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Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Considerations?

Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Considerations?


Postby veritasetfalsitas » Mon Oct 18, 2021 2:24 pm

Has anyone managed to get a child up Ben Nevis in early winter? What are the main pitfalls of doing so for a child versus an adult at this time of year? I just want to check there isn't anything I have failed to account for.

I know nobody is going to recommend it, but if we did decide to go ahead we want to make it as safe as possible.

I heard of a little boy (4) who managed it in December 2018 I believe it was but I can't imagine you see many children up there that time of year! My son is 6.

We are going to be in the area and I've always wanted to do Ben Nevis. There will be four adults in total and one child. He isn't a novice in that he has done enough high level walks to understand the importance of stepping carefully on rocks and sticking to the path etc and we have climbed hills with slopes steeper than Ben Nevis (in summer) BUT I will instinctively split my attention somewhat between him and my own feet because I don't think younger children have the cognitive ability to be fully responsible and don't want broken limbs! Is this likely to prove a liability for me on the pony track at this time of year? I think tying him to one of us would be the most sensible thing tbh, in case of an accidental slip, not that we will be actively going near any edges, but just in case as I wouldn't expect him to be able to use an ice axe at that age, also in case of poor visibility. Also a climbing helmet and knee pads in case of tripping. Anything else I am missing? We have been up mountains in the summer with zero visibility and freezing weather so that aspect won't be new.

In particular how slippy is the descent at this time of year? This worries me at bit, having had to walk down many a slippery disintegrated and rocky path before. I would imagine it could be tricky and that microspikes would be a good idea? This could seriously slow us down in the limited daylight if it is bad. Realistically would it be possible for a fit man to shoulder ride a child up parts of the track in snowy conditions with the right footwear? (I regularly shoulder ride him even at this age!). I don't want to exhaust him and I am conscious that there will only be around 8 hours of daylight at that time of year.

Has anyone encountered serious snow up there in november below the summit? Although a coating of powdery snow might actually be preferable to ice!

We would be looking for a day with favourable conditions, as little wind as possible, and we would be ready to turn around. I generally feel it will probably be OK but I'm cautious.

This user has been banned as they have posted from several different accounts, each used only once, with queries that contradict each other. Suspected trolling - or fishing for dangerous advice - across several internet forums.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby Alex W » Tue Oct 19, 2021 11:59 am

If the child has done high level walks then the terrain on the pony track should not be a problem. It's a well made path and is likely better than you would be used to on other walks. There are dangers off the path, especially on the summit, but it should be clear when you need to keep the child close. A lot of kids go up Nevis and don't have any problems.

The thing to seriously consider is the weather at that time of year. You ask about snow and ice. The answer is it can be very snowy and it can be very icy, but often it will be completely clear. You need to consider the weather forecast nearer to the time. It's not just snow, the wind and temperature is critical. It can be fierce and I wouldn't go up even dressed as the Michelin man. But it can be benign with beautiful crisp and clear views and good conditions underfoot.

I'd caution against micro spikes - if you need them on the Ben you very likely need crampons and ice axe and the skills to use them.

You also need to consider how quickly the weather can change even with a favourable forecast. The child would need a bit of resilience to cope with biting winds and maybe driving rain or snow even if you've decided to retreat - it can take a while to retreat depending on how high you have reached. Some children could be spooked by the sudden change, but some will find it exciting and revel in the experience.

I guess that taking a child up Nevis in December could be a crazy idea or a terrific experience for the child (and family). You have to judge the character of the child to cope with the unexpected and then keep a good eye on the weather. Be prepared to change plans and abandon plans if things start to go against you.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby Mal Grey » Tue Oct 19, 2021 1:21 pm

The chances of it being possible or sensible for a young child in late autumn are quite slim, so first thing is not to get anyone's expectations up. You might get lucky though!

Other than the safety concerns, about which I'll just say, if you are finding any ice, you should be turning round not relying on micro-spikes whilst shouldering a child, I'm not sure it would be enjoyable for the young un, plodding uphill for 4 or 5 hours on a fairly uninspiring track is going to test motivation somewhat. Its only when you reach the summit that the views of the north face make up for it, and there's a very high chance you'll see nothing.

Lots of spare clothing, lots of bribery snacks, and I assume you personally have the right experience to navigate on a winter Scottish mountain with map and compass in the clag.

There are hundreds of probably more sensible, and enjoyable, alternatives within half an hour journey, not just smaller but more interesting summits, but waterfalls, coasts, forests etc. The Pap of Glencoe would make a fine alternative, for example, and its still high and shapely enough to feel like a real mountain.

Personally I'd leave the Big Ben for a time when they'll definitely enjoy it, and probably a couple more years, and not at this time of year.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby jmarkb » Tue Oct 19, 2021 3:24 pm

Mal Grey wrote:There are hundreds of probably more sensible, and enjoyable, alternatives within half an hour journey, not just smaller but more interesting summits, but waterfalls, coasts, forests etc. The Pap of Glencoe would make a fine alternative, for example, and its still high and shapely enough to feel like a real mountain.

Personally I'd leave the Big Ben for a time when they'll definitely enjoy it, and probably a couple more years, and not at this time of year.


Absolutely this. Obviously I don't know you or your level of experience, but please don't let your own ambitions override making sensible choices for the group as a whole.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby Essan » Tue Oct 19, 2021 6:10 pm

All depends on the weather condition on the day. You could need axe and crampons. It could be no worse than in July. You could experience snow and gale force winds. You could find it dry, calm, sunny and even quite warm.

So my advice is simple: make a decison on the day. Don't go up "because you have to". Only go up if it's looks a nice day and the forecast is settled.

And that really applies to everyone at any time of year.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby davekeiller » Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:28 pm

Some of the suggestions in the OP seem to give a feeling of safety, but how practical (and safe) are they really?
Climbing helmet and knee pads might provide some protection in the event of a slip, but are also probably not that comfortable to walk in all day, and might give a false sense of security and encourage you to keep going when it would be wiser to turn back.
Tying him to an adult might be helpful, but do you have the skills and experience to do that safely, or is it just going to make you feel better and be as much a trip hazard as a helpful safety device?

If you, as an adult, think you need microspikes, then you probably shouldn't be on that terrain with a child whose balance you're evidently concerned about.

Big things to consider are the length of the route - it could easily take 7 hours, is the child happy to walk for that long?
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby simon-b » Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:50 pm

Little bodies will lose their heat more quickly than larger ones, so, as has already been mentioned, plenty of spare clothing is important. Preferably multiple layers. Small children don't sweat as much as adults, but could still get uncomfortable if too warm, so an advantage of layers is they can be removed as well as added. Also take plenty of high calorie food, a lot of energy is needed both to stay warm and to climb mountains.
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Re: Taking a child up Ben Nevis in the autumn. Consideration

Postby HalfManHalfTitanium » Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:59 pm

I took my kids, aged 8 and 5 at the time, up Humphreys Peak in the States. It’s around 13000 feet high, but the ascent from the car park is similar in height and length to the Ben, although Humphreys is rougher and steeper high up. They walked up the whole way and didn’t want to be carried. So, it can definitely be done.

They are now 22 and 19, but they still talk fondly about that day and what an adventure it was. It was a confidence boost for them too: none of their friends had done anything like that!

A key element was that we did the walk without expecting or aiming to get to the top. It was “see how it goes”. At each step, they wanted to carry on.

And, the children were at the centre of it - it was “their adventure”. If at any point I’d seen the slightest sign that one of them wasn’t enjoying it, I would have turned round immediately.

Also I kept reminding them, as we were going up, that they would have to walk all this way down!

I chose Humphreys Peak very carefully. It has a pretty stable climate, and the daily weather is highly predictable. It gets snow in the winter - but that’s very rarely until late November (we climbed it in October).

I would have been more wary about Ben Nevis, for three reasons: unstable and often bad weather, including the risks of high winds, ice, and snow (that’s the main reason); the dangers of Five Finger Gully in descent; and finally the Ben Nevis path is comparatively uninteresting.

I think the last of those is an important consideration - in my experience, kids feel tired much more quickly if they’re bored.

So if I were in your position, I would probably look for a lower, more interesting walk.

But if you do go, I suggest seeing what the weather’s like (most of all) and be ready to turn round at any point.

Also, carry a really warm coat (kids’ ski wear is ideal) and a few extra layers. And test footwear out thoroughly beforehand, to be sure it will be comfy and not cause blisters on such a long walk.

Overall, I would see the objective not as reaching the top, but simply as having a nice time that the child enjoys.

One last thing. SWEETS!!!!

Tim

The OP has been banned as they have posted from several different accounts each used only once, with queries that contradict each other. Suspected trolling.
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