Craig Armstrong has been rock climbing for about five years, and lately he’s been climbing with a very special partner: a 2-year-old black cat named Millie.
“People bring their dogs to the rock all the time. I always knew when I got settled enough to have a pet I would bring mine too, but it would be a cat,” he said. .
He found Millie at an animal shelter in Park City, Utah. When the 8-week-old kitten climbed onto his shoulder, Armstrong knew he had found his new partner and brought her home that day.
When Millie got a little older, he started taking her on short car trips to get her used to his truck, and then to a little island in Salt Lake City where she could get used to being outside in a safe environment.
Last fall, Armstrong took Millie on her first big outdoor excursion to Joe’s Valley, a large concentration of rocks in Utah.
Like all kittens, Millie was curious, but unlike most kittens, she had the opportunity to explore the outdoors, climb rocks and jump from rock to rock.
“She was really short and had a tendency to jump on people and climb up to their shoulders. She did this to a few pretty girls, which showed me that she loves me,” Armstrong wrote when he detailed her first cat climbing adventure.
After that, Millie went on more climbing trips, exploring further and climbing higher, but Armstrong says her safety is always a priority.
She wears a harness lined with extra rope, and Armstrong attaches her to his own harness. He also attaches LEDs to his harness in case they get caught in the dark, and he always brings Millie her own water bottle, food, and treats.
“When I’m on a specific route, I’m going to free solo, which means I’m not on a rope or anything, but I’m going to wear my harness and strap it in. I’m only doing climbs easy well within my abilities, so falling is not a real threat.”
The highest climb he and Millie made this way was “1,000′ of Fun” in the San Rafael Swell, which is 1,000 feet at the top.
“Millie clearly has no fear of heights,” he said. “She walked precariously around the edges of the cliffs and jumped from rock to rock. Her balance is amazing and she never grabs hold of fear.”
However, he admits there was a close call.
While rappelling down 1,000 feet of Fun, Millie’s tail got stuck in the rappel device for a second. She screamed and dug her claws into Armstrong, but other than losing some fur, Millie was fine.
When they’re at camp, Armstrong lets his fearless feline roam while he cooks dinner, but he’s careful to keep an eye on her. He says if they’re in the desert it’s easier to see her and she stays closer to the camp, but when they’re in the woods she tends to wander in the trees.
“I’m always sure to give her enough time around camp to do what she wants and keep up with her. The climbs or slots are my goals, not hers, so she can be stressed and I want to be sure of that. give time to decompress.”
In fact, putting her human agenda aside and letting Millie roam free is something he calls “cat“, and it is an important part of their outdoor excursions.
“Your job is to track, protect, keep safe from dangerous places and predators,” Armstrong explains on his website. “Your reward is to experience nature at a slower pace, from a different perspective, in a new light.”
Armstrong says there are downsides to climbing with a cat because you’re responsible for your pet’s safety, and the animal’s presence is another thing you need to consider when climbing. climbing. However, the pros outweigh the cons. “The best part? The simple joy, the laughs, the childlike fun, taking my boyfriend out to amazing places, the memories.
My friend Zac accompanies us on many adventures with her cat, Kenneth. If you come across two guys climbing a long way with cats attached to their harnesses, it’s a ridiculous scene from the outside looking inside. From the inside, however, it’s just fun.
Want to climb with your cat?
Armstrong advises cat owners to help their feline friends enjoy the great outdoors and to be prepared to sit in one spot for a while while your cat observes and explores.
He says it’s also a good idea to get your cat used to riding on your shoulders from an early age.
Not all cats will love rock climbing like Millie, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy nature together.
“A lot of people say to me, ‘I wish my cat would do that. I wish my cat was an adventure cat.’ My thought on this is that every cat is an adventure cat. Take them outside, keep them safe – they’re going to have a blast.
See more photos of Millie and Kenneth the Climbing Cats below, and follow Armstrong on Instagram for more.