Fathers and daughters who participated in a 100 mile hike around Mont Blanc, from left, Harry and Angela Martz, Paul White (who had sons so he joined the trip by ‘adopting’ Kerri Frazier’s roommate), Stephanie Larsen, Brian and Megan Metz; Joy and Roger Ferenbaugh, Kerri Frazier and Charles Frazier aka Jim. Courtey photo
You have all heard about Daddy/Daughter dances but how about Daddy/Daughter hikes. Well not just any hike, but a 100 mile hike in France, Italy, and Switzerland. That is the hike my husband, Charles Foxx aka “Jim” took with our daughter Kerri, the world traveler.
This REI sponsored trip included three other avid hikers from Los Alamos including Roger Ferenbaugh, Harry Martz, and Paul White. Roger and Harry were also hiking with their daughters. Paul White had sons so he jokingly joined the father/daughter group by “adopting” Kerri’s roommate for the trip. All four of these men have hiked together on the Appalachian Trail over the years but this was the first time to hike together in Europe.
All three of the daughters were Los Alamos High School graduates in the early 1990s. Angela Martz had climbed Denali and Joy Ferenbaugh was an adventurer and traveler. After the main hike, Angela and Joy climbed Mont Blanc. Kerri liked hiking but hadn’t done something so extensive. The final father/daughter pair, among the 14 people on the trip, were from Kansas City.
So here is my daughter, Kerri Frazier’s account of what they all said was “one of the most spectacular hikes they had taken.”
Grandes Jorasses from the Grand Balcon. Photo by Kerri Frazier
In February, my father mentioned that he was thinking of taking a REI group tour that would hike around Europe’s Mont Blanc with several of his hiking friends and their daughters. He asked whether I would be interested. My dad explained that we would be staying in a hotel each night and REI would shuttle our bags from hotel to hotel. He told me that I would just need to carry a daypack. However, he warned me that the hike was 100+ miles over an 11-day period with daily elevation gains that could exceed 3,000 feet. Carrying just a daypack? No problem! I blithely said yes, thinking how hard could this be?
Mont Blanc at sunset. Photo by Kerri Frazier
However, as the date drew closer the panic began to set in. Oh my! What had I gotten myself into? Since traveling in Europe we had been walking almost everywhere averaging 3 to 8 miles a day. But all the places we had been staying were close to sea level and most of the walking had been on even, flat surfaces. A steep trail strewn with rocks was a whole different thing. I had rarely been on a trail since leaving the US.
To help ease some of my worries, I started walking stairs daily with my backpack loaded with weight. Despite this, I still had doubts as to whether I would make it and as the trip date approached I became increasingly worried. I didn’t want to disappoint my father or to hold back the group. Our group from REI would consist of 12 other individuals, some of whom I knew from childhood, and all surely in much better shape than I. I kept on thinking, “I am going to die!” My thoughts were in a jumble. Would my legs be able to propel me the entire way? What if I couldn’t make it and failed? Yes, I said the big nasty “f” word. What if I “failed”?
A couple days before the official start of the hike, I left my husband and daughter and took the train from Florence, Italy to Geneva, Switzerland where I would meet up with my Dad. Leaving Florence was bittersweet. I was excited to see my father and have this opportunity to hike with him in the Alps. We had never done anything like this together before. This was an opportunity that I did not want to miss, but I was also feeling sad, tinged with guilt, as my daughter, Sydney, and husband, Jason, would not be joining me on this adventure. After all, one of the reasons that we had decided to leave on our around-the-world adventure was to spend time together and experience new places. Here I was going off on my own adventure without them. This would also be the longest time that Jason and I had been away from each other since being married. It also felt surreal that I was actually really leaving to hike a 100-miles, something I had never done before.
As the train made its way up to Switzerland, the landscape gradually changed from the rolling hills of Tuscany to jagged snow covered Alps. Wow! It was beautiful, but daunting indeed.
Mont Blanc from Chamonix. Photo by Kerri Frazier
As an entire group, we all met for the first time at the Geneva Airport and then we took a bus to Chamonix, France. Our hotel in Chamonix had an amazing view of Mont Blanc and the glacier. Now the reality really began to set in. Oh no! Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountains looked really high (over 12,000 ft) from the valley of Chamonix (3,500 ft). The night before our first day of hiking I was so consumed by worry I didn’t sleep at all. Our first day would immediately start with an uphill trudge of over 2,000 feet in elevation gain.
I began the first day of the hike full of jitters and uncertainty. However with each switchback and step my confidence began to build and I knew I actually could do this! Although, I was by far not one of the fastest, I began to realize that it was really about putting one foot in front of the other and to just keep on going. I also realized that Tour du Mont Blanc wasn’t about being the fastest or best, it was about enjoying the precious time with my Dad, admiring the stunning scenery of the Alps and wildflowers, and challenging myself.
Success! At the top of our first incline on the first day with my Father. Courtesy photo
Col de la Seigne. Photo by Kerri Frazier
There was an abundance of various kinds of wildflowers.
Photo by Kerri Frazier
Photo by Kerri Frazier
Photo by Jim Foxx
During the Tour du Mont Blanc hike I had plenty of time to reflect on lessons learned from the hike, my current life, future wishes and desires. On the first day of hiking there was one young woman who struggled and was unable to complete the hike that day. But despite this set back, she continued on. At the end of the trip, I asked her whether it was worth it. She replied that after the first day, she had thought about quitting, but was so glad that she decided to continue on. I must say that I really admired her determination and willingness to continue trying.
This situation made me think about how I have used fear … fear of failure, fear of change, or fear of the unknown as a roadblock in my life or as an excuse not to try. Admittedly, there have been several times in my life that fear has controlled me; I have stayed in a job longer than I should have or been too timid to say what I really think. When Jason first came up with the idea of travelling the world, I used any excuse as to why we could not travel. It costs too much! What about our house? What about Sydney’s education? The list went on and on. But what I was really saying is that I was scared stiff of all the “what if’s.” I am still scared about the future, but am grateful that I have a husband who loves me enough to not allow my excuses to stop us from working towards our dreams. My one gift, I hope, that I can impart to Sydney as a parent is to not allow fear … fear of failure, change, or the unknown to control her; to provide an environment where she feels comfortable to fail and the will to continue trying.
Kerri Frazier struggles over rocks and snow patches that remain at higher elevations along the trail. Photo by Brian Metz
During the hike, our group frequently joked that it should be called “Detour du Mont Blanc” instead of “Tour du Mont Blanc.” It seemed like every day we were taking a detour for one thing or another, such as to see the elusive chamois, ibex, or for a better place to eat lunch. Many of the detours would add miles to our hike. At first I would grumble and wonder why we couldn’t just stick to the trail. However, once we reached our destination it all became worth it.
This made me think about other “detours” in my own life and how many of these “detours” have actually been better than the original path I had chosen. In 2009, I was laid off from my job as a pediatric diabetes educator. I remember feeling devastated by this and wondering about my own self-worth. I kept thinking, “A nurse never gets laid off. It must say something about me.” But, as it turned out despite the “detour,” I ended up in a job that actually gave me a whole lot more satisfaction, an opportunity for growth, and where I was still able to obtain my certification as a diabetes educator. No, it would not have been a detour I would have readily taken, but now I am grateful that it happened.
A beautiful place for lunch, day four. Courtesy photo
On the hike, I really enjoyed getting to know each person in the group and found that each individual was incredibly kind and interesting. I also grew to really admire several of the people in the group, as they continue to follow their dreams despite adversity. However, I must say the person that I most admired on the hike was my own father. No, this is really not I being biased. Within the last couple of years my Dad has had a total knee and hip replacement and is also 75 years old (hopefully he is not too irritated with me now that I have revealed his age.) I love his determination and the fact that he does not allow the difficulties in his life to prevent him from living his life to the fullest. I am very proud to tell people he is my father. At the end of the hike the guides gave him the nick name “Iron Will,” which seems very fitting to me.
Over the 11 days of hiking, we actually hiked 106 miles with total elevation climbed at 35,000 feet. Wow! I can honestly say it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. My time hiking Tour du Mont Blanc was an amazing journey but also bittersweet. I met some genuinely nice people, had the pleasure to hike with my father, saw stunning scenery I have not seen before, and was challenged. However, I found myself wishing that I could share this adventure with Sydney and Jason. Despite not being able to share this adventure with them, words cannot even begin to express how grateful I am that my dad gave me this opportunity. Thank you dad for being willing to share this adventure with me! What an adventure it was.
The hike started from Chamonix (3,500 ft) by hiking up to the Grand Balcon (across the valley). Photo by Kerri Frazier
The last day we took a cable car to Aiguille de Midi at 12,600 ft where we could see where we started 11 days earlier. Photo by Jim Foxx
Kerri Frazier with her father, Charles Foxx aka Jim back in Chamonix at the end of day 10. Photo by Joy Ferenbaugh