Planning a family munro walk in Scotland in mid to late november.
Any advice on where to go? We aren't bound by an area as we will plan our stay around the mountain we pick.
We had it narrowed to a few possibilities but I have no idea how tricky they are as I've never ventured to Scotland for a hillwalk before, plenty of welsh hills though. Our first choice is Ben Nevis as it is the classic challenge. Is it busy that time of year?
Key point: We are taking a 6 year old. I don't want to end up in a mountain rescue situation ideally. Now, the 6 year old is an unusual 6 year old in that she has already done some proper rope climbing, regularly practices on climbing walls, has been up plenty of smaller hills and a few mountains in summer conditions and loves scrambling. On the other hand the 6 year old is fearless and terrifies me sometimes so I don't want anywhere she can get herself into too much trouble if she starts becoming naughty, or where having to split my attention between keeping her safe and the path could be very easily fatal if there is a lot of snow so no narrow ridges or ledges ideally, icy rocks are likely to be a problem anywhere that time of year. I am wary about not wanting to put her in danger. We have winter walking experience but I'm not sure she would use an ice axe successfully. I was thinking about putting her on a line to one of us adults.
So yes, Ben Nevis, with a mountain guide, seems like it could be possible in november depending on wind and snowfall. Guessing we would need to leave an hour before sunrise and reach the half way bit on the descent by sunset. Are we biting off much more than we can chew? Has anyone ever heard of anyone slipping to their death off the pony track in snow and ice or is it usually just the summit we need to be very wary of?
I am worried about the amount of daylight, don't want to do too much walking in the dark and not more than 10 miles ideally.
There are others we liked the look of from all over the place but have no idea how challenging they are in winter:
Ben Lomond, Ben Narnain, Ben Alligin (just the first peak then double back), Lochnagar, Beinn Fhada or just the smaller A'Ghlas-bheinn, Buchaille Etive Beag, Conival.
I like Ben More Mull but suspect it would be much worse than ben nevis in november!
Or just play it safer and go for Meall nan Tarmachan?!
Thanks for your help.
Schiehallion. If the weather is rubbish you've got Ben Vrackie and lots of low level stuff around Dunkeld and Pitlochry. It's not a long day, the path is good and it's quite interesting. It's also further East so might be better weather.
My kids went up lots of Munros and Corbetts before Ben Nevis. Not because it's dangerous, but because it is mentally and physically so difficult up the tourist path.
To be honest I wouldn't do a munro in November with that young a child. Compared to wales Scotland is much more serous, the day's are bigger and in November it can either be nice, warm and wet or full on winter (axe crampons, goggles, the lot).
Having worked in the hills in Scotland with kids until very recently I can't recommend going up a munro with a 6 year old. I can't expect you'd find that many guides who would be keen to do it either. The Ben in particular.
That said there are loads of lovely "mountains" that would be great for a kids that time of year. Even a small hill like Meall Banavie would feel like an out there adventure for a 6 year old but is nice and simple.
Having said that you sound well experienced for it but I'd go for something smaller especially in the west coast. the verticle gain is much bigger then in wales where you can park higher up.
There are lots of lovely corbetts that would meet your needs.
Ben Nevis is a big day even by the tourist track - lots of ascent and descent and, dare I say, not much intrinsic interest.
How about Beinn Ghlas? Nice high start point (450m ASL), some interest going through the nature reserve, and then a short distance on a good, uncomplicated path to the summit.
Yeah, agree, my experience of walking with smaller kids - even abnormally active and adventurous ones - has been that they tend to be very energetic up to a given point and then just crash.
The Ben seems like a really bad idea from that point of view, because it really is just a big pile of ascent from about sea level up to 1344m. Meall nan Tarmachan might be better, or anything else with a high start and a straightforward path, like some of the Glenshee hills, or Beinn na Lap from Corrour Station (or from the Youth Hostel if it's open), or even Aonach Mor from the gondola if purism isn't your thing.
I'd also agree on the weather thing - it might be safest to plan the trip around doing a bunch of other stuff as well and not put too much stock in the Munro walk until you've got a forecast.
The path of Schiehallion is mostly good until the top of the ridge. The boulders are, however, horrible, and go on for much longer than you want.
To the OP, I would question the need to go up a Munro in November. Given that the weather could be anything, but likely to be unpleasant, I'm not sure a 6-year old would thank you. There are plenty of smaller hills which would be quite appealing - around the Trossachs offers a decent selection.
I regularly take my children hill walking and one point that hasn't been mentioned so far is whether she'd enjoy it. I've trudged up Ben Nevis myself and while it felt totally safe (nb. this was Summer) I can't say it's up there with my best mountain days. It will be a really long trudge and could possibly put her off hill walking for life. Even if she wasn't on a lead, which incidentally neither of my children would stand for.
The key thing for children of that age, speaking personally, is enjoyment, and for mine this would mean one or more of the following: other children, lots of scrambling, interesting views / geocaches, castles, water, swimming. You might pick a route with these for a successful day out but whether it would also suit the adults I don't know.
I get the impression that she's not your daughter?
Scotland in late November, expect horizontal rain/sleet/snow, winds strong enough to blow adults off their feet and visibility down to about 1m. It's not like this all the time but it is mostly. Day light is very limited as well. November is just a down time waiting for the sun to return and the snow to settle.
From a fair bit of experience taking youngsters from 7 onwards up Scottish hills, I'd endorse earlier cautionary comments. Apart from the considerable possible hazards of November weather, ground conditions, shortage of daylight, and your own admitted lack of experience of Scottish hills, I'd counsel against Nevis. Especially on the upper slopes (even if clear from cloud and snow) it's a long dreary grind with a lack of defined progress points to sustain a youngster's motivation, even if she's very fit. So you risk a possible collapse of morale and putting her off for the longer term. Even Ben Lomond with its well-trodden path can be a long boring grind for adults, never mind small kids.
Go for Ben A'an in the Trossachs, a small but characterful mini-mountain. Then perhaps progress to Ben Ledi. If a Munro is a must, consider Tarmachan as others have suggested. Buachaille Etive Beag offers quite a high start, a mildly adventurous pathless steep way up the NW angle if you're so minded, authentic mountain atmosphere and views if the weather allows, and the option of dropping down the path from the bealach between its two Munros. But that is undoubtedly a genuine mountain day, and not advisable if it's snowy, murky, wet and/or windy. We've found that youngsters really don't enjoy even moderately high winds on the hill, even in summer let alone in November, and especially not if it's wet and cold as well.
It may be frustrating, but I'd advise patience, and to wait for summer and sunshine before aiming for your quality Munro.
How about The Cobbler (Ben Arthur)? Not quite a munro but not far off. Most of the path up is very friendly and a lot is in the woods, so not exposed. It's only the last half a km which has a few rocky scrambles on it. It's a much more exciting-looking peak than a lot of other hills, but commitment is low and there is usually plenty of people around.
If it was poor weather I wouldn't be dragging a small child up big Scottish hills in November, but if she's a strong walker and you get a nice day then it could be well worth doing one of the easier Munros, especially a hill with a high start. These are all very straightforward:
There are other contenders, like Geal-charn above Drumochter https://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=1349
But does it have to be a Munro? The trouble with the easy ones is often that the immediate situation can be a bit dull for a small child, and the far off promise of summit views might not be sufficient motivation. As others have said, younger kids need lots of interest along the way because the big picture is a bit, well, big.
A smaller hill might fit the bill in the sense that it'll maybe mean less plodding up bogs (and most are still going to feel pretty large to a 6-year-old):
Stac Pollaidh, just up to the col on the ridge or at most the east summit: don't try to scramble to the high point: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=87
Ben Vrackie: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=80
Ben Ledi: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=91 (just up and down, not the optional longer leg described here)
Meall a' Bhuachaille https://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/r/?i=362
Of course it's mid-to-late November so it's anyone's guess and the weather could well be too wild to do anything much above glen level. If in doubt aim somewhere with lots of good child friendly low level walks and other fun stuff to do. Aviemore area is the obvious choice for a family break.
I wouldn't get hung up about a munro. As mentioned above there are plenty other hills which at that time of year still can provide a proper mountain day out if the weather allows.
As stubbed and other have said it is more important that it is enjoyable - even if it might end up being type II fun
Given the changeability in the weather it is worth considering (if you don't know!) how she might respond if it cr*ps out - walking soaked to skin in a wind strong enough that you are holding them down can still (apparently and probably in hindsight) be fun for 6 yr old but it takes a certain mindset to keep it together at the time.
I'd add to the cautionary notes so far. Small things lose heat quickly and small children can become chilled at a rate that can be quite scary. And while they often have pretty decent physical stamina (and weigh nothing, which is cheating) they tend not to have the psychological stamina required to grind it out it bad conditions or when things are starting to go wrong. 6 is too old to carry for any length of time.
Hope you find something good sub-Munro and have a great time.
To me the whole idea seems a bad one - although I don't have kids myself and I was older than six when I started climbing Munros, so I'm not really in any position to assess such things. However this:
> Or just play it safer and go for Meall nan Tarmachan?!
suggests there are too many causal assumptions in the planning, as although Tarmachan has a high start and a big path, it also - by its normal route - involves a quite steep few minutes on a candidate for the poorest and most ankle-risky of all "made" paths in the country, especially in descent. The bit in the gully above the col that separates the south top from the main summit is a pretty unpleasant place on a wet or icy day, and there aren't any easy avoidances as the slopes to either side are quite steep too (although the tussocks, if not icy, are easier than the paving). Tarmachan can also be surprisingly tricky in terms of navigation just below the top - there's an important dogleg, with accompanying false-trail path, that lands you on the knobbly and confusing north ridge if you miss it. I do speak from experience here: I made a complete mess of this, admittedly in proper serious January conditions, a few years ago on my sixteenth time up, and came closer to killing myself on a hill than at any time in the past 20-odd years.
I'd be wary of made paths generally in November - they're often slabby and sloping and near-lethal in places in any kind of wet conditions. I've seen an inexperienced adult walker get into proper trouble (resulting in a helicopter rescue) on the high-up part of the Vrackie path on a damp/breezy October day. And while Beinn Ghlas, as also mentioned in this thread, does have a high start it's still an 1100m hill and I'm far from alone in regarding the made path up the SW ridge as being a one-way system, as again it's not very well designed in places and not much fun as a damp descent.
Personally I wouldn't go near a Munro with a small child in November - as others have said, there are plenty of good lower options (Ochils, Pentlands, Lomonds, lots of Borders stuff), but even then err on the cautious side at that time of year.
I generally consider November to be a month for knitting, cooking, dog training, catching up with friends, making Christmas decorations etc. It is generally the month in which I spend the least amount of time in the hills! It's the cold end of Autumn but not yet nice cold.
In November, I would take a 6 year old to castles, museums and climbing walls!
I was thinking that Tarmachan sounded a bit ambitious too. I’d take a bit of rope with a child even in summer.
Our first choice is Ben Nevis as it is the classic challenge. Is it busy that time of year?
No, for good reasons.
Or just play it safer and go for Meall nan Tarmachan?!
Yes, if the weather is reasonable, which it occasionally is in November.
I’ve got to agree with a lot that’s been said, but given good dry, non snowy, or windy weather, would the Cairnwell and Carn Aosda be options? Not scenic due to the ski paraphernalia, but easy and Munro’s if that’s your ultimate goal?
> Scotland in late November, expect horizontal rain/sleet/snow, winds strong enough to blow adults off their feet and visibility down to about 1m. It's not like this all the time but it is mostly. Day light is very limited as well.
Damn, this is making me wish I was heading up there!
Not so much with a small child, though...
Just take them up a modest hill 1-2hrs max then go do something else, soft play, indoor wall etc. They are only 6, if you hot house them into the mountains now, they won't go near them when they are older and have a choice.
Someone mentioned the gondola and Aonach Mor...as a fully grown adult I did this with some friends in March many years ago. Benign weather turned to howling (roaring would be a better description) gale on the plateau which worsened with every step until we had to crawl holding on to each other in a white out, all faith in a hastily taken compass bearing (hard to read the map!). Hats were blown off never to be seen again until finally seeing some skiing paraphernalia and dropping off the plateau into sudden calm and relief. A six yr old would have been blown off the plateau if not held down!
Not sure what my point is other than relative calm can turn into danger very quickly and that windspeed forecast is probably something to check before setting off!
I would like to ask a few questions.
You said the 6 year old has
"been up plenty of smaller hills and a few mountains in summer conditions and loves scrambling"
which smaller hills and mountains?
and that you don't
"want to do too much walking in the dark and not more than 10 miles ideally. "
Has the 6 year old ever walked 10 miles, and if so, where?
My view is forget a Munro.
It might be OK but if the weather turns bad or, what might be a simple/minor accident in good weather happens, you might have a very miserable, upset, cold child, if you are lucky. If you are not lucky it could be much worse.
I would suggest Ben Chonzie. There's a very easy flat path all the way, it's not very far, you will almost certainly see lots of mountain hares, and the views of Ben Lawers are amazing.
> I would suggest Ben Chonzie. There's a very easy flat path all the way, it's not very far, you will almost certainly see lots of mountain hares, and the views of Ben Lawers are amazing.
I'm a big Ben Chonzie fan - I climb it several times each year - but sadly you won't see many hares on it these days - they were almost all shot a decade or more ago. In recent visits from a variety of directions I've occasionally seen one hare, and with luck this will improve now that the law has been changed, but the days when you would see dozens of hares here have long gone.