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Like Father, Like Daughter: A Dad’s Passion for the Outdoors Becomes a Shared One with His Young Daughter

If you scroll through Robert Hughson’s Instagram feed you’ll see a lot of amazing pictures of him on his bike, on a hike, climbing mountain faces and even frozen waterfalls!

What you’ll also see amongst the shots of him in action are pictures of his eight-year-old daughter, Emily, in mountain climbing gear making her way up an albeit smaller rock face, but with the same determination and sense of joy that her dad has.

It’s wonderful when your kids show a keen interest in activities you’re passionate about. You develop an even more special bond and it becomes “your thing”.

Here’s a Q&A with Robert, all about his outdoor endeavours and how Emily is following in his footsteps, one peak at a time!

What sports are you currently involved in?

Right now is a transition period from snow sports to summer sports. Over the winter I have spent a lot of my time alpine climbing, ice climbing, bouldering indoors, riding my bike on the trainer and weight training in the gym (building base fitness for the summer).

Now that it’s starting to warm up outside I’m moving my sports outdoors by doing rock climbing, mixed climbing (ice tools on dry rock), road cycling, and still weight training (to strengthen weaknesses and correct imbalances).

When Emily was first born, did you have visions of her enjoying the same sports as you? If so, did your visions come true?

Paradoxically, her birth served as an inspiration for me to get involved in these sports because I wanted to be a good role model and inspire her to do the same.

I noticed that too many kids these days are “plugged in” to their digital devices and I wanted to provide an alternative outlet.

While she does have an iPad, she also spends most of her weekends outdoors being active and experiencing the world.

When you are climbing together, do you have opportunities to have meaningful conversations or do you talk about the activity you’re doing at the time?

Actually, both. I think it brings us closer together because there is a lot of trusts involved in climbing. We have to learn to communicate effectively with each other and be open about our feelings knowing that we can express them without judgment.

Sometimes it will just be the two of us out climbing and we will pass the day talking about anything and everything that comes to mind.

I also make sure to take the time to talk about technical items like how to tie a particular knot and its purpose, or how to build an equalized anchor and rappel off of it.

We will then work together to apply these skills and I can see her self-confidence flourish as a result.

Does your daughter show an aptitude for sport?

Absolutely, I feel she has the potential to be a strong climber. Like most girls her age, she has a passion for gymnastics which came from being in dance classes (acro, jazz, and ballet) at an early age.

This passion for gymnastics has made climbing fun and very relatable to her since a lot of the core movements can be applied on the wall.

At what age do you think parents should introduce their children to sports like cycling and climbing?

That’s a tough one! I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” guideline for these sports.

I think if they’re showing interest in the sport, then as parents we should encourage that interest as best we can at all ages.

What do you think your daughter has learned from partaking in activities with you? What are some of the greatest lessons children can learn from physical activity?

I think one of the most important lessons my daughter has been able to take away from climbing is her confidence in herself. With every trip we take to new crags or mountains she learns a little more about herself and the world around her.

I feel like some of the other lessons that can be learned through physical activity are the importance of good nutrition, problem-solving ability, conflict resolution, empathy, teamwork and how to set manageable goals and achieve them regardless of their initial magnitude.

Do you think your daughter will continue to grow and improve her skills?

I think her exposure to the sport from such a young age will leave an indelible mark that will help shape her future. I know she will continue to be active and we’ve even discussed the possibility of climbing Everest together when she’s an adult.

What’s the most meaningful thing she’s ever said to you while on a climb? 

On the descent from her first mountain climb she cheerfully told me about how she wanted to bring all her family back to the Adirondacks to climb other mountains with her.

It was really meaningful to me because it felt like a passing of the torch.

She found this thing that made her so happy that she wanted to share it with everyone and that’s exactly how I felt when I reached the summit of my first mountain.

Calling all dad’s!

Do you have a strong passion for health, nutrition, cooking, physical activities, that you have shared with your children? Do you have a blog where your stories are kept?

Write us at [email protected] to have your stories shared in an upcoming blog series ‘Dad Life Rules’.


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