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Petra Shepard Climbs First Mountain

My daughter, Petra, climb her first mountain on August 28, 2012. She was three years and two weeks old.

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Petra on HuaguoshanMy daughter, Petra, climb her first mountain on August 28, 2012. She was three years and two weeks old.

Huaguoshan rises 626 meters above sea level near Lianyungang on the east coast of China. It was not a large mountain by any means, but as we stood below it gazing up at its pagoda, stupa, and temple dotted sides and peak that sat opaque in the sea haze it seemed high enough. It is, after all, the highest mountain in Jiangsu province and my daughter still has some pretty short legs.

Petra walked toward Huaguoshan confidently, holding hands with both her mother and I as we began ascending the stairs. This is China, and the entire path up to the summit would be covered in steps. Thousands and thousands of them. It is my impression that Petra did not know what she was in for.

After around a half hour she began whining. “I don’t want to walk anymore,” she wailed. The day seemed to be going as I would have expected it to: Petra being carried up the mountain. But after taking a quick break for a snack and carrying her around for a short time while she napped, she returned to walking with a new attitude.

I tried to explain why people climb mountains. Telling her that there would be an amazing view from the time. I wanted to make reaching the summing seem like a game, like something fun. To my surprise, she got into it. Petra began climbing and climbing with enthusiasm. This was something new — usually this kid whines and throws a fit from having to walk a half hour around town. In an instant she seemed to turn a corner in her development, in an instant she got the concept of mountain climbing.

She eventually grew tired. Real tired.

“My leg doesn’t work anymore,” she exclaimed at one point.

She was right. Her left food did look as though it was glued below a set of concrete steps. She reached down with both hands and pulled it unstuck and continued climbing. She kept going.

I was impressed.

Soon enough we were at the summit, and Petra and I climbed over a rock outcrop that lead to the very top. My daughter and I scampered over the boulders, hand in hand.

Petra climbed her first mountain.

Huaguoshan summit Summit Huaguoshan Wade and Petra on Huaguoshan


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Filed under: Mountain Climbing, Petra Hendele Adara Shepard, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3719 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • John September 19, 2012, 1:56 am

    Petra probably climbed more than I did. Around the same time in august I did a similar climb. Much higher mountain, Huangshan, in Anhui- also known as Yellow Mountain. (1500 meters?)

    But with my shitty knees and not terribly enthusiastic chinese friends. We took the cable car. So, I think all in all we probably only hiked like 6 hours up.

    Pretty amazing that Petra was so enthusiastic. I remember an average cross country ski for my family was about 15 kilometers. As a child I gave up rather easily, so my uncle would pull me with his poles. I think kids learn easily that if you give up too soon, and people will help you out. They start to think … Why bother?

    Turns out its a life lesson that removes you from 90 percent of experiences. Either you forge ahead and see the next cave, peak or beautiful vista. Or you head back down the cable-car, in safety.

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    • eleanor kates November 4, 2012, 8:45 pm

      oh Wade: I was shocked by your experience in seeking accomodations, There seems to be an attitude of closing down, How unfortunate—what to deny the expertience of this ancient country. The last time Bob and I were in China was in 1985, I was surprised by the openess and grationess of the people. Quite a change. But Petra climbed a mountain and no one tried to stop her!

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