Top 10 mountains for kids

As chosen by my 9 year old daughter, in no particular order. These are walks and scrambles she has enjoyed over the last few years and a lot of them have a few things in common – fairly short, steep, often scrambles, good view at the top and as far removed from a “boring walk” as possible…..

1 Cat Bells (451m) – Cumbria

How can we not include this? So many people climb Cat Bells as their first mountain and for good reason – a shortish walk, a little bit of scrambling and great views over Keswick and Derwentwater. It’s easier to ascend the ridge than descend it, so it’s usually best to go up the ridge from parking at Hawse End, continuing over the summit to the col at Hawse Gate and then descend eastwards towards Derwentwater on an obvious if rather loose path. The downside is that Cat Bells is often busy and the paths are getting eroded. I carried Hannah up Cat Bells when she was 6 months old and she climbed it on her own two legs when she was 3 – in fact it was the first Lakeland hill she climbed.

2. Blencathra (868m) – Cumbria

Hannah says this was her first proper mountain. It’s high, but there is parking just east of Scales at 250m which takes away some of the ascent and it’s not a long walk. The views from the top on a clear day are spectacular. There are many ways up Blencathra, the easiest and most used is probably up Scales Fell and back the same way. If you fancy a scramble then there is of course Sharp Edge (not recommended if it is at all damp as the rock gets very slippy) and the easier Halls Fell Ridge, straight up from the A66. For a quieter approach (both in terms of people and traffic noise from the A66) the walk from the north over Foule Crag is recommended but it is further and less suitable for children. Hannah climbed Blencathra when she was 6 via Sharp Edge which she loved, although I did take a rope with me just in case.

3. Causey Pike (637m) – Cumbria

This is the rocky looking peak that you see just to the left of Keswick as you’re approaching from Penrith on the A66. It’s in the same area as Cat Bells but is 200m higher so is a good progression and again it has excellent views over Derwentwater and isn’t a huge walk. Hannah climbed this one winter’s day when she was 5 and we approached from near Stair on the back road from Braithwaite to Newlands Hause. The ascent is steep with a small scramble right at the summit. We then followed a good path traversing the hillside westwards down to Outerside, not marked on the map but obvious in good visibility. From here we followed the well used track down Stoneycroft Gill back to the road.

4. Loughrigg (335m) – Cumbria

More of a hill than a mountain, but an interesting walk with lots of different, easy routes up and great views over Grasmere and towards Langdale and Coniston. Hannah first climbed this hill when she was 4 and has since climbed it numerous times – from Ambleside, from Rydal and from Loughrigg Terrace, in summer and in winter. It was one of my first hills too, one wet October day when I was about 6 and all I can remember is that it rained all day and my brother cried because he was wet and cold and tired – I’m surprised either of us ever went near a hill again.

5. Snowdon (1,085m) – Snowdonia

Hannah says this is her favourite mountain. She loved the scramble up the Gribin which we did on our first ascent when she was 7 (grade 1, highly recommended, quieter than the other routes and not particularly difficult) and she loved the fact there was a cafe on the top. It is a long walk with a lot of ascent, although starting from Pen Y Pass at 359m does lessen that. It’s also a high mountain with all the risks associated with high mountains. There are lots of ways up ranging the from easy (but long) path following the railway from Llanberis to the infamous Crib Goch, but you’re unlikely to ever have it yourself. On Hannah’s second ascent when she was 8 we ascended via Crib Goch and were rewarded with a spectacular cloud inversion on the summit.

6. Cnicht (689m) – Snowdonia

Often called the Matterhorn of Wales and for good reason when you view it from the coast at Portmadoc. It’s a shapely mountain with little bits of scrambling near the top and great views northwards towards Snowdon. Again it’s not a huge walk and can be climbed in half a day from Croesor. It’s a quiet part of Snowdonia and the paths are not as obvious as on Snowdon or the Glyders, but that is part of its charm. It’s also possible to climb Cnicht from the north from the Nanmor valley but this is a longer walk, much rougher and with even less obvious paths so probably not suitable for younger children. Hannah climbed Cnicht when she was 5, but I don’t appear to have any photos.

7. Tryfan (917m) – Snowdonia

Hannah loved scrambling up Tryfan but it does come with a health warning – there is no “walking” route up and the easiest way (up and down) is via the south ridge which is an easy grade 1 scramble over rocky blocks from Bwlch Tryfan (the col at the start of the south ridge). The most popular way up is via the north ridge, straight up from parking by the side of the A5, and this also grade 1 but it is harder than the south ridge with some steep and exposed scrambling towards the summit. The other issue with Tryfan is that route finding is not always easy, especially in poor visibility, with the possibility of ending up on the cliffs of the east or west faces if you stray too far from the north or south ridges. But if visibility is good, the rock is dry and the group is experienced then it’s a great day out for older children.

8. Stac Pollaidh (612m) – Far north of Scotland

Sometimes called Scotland in miniature, this little mountain has a rocky crest of Torridonian sandstone with many pinnacles and gullies. Despite its appearance there is a well made path up to the col at the east end of the ridge, just below the east peak, and this is as far as many people go. To reach either the higher west peak or the east peak scrambling skills are needed and there is one particular bad step just before the west peak where a rope may be needed for children. Even without the two peaks the walk is well worth doing for the views across Assynt and the return journey can be made by continuing round the mountain and doing a full circuit. Hannah was 9 when we climbed this and we did the full grade 3 scramble along the top of the ridge, not sustained but very exposed in places. The main path is popular and as a result quite eroded in places, but again it is only a short day out, ideal for children.

9. Cairngorm (1,245m) – Scotland

Another high mountain and the only Munro on the list, but the effort is much reduced by the presence of the car park at the ski centre at 650m and also by the numerous good paths. It is possible to climb Cairn Gorm directly from the ski centre either via Fiacaill a Coire Cas or via the Ptarmigan restaurant on good well marked paths all the way, and this would not be a long walk, but it would be rather dull. A more interesting walk is to head west from the car park and climb Cairn Lochan first, again on a good path, and then follow the edge of the northern corries eastwards to Cairn Gorm with great views northwards. As with all high mountains what is an easy walk in good weather becomes much more challenging in poor visibility and/or bad weather and in winter there is the additional risk of cornices on the northern cliffs so probably not suitable for children in those conditions.

10. Quinag (808m) – Far north of Scotland

Another smaller mountain that feels like a proper Scottish day out in miniature. There is a car park at 250m on the A894 so the ascent is not huge and again it is not a long walk. There is an obvious path to the main summit past Lochan Bealach Cornaidh but a much better option is to do the horseshoe starting up the broad ridge of Spidean Coinich and continuing along the ridge round to the main summit of Sail Garbh. The ridge is at times steep with drops on either side, but at no times is it a scramble and there is a good, narrow path all the way. The views are superb across the flat land of Assynt to the mighty Suilven and Canisp and to the coast.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader and lover of wild places

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