker, Everest Base Camp, multi-day backpacking trips in the Sierras) but you never know with high altitude. This was the highest either one of us has been but his oxygen levels where great even better than mine almost every day. We never had less than 88/89% even at base camp at 15,300 feet the night of the summit climb. Adults tend to overthink things; kids don’t really do that. 

Luke: This is the highest I have ever been but I am very active and run a lot so I felt I was well prepared fitness wise but with elevation you can never know how you will react.  

Thomas Reiss

Were people skeptical that he would be able to accomplish it with you?  

Thomas: I don’t think so. Our friends and family have learned by now that if he wants to do it he will. I got a little nervous during the summit attempt since we had way more snow than usual and it was a complete white out with 30 mile winds and temps down in the low teens. But he never doubted us making it to the summit. 

Luke: Nobody was skeptical of me making it. Afterwards on the way down our guide told us that our porters were very skeptical of me making it but they were very happy when they found out I did make it. 

How is it for you, a dad, to be adventuring with someone less strong or experienced than you in high mountains? Is it frustrating at times? 

Thomas: Very seldom is it frustrating. As far as experience level we are roughly the same, of course I am stronger physically, but sometimes I think his naivety helps mentally. On this trip I had plenty of times where I was thinking the weather (rain/hail/snow) sucks and he would be just, “whatever, no big deal, it’s raining.” 

Luke: Kids are stronger than people think. I believe that just because someone is older and maybe physically more fit than you that doesn’t mean they want it more, and that is what matters most. 

Thomas Reiss


Thomas: I learned from both of my kids that they are more able to do things than we give them credit. As long as it is safe–and they have the desire to do it–the sky is the limit. 

Luke: As a kid climbing these mountains, I believe that it has most to do with you wanting it. A lot of parents push kids too far to do things that they do not want to accomplish. 


Thomas: Mount Elbrus. We just started planning our trip for this summer. The cool thing about my son Luke is that he really enjoys the cultural aspect of meeting locals and immersing himself in the local culture. He always makes friends with the guides and porters and stays in touch with some afterwards.


Editor’s note:

Here is a list of Thomas and Luke’s impressive mountain resume.

  • Multi-day trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail (age 9) 
  • Multi-day trip in Yosemite with summit before sunrise of Half Dome (age 10) 
  • Multi-day trip in Yosemite with summit of Half Dome (age 11) 
  • Multi-day trip on the Tahoe Rim Trail (age 11) 
  • Multi-day trip in the Sierra Nevada High Country with 12k/13k passes
  • Mt. Whitney (14,508) summit (age 11)
  • 3 week Nepal trek with 2 nights at Mt. Everest Base camp at 17,500 feet; highest point on the trek was about 18k (age 12)
  • Multi day trip at Mt. Baker (10,781 feet) in Washington with a 10 hour summit climb, 10 hours in Crampons, rope and ice axe over the Easton Glacier. (age 12) 
  • Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, (19,341 feet) (age 12)

Fastest Known Time Of the Year Award

It’s back! An Award for the most notable FKT of the Year.  There’s no big prize – actually no prize whatsoever – but that’s not why we do FKT’s is it?  We want to do and read about what’s cool, what’s exciting and new, what has meaning for us.  So Peter Bakwin with help from Buzz Burrell compiles a list of the big standouts for 2017, then a panel votes for their favs.  There is one Award for Women and one for Men.
nolans sunrise
What do YOU think?  Here’s the complete list … what amazes you most?  Are you inspired to give any of these a shot?
(Listings in chronological order)


Bruce Trail, (Supported), Ontario
Chantal Warriner, 12d15h14m, 7/1-13
The 900km Bruce Trail has become a popular target for multi-day FKT efforts in eastern Canada. The previous FKT was 13d6h28m by Virginia Gingras (2015).

4 Passes Loop, Colorado
Anna Mae Flynn, 5h38m29s, 7/18
One of the most classic and competitive short mountain routes in Colorado.  This FKT has previously been held by Gina Lucrezi, Sandi Nypaver and most recently by Megan Lizotte (6h2m35s, 2015).

Wonderland Trail (Unsupported), Washington
Mallory Brooks & Allison Macsas, 29h12m25s, 8/14-15
Brooks & Macsas were unsupported, but they were met along the way by friends for purposes of documentation.  The supported FKT is 22h4m47s by Jen Shelton.

Mt Whitney ascent, California
Tina Lewis, 2h57m9s, 8/16
Mt Whitney is the highest peak in the lower 48 states, and so an automatic classic.  The men’s FKT has been contested for years, but only recently have serious attempts been reported by women.  Lewis’ ascent via the somewhat technical Mountaineer’s Route beat Charity Dubberley’s time for the same route, set just 1 week earlier, by 13 minutes.  Dubberley has the faster car-to-car time (5h10m51s, vs. 5h36m3s).

John Muir Trail, (Supported), California
Darcy Piceu, 3d7h57m, 9/15-17
Piceu’s time smashed the 10-year-old FKT of Sue Johnston by a whopping 12 hours, and at one point was on track for the Mens FKT. There was some controversy because of a small and unintentional route finding error:  Piceu (and pacer Betsy Nye) took the Mist Trail part of the way down into Yosemite Valley, very near the end of the run. 

Calif Coastal Trail OKT, (Self-Supported) California
Natalie Larson, 44d18h40m, 8/20-10/4
The CCT combines wilderness, beach and “urban” running/hiking for 1,200 miles along the coast of CA.  More of an OKT (Only Known Time), Larson’s self supported trip was an adventure in every sense, and was documented by satellite tracking and an evocative, complete report (worth reading).

Ozark Highlands Trail, (Supported), Arkansas
Ashley Nordell, 2d10h46m, 10/27-29
Nordell has the fastest time Overall (Women & Men).  The previous best was also by a woman, Jenny Foster, 2d14h25m (2009).

Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim (N-S), Arizona
Alicia Vargo, 3h19m23s, 11/8
While the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim (R2R2R) has been a major target for decades, the R2R has seen relatively little interest.  The previous women’s best (set S-N) was done as part of the R2R2R.  Vargo gave the R2R a serious shot on its own, which may inspire more women to go after this logical route.

Cat Bradley, 7h52m20s, 11/15
The R2R2R is clearly one of the most classic routes in NA.  Bradley made it a major goal, and turned in an excellent result, besting Bethany Lewis’ previous (2011) FKT by more than 23 min.

Zion Traverse, Utah
Hayden Hawks, 6h50m49s, 4/14
An excellent 48-mile route across Zion National Park that has attracted some serious competition, with the FKT being held by Jared Campbell & Karl Meltzer, Matt Hart, Luke Nelson, Travis Macy, and Mike Foote & Justin Yates.  Hawks took over 30min off the FKT of Foote & Yates, and raised fund for the National Parks.

Holy Nolan’s OKT, (Supported), Colorado
Andrew Hamilton, 71h32m, 6/29-7/2
Hamilton is the undisputed King of the Colorado 14ers, holding the FKT for CO 14ers (all 58 peaks).  This was his 3rd Nolan’s finish, and he holds the FKT for doing the Nolan’s route Unsupported.  Here he added Holy Cross, to link up all fifteen 14ers in the Sawatch Range in one push that added about 25 miles of on & off-trail travel to Nolan’s.  Besides being the first to finish “Holy Nolan’s”, he set the Nolan’s FKT in the process (which was later superseded by Iker Karrera.)

Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson, 4h29m55s, 7/6
This popular and logical route traverses the Presidential Range in NH.  Since 2009 the FKT has been traded back and forth several times between Ben Nephew, Ryan Welts and Jan Wellford, often beating each other’s times by just a few minutes.  Ben Thompson took nearly 5 minutes off of Nephew’s 2013 time. It’s a good bet we’ll see Nephew try to get it back.

Colorado’s Highest 100 Peaks, (Self-supported/Self-powered), Colorado
Justin Simoni, 60d14h59m42s (OKT), 7/18-9/16
Following on 2014’s self-supported / self-powered tour (and FKT at the time) of Colorado’s 58 14ers, Simoni upped the ante to include the highest 100 peaks in the state; every official summit over about 13,800’.  The high 13ers are more obscure and some are technically more challenging than the 14ers. Simoni biked 1,720 and hiked 624 miles, and gained enough vert to get into outer space – 247,810′ by foot and 136,374′ by bike. 

Nolan’s 14 (Supported), Colorado
Iker Karrera, 47h40m, 8/1-3
A Colorado classic that has attracted international attention, this is a very sturdy route: 14 summits over 14,000’, about 100 miles, 44,000’ of vert, about half off-trail.  Iker bested Andrew Hamilton’s time from June (see above) by 6h2m, including much time spent being lost.

LA Freeway, Colorado
Matthias Messner, 16h59m, 8/6
The LA Freeway links Longs Peak with South Arapaho Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and Indian Peaks Wilderness.  The route follows the crest and summits all the peaks, traversing roughly 34 miles, mostly above 12,000’ elevation, and requires numerous sections of 4th and 5th Class climbing.  While this was envisioned by Carl Pfiffner in the 1950s, it wasn’t completed in a seamless push until 2002, when Buzz Burrell did it in 2 days with a bivouac.  Messner was only the second person to complete the LAF, and he set an entirely new standard by doing the route in only 16h59m.

Pawnee-Buchanan Loop, Colorado
Andrew Skurka, 4h46m32s, 8/16
Along with the Maroon Bells Four Passes loop, this is one of the most classic and scenic 1-day runs in the mountains of Colorado. Skurka took 4 minutes off Anton Krupicka’s 2010 time.

Appalachian Trail, (Self-Supported), East Coast
Joe McConaughy, 45d12h15m, 7/17-8/31
The AT has a long history of very strong efforts, with the men including David Horton 91, Pete Palmer 99, Andrew Thompson 05, Scott Jurek 15, and Karl Meltzer 16, all Supported. Stringbean bettered them all while going Self-supported, being 10 hours faster than “Speedgoat” from the previous year.

Colorado Trail, (Supported) Colorado
Bryan Williams, 8d0h30m, 8/26-9/3
Williams elected to take the Collegiate West option, which is apparently a little longer (83 vs. 78 miles?), with more vert and a generally higher altitude, than the Collegiate East route that has been taken by other FKT trips.  Nevertheless, he beat Scott Jamie’s 2013 time by over 7 hours.

Bruce Trail (Supported), Ontario, Canada
Adam Burnett, 9d21h14m, 9/1-11
Approx 900km. Previous best was 10d13h57m by Jim Willet, 2014.
The 44-year-old from Toronto lowered the solo fastest-known time by more than 13 hours.

Pemigewasset Loop, New Hampshire
Ben Thompson, 6h6m53s, 9/12
The Pemi Loop is another major White Mtns classic, and the FKT has been hotly contested for many years. Thompson took just over 3 minutes off Ben Nephew’s 2015 FKT time.  These times are tight.

Grand Canyon R2R (N-S) Arizona
Tim Freriks, 2h39m38s, 10/1
Freriks was supported by Jim Walmsley, who had the previous fastest R2R of 2h46m8s (2016) set during his R2R2R FKT run.  These are fast times – Rob Krar had run 2h51m28s in 2012 as a dedicated R2R effort.

John Muir Trail (Supported), California
Francois D’Haene, 2d19h26m, 10/14-17
The 2017 UTMB winner smashed the previous supported FKT by over 12 hours, running the route northbound, and was the first person to complete the route under 3 days. His approach was unusual in that by choosing to run in mid-October he gave up daylight in exchange for cooler temperatures and easier access to hiking permits for the area. He also had pacers the entire way, probably a first.
An amazing list.  The Top 5 will be announced starting on January 21, and published in Ultrarunning Magazine, due to ship on January 25.  Please Post your Comments below – we’d love to hear what you think!

Heart Affect

by Michele Yates


It’s been awhile, so let me just back up to August where we had another successful, fun Rugged Running camp!  I am so blessed to be able to do what I love and educate others on how to get the most out of their running, fitness, and goals.

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 10.25.00 AM

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The Teton Picnic

By Lucas Onan
Every part of it was so surreal to me. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the Tetons so they hold a special place for me. I was pretty giddy the whole time.  I was having way too much fun.
(Editors Note:  The “Teton Picnic” is biking from Jackson’s town square to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, swimming across the lake, climbing the Grand Teton and then doing the whole thing in reverse for a total of 42 miles of biking, 2.6 miles of open water swimming, and 20 miles of hiking and climbing.)
As we drove into Jackson square that morning, there were still people hobbling along from bar to bar. Their night was still going strong. Ours was just beginning. After meeting our two lovely support ladies and Lewis, Ryan’s friend who had decided to join us just the night before, we hopped on our bikes and were off. Start time: 2am.
It was good getting our legs warmed up on the bike ride. Just 22 miles to Jenny Lake with the silhouette of the Tetons looming over us to the west. I hit it off with both Ryan and Lewis from the start as we all have the same sense of adventure and love of the mountains. It was as if we had been long lost friends (even though I had met both of them only within the past few hours). We knew we were embarking on this crazy adventure but it was something we all enjoyed so much that it honestly just felt like another day to play in the mountains.
Lucas at Jenny Lake

Lucas at Jenny Lake

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UD Athlete Interview: Clare Gallagher

UDer Clare Gallager is about to toe the line at this weekend’s Western States Endurance Run. This will be Clare’s second hundo to date, as her first was a 1st place finish at the 2016 Leadville Trail 100. Before the “big dance” commences, we wanted to ask Clare a few questions about her trail running background, and her go-to mantras and methods.

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The Everest Out My Back Door

By Justin Simoni

I’m just going to start out by saying it:

I hate birthday challenges.

Although, each year I get myself ramped up to try to do another one, they usually blow up in my face. My greatest-worst birthday challenge was the Arizona Trail Race: 750 miles of bikepacking across Arizona on singletrack from the Mexican to the Utah border. It includes a mandatory portage down through and back up the Grand Canyon on foot – bike carried on your back! Now that’s an birthday adventure! And it started one year right on my birthday. The heavens gave me a sign, I must go!

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A Trail Run with the Crazy Mother Runners

Written by the Crazy Mother Runners: Marnie, Carsen, and Sherry.

The sunrise from the top of Lewis Peak glows soft pinks and purples. The crisp wind cools our foreheads as we enjoy the little reward after climbing the last 5 miles. We set down our hydration packs and take a picture together to remember this beautiful morning. The morning didn’t quite start as peaceful as this mountain top moment. But that’s how we like it.

An hour earlier, an incoming group text reads, “I’m going to be seven minutes late.” Relieved to get the message, since I’m also running late. Always late. But that’s okay since one or all of us are consistently 7-10 minutes late. Finishing up our classes at the gym, helping our kids and husbands, or just trying to catch a few more minutes of sleep. We’ve made it a habit to multitask. Filing every minute of our day. We might be busy, but finding time for running, with good friends, is a priority.

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Eric Carter: 2017 SkiMo Season Wrap Up

by: Eric Carter

Looking back in my training diary, it is interesting remembering some of my early-season training sessions and realizing that they feel like they were so long ago. We were incredibly lucky this season to have snowfall in early October. It wasn’t long before we were able to ski down to the valley and by the end of October, ski training was in full swing. I spent a good chunk of the season on the road, first travelling to the US Team qualifying races in the US and then living in Europe and travelling to World Cup races. 
Snow conditions in Europe were incredibly bad. The Alps had very little snow all season and spring came early. The Dolomites were nearly summer when we arrived for World Championships. Only the Pyrenees had decent skiing. It’s hard not to look at the unseasonably warm temperatures, the lack of storms, and the smog that settles in the valley and not draw conclusions about climate change.
La Grande Course

La Grande Course

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IOC Announces Ultrarunning to become Olympic Sport

April 1, 2017


Lausanne, Switzerland –

In a press conference April 1, International Olympic Committee President Baron Le Chiffre announced that a 100 mile trail race would be the next Olympic Sport, starting in 2024.

“Ultrarunning clearly meets all the necessary Criteria”, stated Le Chiffre.  “There’s no reward while there is a great deal of suffering, it’s completely pointless, and yet thousands of people are absolutely passionate adherents”.

The news brought rejoicing throughout the close-knit ultra community.  

“People ride horses, shoot arrows, and throw spears for Olympic medals; we’re just as primitive as they are,” enthused Dot Matrix, longtime ultrarunner and computer programmer.  “Climbing even made it in and they’re even crazier than we are; why not ultrarunning?”

“I quit my job and dropped out of college so I could  ‘pursue my ultrarunning career’” exclaimed Manny Yong Malles.  “Also, my beautiful and smart girlfriend got sick of living out of the back of the pickup truck and left me; this is just the opportunity I’ve been counting on”.

Top ultra runners welcomed the news.  Timmy Olsen said he would lead a meditation retreat, Scott Jurek volunteered to be featured in a book on the subject, Anton Krupicka would offer attire and style pointers, and Peter Bakwin would list everyone’s previous times.  No one said they would actually run, because everyone knew Jim Walmsley would trounce everyone no matter what.  If he was able to follow the course.

Kilian Journet could not be contacted for comment on this news, as he had quit Facebook, Twitter, and all social media, and was now living off the grid somewhere in Norway, running 100 miles per day in the mountains eating nothing but home-grown vegetables and fresh picked wildflowers.

It is widely believed that Berzerkistan will be chosen as the site of the 2024 Games.  

“It possesses all the key criteria we are always looking for”, stated Ly In Focker, Chairman of the Selection Committee. “In July Berzerkistan is stinking hot, close to 90% humidity, infested with mosquitos, and they have zero infrastructure or ability to pull this off.  However, they have amassed a massive war chest of $100 Million dollars to purchase every member of this Committee a villa on the French Riviera, so unless Russia’s economy improves enough for them to get back in the game, we think Berzerkistan is an ideal Olympic Venue”.

When asked for comment, Berzerkistan’s President-For-Life, Khal Drogo, would only say, “We welcome the Olympic community to our humble country.  We promise to uphold the Olympic Ideals, by ignoring our own people, pouring our vast oil riches into huge concrete stadiums, abandoning them immediately on completion of the Games, and bankrupting our own economy, all for a brief moment of personal glory for myself.”

With the Announcement, the full backstory of this amazing news finally emerged.  

The main point of contention, as expected, was whether pacers should be allowed or not.

Representatives from the US Olympic Committee insisted pacers be allowed.  “We invented this stupid sport, we’ve always had pacers, so they must be allowed in the Olympics” they reasoned.  The Euros – and indeed the entire rest of the world – argued vehemently that pacers should not be allowed, because either you can run the course or you can’t, plus they were eager to gang up and get revenge on the US for not supporting climate change treaties.  “You Americans, you are … how you say it? … complete wimps!” shouted René Belloq, in one heated exchange, while lighting another cigarette.

After weeks of the usual heated and senseless debate, the Aussie delegation finally resolved the issue with their convincing argument of, “Who gives a crap anyway?  No worries mate; let’s crack a few beers”.

The key for Inclusion was ensuring top-notch media coverage.

NBC, CBS, and ESPN all declined to pay the billions of dollars they usually shell out for Olympic TV coverage, saying, “Watching ultrarunning is like watching paint dry”.

That’s when media giant iRunFar.com stepped in, offering to pay the unprecedented sum of $76.39 for exclusive coverage.

Media mogul Bryon Powell reportedly saved the day, making repeated trips from his Moab mountain-top retreat to IOC meetings in his 10-year old Prius, ensuring there would be enough support for ultrarunning to be included.

“This is so important, I was willing to invest a large portion of my personal fortune to make sure this happened”, stated Powell, supposedly off the record, after a few beers at Eddie McStiff’s.  “I didn’t quit my lucrative law practice in DC and sell my private jet just to see this opportunity wasted”.

With the crucial element of cryptic Twitter feeds coming anonymously from unpronounceable places on a course no one understands from a country no one even knew existed finally in place, the rest of the key components quickly fell into place.

Rickey Gates agreed to supply the beverage at the aid stations.  Anna Frost agreed to host the after-race party.  Krissy Moehl agreed to be the designated nice person in hopes of fooling other people into thinking all ultra runners aren’t complete lunatics. Nathan Hydration will be the hydration sponsor, which is easy because all they have to do is copy what everyone has done before.  Salomon signed on to furnish the one-piece white spandex uniforms everyone must wear, including the men, although only the French will.  The North Face will pay a shit-ton of sponsorship money to furnish shoes no one will wear.

“Ultrarunning’s time has finally come”, intoned Buzz Burrell, noted for having never done anything but is so old no one can remember that far back.  “Time flies like an arrow.  Fruit flies like a banana”.

Krissy Moehl: Why the Adventure Vesta is my Go-To Vest.

by Krissy Moehl

I keep my hydration quiver relatively small these days. The Ultra Vesta, the Adventure Vesta and 2 Fast Draw handhelds. Having these options and being able to mix and match is really all I need to choose from on my training runs from the Fishbowl (my condo in Fairhaven). I run out the door to the Interurban trail and within 2 miles I’m on single track accessing Chuckanut Mountain and beyond, depending on which hydration system I chose that morning.

All smiles during race time!

All smiles during race time!

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