Mountain walking with children


Guided walk up Scafell Pike with Rocco, aged 8 - his first mountain with Don, our 'mountain dog'

Over half term week I’ve been out walking in glorious sunny weather with a mother and her 9 year old son, firstly up Helvellyn via Striding Edge and secondly up Coniston Old Man.  I’ve loved seeing this young lad enjoy something I have such a passion for.  Over the past 2 years we’ve guided him and his mother up two other mountains, Scafell Pike and Crinkle Crags and we've also taken them on a scramble up Jacks Rake, which he has a natural talent for, hence the request to do Striding Edge this year! 

This got me thinking about other children we’ve taken out walking in the Lake District mountains over the past years and also my own experiences which have eventually led to me doing the job I love doing, guiding others up mountains…and so the reason for this blog.

Climb Scafell get many requests for guided walks with children up Scafell Pike in the Lake District, simply because it is England’s highest mountain, but we have also taken families up many other Lake District mountains including Helvellyn via Striding Edge, Blencathra, Coniston Old Man, Cat Bells and Crinkle Crags.  When choosing a route up a mountain we take into account age and experience, as one route is often easier or shorter than another, as in the case of Scafell Pike for which we usually advise on using the Wasdale route for young children, this being the shortest.  But whatever mountain is chosen, we love to inspire children to experience the mountains; to achieve that feeling of elation and achievement on reaching the summit.  

Young children have natural and boundless energy which helps a lot and they just need the encouragement to help them succeed – you only have to go up Scafell Pike on a sunny day during the half term holidays to see how busy it is with parents and children of all ages making the trip to the summit.  However, a degree of fitness does help (for adults and older children in particular) - either from walking (not necessary mountains) or playing other sport – and definitely makes it much more pleasurable.

Don our border collie often helps out – in fact he is often booked by clients for walks with children as he has a magical way of helping take children’s minds off the hard work of walking uphill, and at times even helps out with a bit of gentle pulling here and there – not guaranteed I’m afraid!  Having a guide to take you and your children up a mountain keeps your day free from worry and therefore more enjoyable;  we navigate you, advuse you on kit;  do the decision making, and encourage your children.


Me and my sisters at the start of our walk up Snowdon.

Having grown up in a family who were keen on mountain walking I can't help but encourage others to do the same and of course when I had my own children I wanted them to experience the same from a young age. I enjoyed that feeling of ‘being on top of the world’ and have vivid memories of it.  I also loved the peace and quiet of the mountains – a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the town where I grew up.  

Children can get used to the idea of mountain walking even before they can walk.  I was taken out as a toddler, carried on my father’s back using an old rucksack frame which he had adapted into a seat.  My own children were lucky to be carried in a purpose made back carrier as babies and toddlers, a very basic one as there was little choice 30 years ago…no padded seats, headrests and hoods to protect from the sun and rain like the super models available now, but they were snug and comfy and it was a great introduction to the mountains…just being in the great outdoors becomes second nature, part of life.

Depending on their age, expectations for days out walking in the mountains usually need to be lowered, starting with short walks, small summits and if possible only in good weather.  I clearly remember the first summit my daughter walked up when she was 3 1/2 years old - Swirl How in the Lake District.  My son was just 7 months old and in the back carrier.  It was a glorious sunny day and we started from the top of the Wrynose Pass so that the amount of ascent was halved and we could take our time.  I was lucky, she took to mountain walking easily with little complaining.  However not all children are the same.  My son would complain the whole way up the mountain; he would sit on the ground and refuse to go an inch further.  However I didn’t give up, I found ways to encourage him – sweets and other food treats were useful bribes ‘you can have one when we get to that rock up there’.  We also sang songs and even played ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ when he was small.  I’m sure this was amusing to other walkers but it worked.  As he got older games of ‘I Spy’ and the like worked well too. Above all I was patient and it took as long as it did.  You may well think, why did I keep doing this if he didn’t like it…well, when we reached the top of the mountain my son became a different child, he became the ‘King of the mountain’ and completely forgot about the ascent. The downhill too was a doddle to him!  So when asked what he would like to do the following day of the holiday, much to my amusement I would hear him ask ‘to go up another mountain’ – memory is a funny thing! 


'King of the mountain', on the summit of Place Fell (with big sister hiding behind the cairn!)

Walking up a mountain is a challenge for most people, if it’s easy then many of us find a way of making it harder – bigger peaks, more peaks, adding scrambles to the route etc.  The sense of achievement is what makes us feel good about ourselves.  Children will also feel this, although at the time they won’t necessarily think of it in the way that we do. 

So why not give it a go.  If you have mountain walking experience yourself then find an achievable mountain and put the day aside to climb it.  Or book a mountain guide for the day and let Climb Scafell help you achieve what you might not have though possible!

June 2016

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