Q&A with the Staff: Richard Parker, Climbing Instructor

Richard is married with 2 daughters. He holds an undergraduate degree from Middlebury College, a Master’s degree from Dartmouth, and a Doctorate from the Univ. of Pennsylvania. Richard has climbed for 36 years and has been a part time guide for 33 years; working both in the eastern and western United States and in the Alps. He currently is a rock and ice climbing guide for Mooney Mountain Guides. Richard taught at Proctor Academy, Chestnut Hill Academy, and the Holderness School. He held the position of headmaster at Chestnut Hill, and while at Holderness he taught English and ran the climbing program. He holds AMGA Rock Instructor, TR and Single Pitch Instructor certifications. He is also a Wilderness First Responder. 

Q: When/how/why did you get involved with Kismet?

A: Climbing Magazine published an article about Kismet in the spring of 2005, and I was impressed to hear about a program to help city kids learn about rock climbing.  During my career as an educator, I had raised money to make independent school education accessible to students who normally could not afford it, so I was immediately attracted to Kismet’s mission.  A few days after reading the article, serendipity was in play as I was finishing a route at Cathedral and met a man 30 feet away belaying his partner, also to the top of the cliff.  After chatting for a few minutes, he introduced himself as Mike Jewell, and recognizing his name from the magazine, I made the Kismet connection.  We had a great chat and a few weeks later, Mike agreed to hire me for some guiding that summer, and I have been with him every summer since.

Q: What makes Kismet unique?

A: Kismet is unique because of the amazing educational opportunity afforded our students over the four year program.  This is possible because of the generosity of our many supporters.  I am always amazed and inspired by the many folks in the Mount Washington Valley who donate to Kismet, as well as the many folks from further afield who support our program.  Whether it is goods, services, or money, the “Kismet Community” invests in the lives of our students.  The fruits of this investment can be readily perceived any time one speaks with a Kismet graduate.   They are confident, articulate, appreciative, and knowledgeable about rock climbing!

Q: Do you have a particular memory from a day out with the students you would like to share?

A: One of the pleasures of guiding for Kismet over many years is developing relationships with the students.  Because this is a four year program, we are in the privileged position of being able to watch our students develop as people and climbers from the ages of about 14-17.   Last summer I was with a group of third year students whom I had worked with since their first summer.  On our second day we went to Echo Crag, a placed we had climbed with this group the year before.  What a day this was!!!  The students showed their competence in setting up rappels from the top of the cliff (with direct supervision!), and they climbed with energy, skill, and delight for the entire day.  During our visit to the same crag a year before, they had struggled, were a bit intimidated by the crack climbing, and did not take in the lesson of the day all that well.  You can imagine my delight last summer of seeing the incredible progress from one summer to the next.

Q: What drew you to climbing and to teaching climbing?

A: The joy of movement, the beauty of the cliffs, and the partnering with friends drew me to climbing in 1973, and this attraction has never waivered.  As a young man, I was drawn to guiding more for what it offered me…time in the mountains and a little remuneration.  As I became older, teaching climbing was more and more about the person I was teaching.  To understand why I like teaching climbing now, one only need read the passage above.  Like all teachers, my payoff is in seeing the students learn, grow, and enjoy something that I also value.

Q: What do you like to do with your free time?

A: Anything that involves being in the mountains…hiking, biking, skiing, running, backpacking, doing trail work, climbing, even just looking at the mountains from my home in Plymouth is a joy.  I am incredibly fortunate to live in the White Mountains and to be able to be in them every day of the year.

Q: Any parting thoughts?

A: For those who support Kismet…thank you.  For those who have not yet supported Kismet…please consider doing so.

Meet the rest of the Kismet Team