Top ten tips for kids in the hills
by dogplodder » Sat Jul 25, 2020 2:04 pm
Route description: Creag Rainich, via Loch a'Bhraoin
Corbetts included on this walk: Creag Rainich
Date walked: 08/07/2020
Distance: 17 km4 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Even with a good forecast the right clothing is important. Hill weather can change quickly and children can't retain body heat like we do and even in summer need to have waterproofs, an extra layer, gloves, hat and appropriate footwear. For Creag Rainich, with more than half the route pathless, I asked for the kids to have waterproof boots - and they did.
If you're taking kids out there needs to be a plan and a contingency plan. For us this meant each car driver having a route map and directions and being responsible for their group. If the kids struggled with the pathless ascent the plan was for them to turn back. Not being sure if post lockdown madness might affect parking for the western Fannichs we agreed on a reasonably early start and everyone was there on time.
Boots on and ready for off
With Sgurr Breac and A' Chailleach ahead
Kids don't have the motivation that comes with experience so it helps if it's not just a walk but an adventure and to break up the route into things to look out for. So starting off they were looking for the loch, where they could have fun skimming stones or throwing sticks for the dog (if they could find any sticks!).
Heading for Loch a' Bhraoin
View east to Meall a' Chrasgaidh
Loch a' Bhraoin
We were to stay on the lochside track for just over 2km then look for a wooden post and (according to Rodmiester's photo) a small pile of stones to mark the start of a faint ATV track which might be helpful at the start of the climb to the ridge. So for 2km we could relax and enjoy the reflections on the loch.
Pause for another photo
Groban and Beinn Bheag reflected in the still water
So soon after lockdown I didn't expect to find work going on with diggers shifting ground and redesigning the side of the hill. What complicated matters for us was that they were using posts as markers so it wasn't going to be so easy to spot 'our' post. About 2km along we decided to ask the digger men if they had any idea where the invisible ATV track started.
Next essential for walking with kids is food and drink. They need it for energy and they need it little and often. So while Ian was chatting to one of the digger operators to find out if he had any idea where the post might be to show where to head up to the ridge (he hadn't a clue) the rest of the gang sat down for a snack. Good idea to get some fuel in before the start of the climb.
We left the track near a wooden post that looked different from the posts put in for the digging work, but didn't see any sign of any ATV track. As pathless ascents go it wasn't too bad, being mainly over grass, but the ground was sodden and needed careful foot placement, which wasn't the easiest walking for the youngest. He did well to reach the firmer ground higher up. Half way up to the ridge James realised he didn't have his pole. He thought it could be where they had stopped for food so would look out for it on the way back. I thought it unlikely he would ever see that pole again.
Pathless ascent over wet ground
Another key thing for kids in the hills is having a good path. Some routes follow stalker's paths which make life a lot easier. Others go over pathless terrain like reaching A' Mhaighdean from Lochan Fada after a 7 mile walk in - and that was hard work! Creag Rainich isn't in that league but I could see that for kids it was tough having no path to follow.
An Teallach from the ridge (zoomed)
Once on the ridge the firmer but still uneven ground continued over lumps and bumps and the youngest started to flag as we climbed the minor top Meall Dubh. There were some big rocks around so we stopped for an early lunch.
Socially distanced lunch on Meall Dubh
After lunch there was a slight descent into a beallach before the final climb up Creag Rainich. I'm sorry now I didn't check how everyone was feeling rather than assuming all was well. As the geriatric of the group and likely to be the slowest I kept pressing on so I wouldn't hold them back when holding them back might not have been such a bad thing!
Already from the beallach the views were impressive, a foretaste of what was to come. In my top ten tips for a great hill day, good views are up there and are probably the main reason we do it. But views aren't of much importance to children. Enjoying views of mountains is an acquired taste that develops with age. Kids would rather have an ice cream van or sweet shop at the top.
Beinn Eighe from beallach (zoomed)
Torridon, Slioch and Fisherfield
Eastern crags of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair
Lads in the lead on final ascent
I feel bad about what happened next. I was walking with the two older boys, David and the youngest a bit further behind. We were on the final climb and knowing there's nothing like a bit of competition to motivate the male of the species I said "Wonder who'll be first to the top?" at which both the lads increased their speed. I don't know this for sure but suspect that when the youngest (who was already behind) saw the other two so far ahead he lost heart. Whatever it was he sat down and said he was going no further.
The next thing we were aware of was David calling to his older boy to come back. I felt for him as he was about 10 minutes from the top. To his credit he didn't make a fuss but went down to join his dad and brother with instructions from me to have their photos taken since I wouldn't have a chance to take them at the top. That done they began their descent back over Meall Dubh and off the ridge to the lochside. I was glad at least we'd made a contingency plan with each group having their own map and directions so they could turn back whenever they wanted.
Of the seven who set out, four reached the trig point and I had a feeling if I'd made more of an effort to keep the three young ones together all of us would have made it. Though to be fair they didn't seem to be as disappointed about it as I was, because I wanted them to have a sense of achievement in what they'd done. In top tips for a memorable hill day I'd have sense of achievement in there and if it's not by reaching the summit there needs to some other goal. As David said later, for him it was getting his two lads down off the ridge to the lochside and back home in time for dinner with his two older boys and their mum! A positive outcome from the line of descent they took was finding the missing pole, which given the kind of terrain it was I didn't expect to happen. Well done them!
Meanwhile Calum was first to the top.
Well done Calum!
Creag Rainich summit
The position of this Corbett gives a superb outlook over eastern Fisherfield.
As near to Sgurr Ban as I'll probably get
Slabs of Sgurr Ban (zoomed)
Beinn a' Chlaidheimh and An Teallach
Sail Liath and Corrag Bhuidhe pinnacles (zoomed)
Beinn Eighe group (zoomed)
After soaking in the views and picking out distant hills including Ben Nevis we started our descent back over Meall Dubh from where Ian left us to walk down to the head of the loch at Lochivraon.
Beinn Dearg group and northern Fannichs from the ridge
As we neared the lowest point of the ridge we spotted a cairn and figured that heading down from there might bring us to the elusive ATV track.
Descent to the loch
Not long after that photo we saw traces of muddy wheel marks and a faint track which became clearer lower down. It was useful to follow as there was some guarantee a vehicle track wouldn't lead off a sheer drop, although that's about all that could be said about it!
Meanwhile Ian headed for Lochivraon to have a look at the bothy where he had spent a chilly night after climbing Sgurr Ban. In true Ian fashion he had walked in from Braemore junction, left his big rucksack at the bothy and taken his small one up by the slabs to Sgurr Ban then along to the demoted one and back to the bothy before returning to Braemore junction to catch his bus in the morning.
House at head of loch
When we reached the shore of the loch Ian was sitting there waiting for us. He then had to wait a bit longer while Calum and his dad built a small cairn to mark where the faint ATV track we had followed down reached the lochside track so folk like us will know where to strike uphill. As it happened we had turned up slightly beyond it but on the ascent hadn't found any trace of it.
Missing cairn rebuilt
The return along the lochside was straightforward. We seemed to have more burns to cross than we remembered on the way in and watched sandpipers darting along the edge of the loch. The icing on the cake was getting back to the cars earlier than we thought and finding the missing pole tucked in at the side of James' car.
It had been a good day with perfect weather and fabulous views but I was concerned the experience might have scunnered the youngest from wanting to climb a hill again. I concluded the best thing to do was plan another outing and make sure it had a good firm path with an achievable summit which we would do soon. So that's what we did and it proved so successful I had difficulty keeping up with the kids!
So what are my top ten tips for hill walking with kids? Not much different from walking at any age except maybe carrying a change of clothes if there's any risk of them getting soaked when crossing a river (as happened to my grandson once).
Others may have a different list but here's mine for now.
Weather, Gear, Plan, Navigation, Fun, Food, Path, Safety, Views, Achievement.
by The Rodmiester » Sun Jul 26, 2020 3:08 pm
by dogplodder » Mon Jul 27, 2020 1:11 pm
The Rodmiester wrote:A nice family walk, pity the wee pile of stones have been removed. Well done Calum for doing a Rodmiester, getting to the Cairn first
Thanks Rod - I'll tell him you said that. It's good to get the young ones hooked.
by dogplodder » Mon Sep 14, 2020 4:37 pm
Creag Rainich and Fannichs from less steep part of slabs going up Sgurr Ban.
by shredder » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:51 am
by dogplodder » Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:53 am
shredder wrote:Great photos. Those slabs are spectacular. You wouldn't think they'd be as level as that from the photo you took from Creag Rainich?
That's exactly what I thought. Just goes to show that what look steep slopes ahead are often not as steep as they look when you get there. A moral for life somewhere in there?