When each of his children turned seven, Mike Allsop took them to Nepal to see Mt Everest. He’s turned the adventures he’s had with them – along with the lessons he learned about being a father and raising kids – into the book High Adventure.
What’s your number one rule for having an adventure with kids?
Safety. And when I say safety, I don’t mean from physical dangers, I mean making the child feel safe, especially if they are young. If they feel safe, their confidence grows. How you do that is you’re with them 24/7. You don’t leave their side. You’re standing outside the toilet if they’re in the bathroom. You’re with them when they go to sleep. You stay in the room with them, you don’t go talk to your mates about climbing. And then they get that confidence and off they go.
Your trips to Nepal with your kids are quite extreme. Does it have to be like that to have an adventure with kids?
If you want an adventure that kids will look forward to, it has to be reasonably big. For example, you have to say next month we’re going to hike one of the Great Walks – give them something to look forward to.
But I believe in having family traditions – any traditions, just make sure they’re yours. We have a tradition that when you’re seven you get to come and see Everest with dad. But another little one we have is I sleep outside under the stars with the kids every New Year’s Eve. That’s not expensive, it’s just something we do.
What do children gain from an adventure with their parents?
It opens their eyes a little bit more to the world. It gives them a little bit more confidence, it’s about giving it a go and not being afraid to fail. To get out and try. It gives them that quiet confidence that they can do something.
How has your relationship with your kids benefitted from the Everest trips?
My kids talk to me a lot more than what some of my friends say their kids do. When we’ve had some trouble, they’ve come and seen me straight away and said ‘hey, dad this happened’.
So it’s helped them trust you more, see you as a friend and confidante?
I don’t want to be their friend at the moment. Kids need a dad, a parent. I can be their friend when they‘re in their 20s.
You say kids spell love T.I.M.E. How can parents make the most of their time with kids?
People get the impression that I’m this super dad, but I’m not. I’ve done three or four trips that are quite extreme but it’s the day-to-day stuff that really counts – it’s what you do all the time. So I drive the kids to school and pick them up. Just trying to spend some actual time with them. Hopefully one on one but it doesn’t have to be.
Is your wife Wendy jealous that you spend all this time with the kids without her?
No, because she has her own adventures. She doesn’t want to go and sit in the mountains. She likes Scottish castles, so she’s planning trips with the kids when they’re older to go to Europe and do things there. It’s all a balance.
We wouldn’t be married if it was all about me. Next year we’re not doing adventures, we’re going to Wendy’s brother’s wedding in Europe. And she has a right of veto – she famously said when I wanted to climb K2 “another wife in another life”.
Buy Mike’s book High Adventure here. Subscribers get a 10% discount.