The scarily steep expanse of granite looms, but fearless Patrick Kudej, 13, scampers up nearly 200 feet and then rappels backward off a cliff, with the help of a harness, careful rope support and watchful instructor. So do his sister and three young cousins.
Their father, computer graphics artist Rob Kudej, 46, amazes himself by doing the Spider-Man-like ascent and cliff-drop, though he, too, has no previous rock-climbing experience.
The kids' mother, a lawyer, is more tentative, but she gamely gets through. "I'm glad I'm trying it," Betsy Conway, 47, says. "But I really get a charge out of watching the kids."
The family of four from Norwich, Conn., have joined Betsy's sister and her clan on a six-day Grand Teton-Yellowstone multisport tour, a best-selling outing from The World Outdoors. It's one of a growing number of multi-adventure trips catering to today's appetite for easy-to-organize getaways providing varied physical challenges. Outfitters arrange guides, lodging, transportation, equipment, instruction and meals.
Parents like multisport because kids "get bored" doing one thing, says The World Outdoors president Bill Marriner, an energetic 55-year-old who is guiding this trip with guest services director Sherry Malanify, 47. Seasoned travelers no longer are content to sit in tour buses, he says. They like stretching boundaries and new experiences.
This August tour in the jagged, snow-capped Teton mountain range and geyser-dotted Yellowstone National Park includes rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking and whitewater rafting — with kayaking and horseback riding as pay-extra options.
The two families assemble in Jackson, Wyo., the night before the tour's start. Bill and Sherry meet the four adults and five kids in a white GMC van, with bins of energy-boosting granola mixed with nuts and M&Ms under the seats and a rack of bikes on top.
They give an orientation with the admonition that if you see a bear, don't make eye contact and don't run. If attacked, get on the ground in a fetal position. "We've never had a problem," Sherry says soothingly. Still, Bill totes a can of hot-pepper bear spray.
The first sport — off-road biking — rolls out in Bridger-Teton National Forest. After a crash tutorial in basics on sturdy bikes with whimsical names like "Vote for Pedro" and "Tina the Llama," the helmeted crew zooms over roots and rocks, the five kids in the lead and whooping. Tanned instructor Carolyn Stwertka, hired for the day by The World Outdoors, encourages the timid. A couple of riders fall, resulting in minor cuts and bruised egos.
Midway through the 14-mile ride, Bill stops at a river to lead the kids in "Colorado push-ups" — putting your head underwater and kissing a rock — as riders from a dude ranch splash past.
Patrick Kudej, lanky and impish, is in heaven. "I like extreme exercise," he says, hopping back on Vote for Pedro and executing a wheelie.
After a roadside spread of chicken salad, fruit, yogurt and cookies, bikers do more miles on the road, then rest in the van during a two-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park. The kids are in the back, listening to iPods, giggling and snapping photos of one another and roadside attractions, including the towering Tetons.